Switchfoot: Music for the difficult places
Christian Today caught up with Switchfoot guitarist Jerome Fontamillas to find out more about their new surf film and how faith inspires them to keep making music for people in all stages of life
US Grammy award winning rock band Switchfoot don't label themselves as a 'Christian band,' ("How can a song be 'Christian'?" asks lead singer Jon Foreman, "there is no such thing as Christian music. No. Christ didn't come and die for my songs, he came for me,"), but they are explicit in expressing their faith through their lyrics.
The authenticity that this brings to their music has earned them critical acclaim. They unapologetically ask real questions that underline the issues they are grappling with as men of faith in a modern, broken world. "Where is God in the earthquake? Where is God in the genocide?" one song asks.
It is this authenticity that marks them as one of the only bands that manages to gracefully straddle the divide between Christian and secular music industries, probably due to the simple yet universal message they want to share.
"Music bought me through tough times. We wanted to be that band for someone else, to bring a song of hope to people around the world," says Jon.
The group recently spent months travelling around the globe - Australia, New Zealand, Bali and South Africa - where they brought their music to huge music festivals as well as small, intimate gigs.
They produced a record along the way, as well as documenting the journey for a 90 minute film. Both are entitled 'Fading West'.
Inspired by such films as U2's 'Rattle and Hum' and surf movie 'Endless Summer', the documentary follows Switchfoot as they seek new inspiration and experience some of the best surf the world has to offer. We catch intimate moments between the band as they create new songs, putting into words some of the magic of their stunning surroundings.
Described as "part rock-documentary, part surf film and part travelogue", the movie portrays an intimate journey, filled with the highs and lows of life on the road.
"We didn't start this band for a pay check. We didn't have a destination in mind. It was always about the joy of the journey.
"We set out looking for inspiration," says Jon.
"I don't believe that we as a band can singlehandedly change the world, but I do believe that every moment that we have on this planet is a gift. So if these songs can bring hope to someone else the way that music has bought hope to me, that's an incredible opportunity.
"At the end of it all, I want our songs to be the songs that got people through the tough times, challenged them to ask the big questions and open the windows and doors of the soul to look at a story bigger than ourselves," he says.
Christian Today caught up with guitarist Jerome Fontamillas to find out more.
CT: What does 'the joy of the journey' mean to you?
JF: We are blessed to make music, and for me, to be in a band with my best friends, to get out into the world and to be inspired and to create music, there's a lot of joy in that.
We wanted to find inspiration while we travelled, and we found it in all kinds of places. We'd take new stuff from each place that we travelled to, and be inspired to make music.
CT: What was the most inspiring or life-giving moment on tour?
JF: We went back to a place in South Africa, to a village of kids that we'd been to eight years ago. A tragedy happened in that village as a result of AIDS, and the joy that the kids had was incredible, and it was really amazing for us to come back and see them. That for me was very inspiring.
CT: You're very honest about the struggles you face, how does your faith play a role in what you do?
JF: It's the most important thing. Our faith always comes first and everything else comes after that. It's just who we are. And what comes out of us, our creativity and inspiration, is because of our faith.
We're just like everyone else – we struggle with faith and doubt. We want to show that aspect of who we are. We're not above everyone else, we're not on a pedestal and we struggle with the same things. It's a journey of faith that we're in together.
CT: You don't identify yourselves as a 'Christian' band, and in the film Jon says that you bring the songs you believe in to uncomfortable places because you feel like that's where they need to be heard. Why is that?
JF: Our faith is part of who we are so it's going to come out in our songs, but our music is very honest and a lot of people can relate to it whether they're a Christian or not. Whether you're a Buddhist or whatever, there are a lot of things in there that people can latch on to. That's why we bring it out to everyone.
We want to bring those songs out to places that are uncomfortable to us. We feel like our music should be out there not just in a certain area, but for everyone.
CT: What's the central message you want to share through the film and the new album?
JF: Basically, life is short, cherish each moment and live it well. That's been the central theme for a long time for us as a band.
We're really excited about playing these songs live, really excited about letting people listen to it. It's something that's very dear to us, so we can't wait to get it out there.
Fading West the film is available for download now, and the album is set for release on 14 January 2014.