Interview: Switchfoot Talks “Where The Light Shines through”, and Overcoming Adversity

No one really knows how long their careers are going to last, and when you hit any significant milestone, it can make it all worth it. For Switchfoot, their musical venture is hitting a 10-album mark with Where The Light Shines Through, and they’re humbled by the fact that they’re still able to call music a career. While challenges come along with any real venture in life, the true beauty is found in overcoming the hurdles along the road, and that’s what Where The Light Shines Through is all about.

This album marks their 10th studio release, their return to the indie scene, their Vanguard Records debut, and over 20 years together as a band. While that’s a huge mark for any band, frontman Tim Foreman said they still “try to approach every record ike it’s our first and our last,” adding that this one does feel extra special.

In our new interview, Jerome Fontamillas (rhythm guitar, backing vocals) shared what this album means to him, some inside stories about the making of the video for “Float”, how Switchfoot overcomes adversity, and more.

Where The Light Shines Through is not only your 10th album, but it’s also your first time working with Vanguard Records and your return to the indie scene. Were there any specific reasons behind that decision?

Well, we’ve been working as an indie band for a while and we thought it was a really good fit, to continue being an indie band, but having a record label help us in getting our music out there. It was a good partnership and they’ve been doing really well, we’ve really liked working with them.

How would you compare the experience of working under a major label to an indie label? Would you say it has any real impact on the outcome of the album?

We’ve always taken a hands-on approach as a band, so we do a lot of things where having a label is just extra help for us. We pretty much do most of the work, so there’s really not a big difference, but the labels really do help us out in getting our music out there. A lot of the in-house stuff we [do though].

You guys produced it with John Fields. It’s been a while since you’ve worked together. What was it like getting back into the production room with him?

When we first worked with him we were new to the music scene and recording and stuff like that. Back then he was more of a father figure, guiding us through. Now, when we worked with him on this last album, he’s more of a mentor. Someone who’s more of a partner, because we’ve grown a lot since then and we’ve learnt a lot, so it’s more like sharing ideas instead of him guiding us.

Tim [Foreman] said the process of making the album was a huge struggle, but it was also cathartic. He also mentioned that it was a pretty dark time for you guys. What was the writing and recording process like for you?

I think as a band, we were trying to struggle to figure out if we wanted to keep doing it. If we wanted to keep making albums. It’s just the motivation behind it. Is this something that we really want to keep doing? I think the bottom line is, yes, we love music, we love making music, and we wanted to keep going at it. I think each one of the band members had to struggle to try to find what makes them want to keep making music. Why they’re doing this.

Kind of a struggle of if that’s how you want to keep living your life, or if you want to take different paths?

Exactly. Like is this something you want to keep doing, or do we need to break up the band? It’s one of those things that in your heart, [you need to know] if this is what you want.

That’s kind of like when you’re in a relationship and you hit those rocky paths. 

Exactly. It’s like “do I take the next step and maybe ask her out on a date, or maybe take the next step and ask her to bemy girlfriend.” That kind of thing.

Aside from it being your tenth album as a band, it seems like this album was a bit more symbolic for Switchfoot as a band. What would you say it represents to you?

Each album is a representation of where we’re at, at that time in our lives and this album does represent what we were going through at the time. It’s an album of hope, it’s an album of where we’re at. If you look at it in the political or social aspect of it, everything is a mess, but we wanted to create an album of hope. We wanted to create something to at least instill that we may be in a dark time, but there is a light that’s going to shine through.

I’m sure two decades as a band and 10 albums later, this isn’t the first dark time for you guys. What are some of the things that you’ve done to overcome that adversity and still come out on top?

I mean, you always try to find hope and you can always find hope in the dark places. We always believe  that. Yes, we’ve gone through some dark times before. Recording the album was a dark time, but we came out of it as a stronger band. Where The Light Shines Through was made through a dark time, but we as a band have come out to bestronger and closer than ever.

Would you say that in the making of the album, you got through the dark times? That it gave you solace and helped you grow through it.

Yes! Writing and recording has been therapeutic. It definitely has given us a lot of hope and a lot of energy to keep going, because of what we’re writing about and the stuff we’re going through. We definitely grew through the total process and it’s been really amazing.

I admire that, because it’s something I hold true to as well. You guys have a theme that you’ve dabbled with a few times, kind of like you just said, finding the beauty in pain. Would you say that that’s helped you grow together as a group as well?

Yeah, when you go through a mountain or a struggle with someone, you definitely end up closer coming out of it. As a band, we’re a close-knit group as it is, but going through these things has always strengthened our friendship.

You’ve been involved in a lot of philanthropic efforts and stuff like that. What are your opinions on what’s going on in the world right now?

It’s been a mess, but definitely on stage when we talk about things like that, it’s about unity. A lot of us might have differences, but as a band, as an individual and as a person, we love each and every one of you. That won’t change. We love you guys and we believe in the people that surround us. We just wanted to express that yeah, we’re going through some dark times, but as people, let’s band together in unity.

That has shown through, while there’s all that madness, there are still thousands and thousands of people who are banding together to protest and actually care. It shows that unity in a time of absolute madness.

Yeah, and it’s important. It’s important for people to band together. To set aside differences and unite and be unified.

It’s unfortunate that it takes something so distressing to do so, but it’s nice to see.

(laughs) You can’t help that though.

No. It’s kind of like families. Sometimes you don’t even see each other until it’s a funeral.

Yeah, again like you said it’s like families during holidays. They come in and a fight breaks out, [but] you’re still family.

The video for “Float” looks like it was a lot of fun to shoot. What was it like going back to your home country with the band to film?

It was amazing. I was born maybe 10 miles away, so it was really cool to go back. We filmed it at probably one of the poorest places in the world. We set up our instruments right on one of their main streets (laughs) that they have and just started playing and a group of people started circling us. It was pretty amazing.

I was curious about that. That wasn’t set up?

No, we just put our instruments in there. Obviously we were filming for a video, but to have your instruments out there and be playing is pretty amazing.

I like that it showed that even people in one of the poorest places in the world are still so happy with what they have.

Yeah! That was amazing to see. The kids and the young people there had a lot of joy in them. It was pretty amazing.

I’ve always wanted to go.

The Philippine people are very giving and they’re very welcoming. Even through their situation, where they’re in really poor conditions, they’re still a very welcoming, loving bunch of people.

This interview can also be found on Aesthetic Magazine’s website.

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