Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Jon Foreman talks Solo, the San Diego scene, lowercase people, and the new, "much more adventurous" Switchfoot record

There's a brand new interview with Switchfoot's Jon Foreman, and it quite frankly is amazing. conducted the interview, and he had some great, great questions. Below are some of my favorite excerpts:

SSv: You say you had a need to get it out there, but if that’s just a need to get some feelings out, then you can still keep those things to yourself. So what need is served by getting those out to the masses?

Foreman: [Pause] I think it’s one of those things where how needed is music anyways. If you look at it as a chemical process or something, it’s not really needed. But maybe it’s connecting with people that’s a need of mine.

SSv: I’ve noticed that you’re back in the studio with Switchfoot and there are still lots of band dates on the calendar, so can you tour behind the EPs at all?

Foreman: A little bit. It’s always been done as a true side project. You just have to squeeze it in with my day job. [Laughs] Just basically wherever the tour dates take me, I’ll just play some place that night if there’s a place available there - no ticket sales or fanfare or CDs sold. It’s just for the sake of music.

SSv: Are there thoughts to keep doing it on the side?

Foreman: Yes, I’ve already got an idea for the next one. I really want to dive into the Switchfoot project first. Another project coming up was done with a friend of mine, Sean Watkins from Nickel Creek, and that’s going to be coming out early in the next year. It’s called Fiction Family. It’s been done for the last year and we’re finally going to put it out. We were gonna call it The Real SeanJon but we figured Puffy’s lawyers wouldn’t make life very fun for us. [Laughs]

SSv: You brought up San Diego… I know you do the Bro-Am, the surfing benefit. Are you still plugged into the music scene there?

Foreman: Yeah, it’s a scene I’m really proud of. I love it. I guess it’s like anything that’s familiar. It doesn’t matter how it really is, to you it’s a beautiful thing. There are a lot of things about it that aren’t that great, I guess. For years, we didn’t really have any good shows and there’s a lot of things I see in other scenes that might be a little better than what we have here, but…

One of the best thing we do have is that people are fairly open-minded. There’s a real camaraderie. I don’t see that in a scene like L.A., for example. It seems people are driven more by getting signed to a major. Whereas in San Diego, that’s a pipe dream but the goal at hand is to have a great night and be a part of the music. In the end, you don’t have to belong to a certain clique. That’s been a huge element for shaping what we do. To be able to find out who you are, that’s an amazing freedom.

SSv: What can you tell us about the new Switchfoot?

Foreman: Basically we’re completely free. We have no ties to anyone at this point. That feels really good.

SSv: Is that scary in a way?

Foreman: Absolutely - scary and great. It’s like being in love. ‘It’s amazing. And I’m scared out of my mind.’ No, it’s great though. We just built our own studio and so that makes us even more free. The last few days we’ve been engineering the record ourselves. It’s amazing but at the same time, it can be a little terrifying at times.

SSv: Are there shades of one album more than another?

Foreman: The first three records we did under a label called Re:Think and the next three we did with Columbia. I’m not sure how many more we have in us, but it does feel like a brand new era that we really want to define with this new record. We’re just trying to take some time to develop a landscape that we can work off of.

SSv: Do you think about your career longevity - you mentioned that you don’t know how many more you have left in you?

Foreman: Sometimes we do. We’re a rare breed for a band in that we really do like each other. [Laughs] We love being with each other and we love making music together. Even with Sean and Fiction Family, I realize that you can only have one first time. And for us to travel around the world and go to Europe for the first time, Australia for the first time, Philippines or wherever. Or you can only hear your single on the radio for the first time once. There’s only one group of people you can do that with. That cements a bond with us and the way that we work, so I hope we can do this for a lot longer. As long as that bond exists, I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t be making music. Whether anyone wants to hear it is a different story.

SSv: So when you say you want to start a new era, what does that musically mean? Do you approach songwriting differently? Do you reach out to new directions you’ve never tried before?

Foreman: We’re picking songs that are much more adventurous. There are hundreds of songs that we’re trying to choose from, but we’re going with the oddballs first. Also, I feel that our last record was a little bit more of a cityscape with everything in the foreground vying for your attention. I really want this next record to be kind of a desert or ocean where you can see the horizon and that’s the context. You want to see that stretch through all the songs. That’s my intention for this next record that you could pull the lens back a bit and see a bit more of the sky.

SSv: I wanted to ask about Lowercase People and hear what’s happening there.

Foreman: That’s kind of a sore spot for me because it’s been a fight, you know? I think we had just been coming off of the success of Beautiful Letdown and a trip to Africa and a trip to India and we were basically thinking, ‘How do we involve art and beauty and mix that with truth? How do we sing songs about redemption and second chances and enact that with our hands? How can see beauty and truth come together?’ I think in many cases, those two are the same thing. They asked the scientists working on the double helix DNA structure, ‘After years of setbacks that proved you are wrong, how did you continue until you found the truth?’ And they responded with, ‘Well, it was too beautiful to not be true.’

I feel as a musician, that’s the reason I keep doing what I do. It’s too beautiful not to be true. We’re hoping that we could start doing that in a social justice way - not charity but actually taking the beautiful elements of South Africa and bringing them as an export to financially help them out. We recorded a record of the kids and I guess that was the first record we put out on Lowercase Records. The goal being to get some of the kids through college and I guess that’s not a failed dream. Many of them have gone to college and had their tuitions paid for and they’ve toured the U.S. a couple times.

But we kind of came to the conclusion that maybe we should stick to doing it in tangible ways rather than the pipe dream ways. For us, instead of this online magazine that we were putting a lot of money into, we decided to give money from the tours we were on directly to the people who needed it, instead of through the magazine. The last few tours we’ve done have been for To Write Love On Her Arms and Habitat for Humanity. Habitat is a great organization and I guess the dream is still alive in that way. But the dream as it pertains to Lowercase People - the online magazine is something we’re still trying to figure out. We were hoping it would spur a lot of people to action and our money would actually be going toward the West trying to wake people up to what is going on in third world countries. But I guess we didn’t see the returns we were hoping for.

Read the rest here

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