Interview: Tim Foreman of Switchfoot
By Tom Roth
This week, Tim Foreman of San Diego-based Switchfoot took time to speak with USD Radio about the band’s upcoming album, San Diego, Mandy Moore, and international scavenger hunts before Switchfoot’s homecoming performance at Petco Park on September 18.
USD Radio: I figured with Switchfoot as a San Diego band and with USD Radio as a student run organization here in San Diego, I’d talk to my fellow students and friends in San Diego and find out what questions they want to ask. I’ve got this list here in front of me and we’ll just start working our way down it, if that’s alright with you.
Tim Foreman: Sounds perfect.
USDR: Is the title of your upcoming album, Vice Verses, in any way related to the themes of human polarity that the band has hinted at?
TF: Yeah, absolutely. It’s a record of contrast. Highs and lows. The polar human experience, for me. It probably means something different to all of us. It’s that kind of album title. I love things like that when it can mean different things to different people. For me, Vice Verses is an album of songs birthed in struggle and the concept that oftentimes, beautiful things are the result of really difficult experiences. These are the verses that are birthed in Vice Verses.
USDR: Related to the music, was the marketing plan for “Mess of Me” off of your last album something formal or organic? Was that the band’s idea?
TF: Yeah, that was Jon’s idea. You’re talking about when we hid the copies of the single all over the world. That was my brother’s idea. He’s got a great head for writing songs but also for connecting with people and marketing. That was a really fun thing for us to do. We were on tour at the time when we decided to give it a try. We hid a few copies in pretty fun places around town, sent out Tweets about where the single was hidden, and let it take a life of its own from there. It was great to see copies of the single showing up in Rome and Australia and China, you know, in very unlikely spots. It was a lot of fun to watch.
USDR: “Switchfoot originally broke out as a Christian band and a few years ago, changed labels. Has that been a negative or positive evolution and is the loss of Switchfoot’s overtly, almost uniquely religious aspect something you’re comfortable with?” –Tara
TF: That feels like a bit of a loaded question because that hasn’t been our experience. We’ve always been the same five guys – well, we started as three guys – but the same band playing songs that are meaningful to us. Exploring life and all aspects of life: God, girls, politics. There’s nothing that’s taboo or off the table when it comes to art and I think songs are a great way of expressing the more uncomfortable aspects of life: the painfully honest parts of life and for us, things that we don’t understand more than what we do. It’s kind of our vehicle that we hop in and explore the world through these songs and that has never changed. We’ve always been very honest about our faith through the music and also about our doubts. To me, that’s what good music has always been whether it’s Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, or Bono. It has to be honest.
USDR: “How has your faith grown from touring” –David and Alex
TF: I think it’s been challenged and hopefully, has grown quite a bit. I don’t know if it’s so much a result of touring as simply growing older. My dad once told me when I was a kid – my dad is one of my heroes and someone I really look up to – and he told me that he never trusts a man without a limp. I always liked that because what he meant by that was that until you’ve really lost something, you don’t really know who you are. I think in growing older and travelling the world and experiencing new things, we’ve taken a few things on the chin through the years and we’ve had some great moments but we’ve also endured some painful ones. I think that has given us a deeper appreciation for fellow humans and the plight of others around the world and that we’re all in this together.
USDR: “How did you meet John Perkins? What are your thoughts on his view of race and reconciliation?” –Tyler
TF: John Perkins is an amazing individual. We initially came upon his book, Let Justice Roll Down, and were really inspired by his thoughts and his story. Really, we couldn’t believe we’d never heard of him before. It’s a remarkable story of faith and courage and boldness to love the oppressor. We were excited about telling his story whether that was something we could tell to a thousand people or a million people, we felt like it was worth using the platform we had to further his cause. We did that in a song called “The Sound.” We wrote the song and he actually found out about it and contacted us. Since then, we’ve become pretty close friends. A really unique thing was being able to go to his home in Jackson, Mississippi and spend some time with his family and do some events together. It feels like a very unlikely partnership for five surfers from San Diego to be involved in justice in Jackson, Mississippi and racial reconciliation around the states but it’s been an amazing experience and I think what we take from that is the idea that love will be the loudest song we ever sing. There’s no weapon stronger than love.
USDR: “What was the motivation behind ‘Dare You To Move’?” –MacKenzie
TF: “Dare You To Move” like a lot of our songs, was written from an autobiographical, introspective place. John wrote it at about two or three in the morning to himself like the way some of the songs are. It’s an amazing thing that some of the most personal, the most deeply personal, introspective songs can be so universal because I think we all relate to songs – that song in particular – about the feeling of apathy in life, that you’re just kind of drifting through . The song was intended to be a shot in the arm to himself to wake up and to do something. I feel really fortunate that that song was written ten years ago… maybe longer and it still means just as much to us today as the day it was written.
USDR: “How do you feel about Mandy Moore covering your music on (the film) A Walk to Remember?” –Ali
TF: I think it’s great. We’ve had the privilege of having a lot of our songs be used in TV shows and movies. Sometimes it feels like a really appropriate use of the song and sometimes it feels really inappropriate and bizarre. Unfortunately, because of the business of the music industry, we oftentimes don’t have full control over how it’s used. But if you’re able to put all that aside, then no matter what, it’s a compliment that someone from a different industry and a different line of work heard a song that you created and liked it and felt like it was a applicable to his art or her art. This was actually one of the cases where I thought it was a great use of the song and I think she’s got a really sweet voice and she’s a really sweet person. It was a fun experience for us. It was our first Hollywood experience. We were pretty young and walking the red carpet and just feeling like we were living someone else’s life at the time. It was fun.
USDR: “What are the good spots for a new band in San Diego?” –Kenny
TF: There’s a lot of up-and-coming coffee shops and that sort of thing that is always changing. It’s tough for me to keep up with it because it seems like every couple weeks there’s another one closing and another one opening. When we were first starting out, one of the spots was the Chai Café at UCSD. That’s where we used to play and a lot of our favorite bands used to play. It’s a tiny place… holds maybe 50 people on a good day. That’s still one of my favorite places to do a show. Then, up in North County where we all grew up and lived, there’s the Belly Up which is a pretty good sounding venue but probably is a little exclusive for a lot of the kids in the class. Those are two of my favorites and have been for years and years.
USDR: “What was the first song you ever wrote?” –Allie
TF: The first song that I ever wrote is, without a doubt, a song that none of you have ever heard (laughs) but John and I started fooling around with making music when we were probably six or seven years old. At that age up until we were maybe 13, we were doing our best to write songs that Led Zeppelin had somehow missed and we were trying to discover them on their behalf. We had the pre-puberty voices so we were still able to hit the high notes and we had a lot of fun trying to do our best Robert Plant impersonations.
USDR: “If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing?” –Allie
TF: I was going to school in the computer science program at UCSD. I put that on an indefinite hiatus. For the first few years of our band, I was trying to juggle both things at once and that only worked for so long. As far as I know, I think I still am enrolled in the program. Maybe I’ll go back one of these years. I love school, I love learning. I probably wouldn’t be going back to get a degree. It would be for the love of learning and that’s the thing that I hope I’ll always have. I think the moment you lose a passion for growing and learning, that’s kind of a scary thing so I hope I’ll never lose that. As far as occupationally, I love building things and figuring out how things work so maybe I’d be somewhere between a high school math teacher and a carpenter.