Life for Switchfoot hasn’t been all sunshine and surfing, though it hasn’t been for lack of trying.

For instance, there was that first overseas tour that found the San Diego band sneaking into concerts and sleeping in the streets of London so they could afford a side trip across the Channel to do some surfing in France.

“Surfing and music are very closely entwined for me,” guitarist and vocalist Jon Foreman told POLLSTAR while on a short break from the road. “Music was what you did after school and after you went surfing. So, we all grew up in that same scene, surfing a lot, hanging out.”

But don’t get the idea that Switchfoot is made up of stereotypical surf slackers. The foursome, Jon Foreman, his brother Tim on bass, drummer Chad Butler and keyboardist Jerome Fontamillas, have been on the road more than they’ve been on the beach for the last seven years.

“We played everywhere. We played clubs, we played bars, we played churches, we played coffee shops, anyplace that would let us play,” Foreman said.

They’ve been kicked out of bars and embraced on the Christian music church circuit. They’ve shared bills with bands ranging from O.C. Supertones to Staind.

“We’ve always tried to stay out of boxes,” Foreman explained. “It’s almost like the zoo, where you want to take something out of its natural element, put it in a cage and label it. It takes the fangs out and pulls the claws off.

“For us, we’re a rock band. And, certainly, we’re very open and honest about our beliefs and what our passions are. We’ve always played clubs and we’ve always played churches. The last two tours have been all clubs simply because I feel like this album, where it needs to be heard is in regular, sweaty rock clubs, you know what I mean?”

The band’s Columbia debut album, The Beautiful Letdown, is definitely getting heard. After a slow but steady buildup, the lead single, “Meant to Live,” was a Top 10 fixture on rock radio going into October, according to Jon Leshay of Storefront Management.

“This is a remarkable story,” Leshay told POLLSTAR. “Granted, you’re hearing this from the manager, but it’s probably the most talked about radio promotion job of the year. The single was released at the end of January, and it just went from No. 15 to No. 10 on the charts. After 10 months, we are at the biggest increase we’ve ever had in spins.”

While it’s great to have radio on board, Leshay and Foreman agree Switchfoot’s, continuing focus is on the stage.


“For us, the live show is the life of Switchfoot,” Foreman said. “That’s where we live and breathe. It’s more about communication, the places you can go with the song. When you hear everyone singing along, it feels like with the band we’re part of something bigger than ourselves.”

Growth is the key word for Switchfoot. The band formed while the Foreman brothers and Butler were high school students in San Diego’s North County (Fontamillas joined the band three years ago). Through what Jon Foreman calls “a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend,” a tape he’d made solely for the band and a few fans somehow found its way into the hands of a record producer in Nashville.

Before Switchfoot played 20 shows together, it was signed to Christian indie label Rethink Records. Its first CD was released the day before Tim Foreman graduated from high school.

The move to Columbia Records took seven years but was the next logical step at the right time for a band that won’t have a genre label slapped on it.

“To me, this is not so much a crossover. It’s really just about pacing a career and growing it at the right time and at the right pace,” Leshay said. “People can call them what they are. They are a mainstream rock ‘n’ roll band that just happens to be Christian. But there are tons of bands out there that have religion, too.”

One of those bands that is U2, and Jon Foreman admits to more than a passing admiration for the band and particularly frontman Bono.

“Jon absolutely admires the whole artist development process of U2,” Leshay said. “I, think [Foreman admires] Bono as a writer, but I think more for his philanthropic involvement in various projects.”

Switchfoot has quietly lent its efforts to one Bono-founded program in particular: Debt, AIDS, Trade for Africa (DATA).

Even before hooking up with DATA, Foreman said the band began working with refugees who had been placed in the San Diego area, and hopes to produce a CD of a Sudanese children’s singing group.

Working with the organization afforded Foreman an invitation to DATA’s Nashville summit last December, where Bono spoke. Foreman was so inspired, he made a point of introducing himself afterward.

He handed Bono $40.

“I’d snuck into a U2 show in London back when we were on a tour there.”

And probably went surfing in France the next day.