“I think, as a band, we were searching for our voice on the last record, Hello Hurricane.” Switchfoot guitarist Drew Shirley explains, “Now, we’ve figured out who we are; we found our voice, we found the songs that only we can sing. . .we found the heartbeat of the band.”
[tweetmeme]With the release of Vice Verses, Switchfoot’s eighth studio album, the band feels more confident than ever that they are playing the music that they were born to make. The album is the band’s most daring endeavor yet, as they approached it with a more focused ear. ”We wanted to really have the bass and drums be so good that you didn’t really didn’t even want to put guitars on it,” Drew says, “so we have a lot of verses that are very sparse because we wanted it to have some space, to have a landscape – a timeless quality like that.”
The album’s first single, “Dark Horses,” has already received loads of positive attention with its powerful chorus and bright message about the perserverance and hope for homeless kids in San Diego:
Hey, you can’t count us out
We’ve been running up against the crowd
Yeah, we are the dark horses
Wait! It’s not over now
We’ve been down but we’ve never been out
Yeah, we are the dark horses
As a means to help the kids who inspire them, Switchfoot started Bro-Am, a charity event benefiting StandUp For Kids, eight years ago. “It started as an idea to put together surfing, music and a charity event in our hometown of San Diego.” Guitarist Drew Shirley explains, ”It has grown from a few hundred people to a few thousand and it’s now our favorite day of the year.”
It’s that kind of positive energy mixed with talent and passion for music that makes Switchfoot a band unlike any other. In fact, they have brought their charity work on the road with them – collecting backpacks for kids in each city that they tour in. ”We just want to use our platform to help other people.” Drew said, “For us it’s not just about touring and having one night in each city and then it’s over…we thought ‘what if we try to build up each city while we’re there?’”
So that’s what these guys are doing: making music, building up the cities and making a change. We certainly can’t ask for any more than that! Thank you, Switchfoot!
Here’s the full interview, enjoy!:
I’d love to take some time to talk about your work with StandUp For Kids. How did you get involved with it?
Drew: StandUp For Kids is an organization that we work with around our Bro-Am event. It started as an idea to put together surfing, music and a charity event in our hometown of San Diego. We’ve been doing it for about EIGHT years now! It has grown from a few hundred to a few thousand and it’s now our favorite day of the year. StandUp For Kids is the charity that we work with during that time and we just thought it would be a natural thing to bring that out on the road with us – that concept – and collect backpacks and give them to the local chapters as we travel the country because these kids have the whole world on their back and we kind of see it as helping them bear their burden in a way.
I think it’s awesome that you guys are doing that!
We just want to use our platform to help other people. For us it’s not just about touring and having one night in each city and then it’s over…we thought ‘what if we try to build up each city while we’re there?’ We’ve tried Habitat For Humanity and we’ve tried StandUp For Kids and it’s just been growing with all these different kinds of causes and charities, so we connected it with our tours and events.
What does Vice Verses mean to you?
Well it’s our eighth record. It’s a mile-stone. This album, to me, means finding my voice. I think, as a band, we were searching for our voice on the last record, Hello Hurricane. We recorded over eighty songs for that and then tried to find the best twelve. Now, we’ve figured out who we are; we found our voice, we found the songs that only we can sing…we found the heartbeat of the band. We found what we’re passionate about, what we love to play and ways to get that across. That is what Vice Verses means to me – finding our voice.
I love how you guys combined such a variety of songs on this record – heavy rock songs, ballads and then really rhythmic tracks like “Selling The News” – is that something you guys were going for when you picked the tracks for Vice Verses?
It is! We kind of let the songs be king. We let them be who they are. They’re kind of like kids – we let them find their way and sometimes they get into drugs and bad things and then sometimes the song goes to college and graduates Magna Cum Laude and makes it on the record as a shining star…..okay I took that analogy too far! [laughs].
But seriously, we let the songs be kind of what they are according to how it was written. It’s sort of like you’re unearthing something as an archeologist and kind of digging and then dusting, pushing dirt away – and as you move the dirt out of the way, you find out what’s under there and all the sudden it’s a song. So, we just try to unearth those songs, bring them back to life so to speak and put them on a record.
We did intentionally focus on the bass and drums on this record as far as wanting those rhythmic tracks to really speak. We wanted to really have the bass and drums be so good that you didn’t really didn’t even want to put guitars on it. So we have a lot of verses that are very sparse because we wanted it to have some space, to have a landscape – a timeless quality like that.
What is your favorite song on the record?
My favorite song right now is a song called “Selling The News.” It’s a rhythmic track where Jon does spoken word and it’s kind of mocking the news because for Westerners and Americans, the news is no longer here to inform us…it’s just to sell commercials and I think it’s dumbing down the American people and not making us aware of world events. I want to be a person who is mindful of other countries, other people and what they’re going through and not think that I’m the center of the entire world. We’re one country amongst many and “Selling The News” is kind of our commentary on that.
I like it because it’s so different from anything you guys have done in the past.
It’s very different. It’s one of those that we had tried to do before, but just weren’t in the place where we could do it. Now, as a band, I think we’ve reached a place where we’re confident to step out in that rhythmic direction.
You’ve been a part of Switchfoot for quite a few years now, what has it taught you about yourself personally and musically just being in the band and being close to these guys?
That’s a great question. I would go back to finding my voice. I joined Switchfoot 8 years ago, just before The Beautiful Letdown came out and I had to fit into an existing band and into existing songs. I was the new guy so I had to find parts to play that would fit in with what was already going on. I’ve become a player who loves tones and going around all of the chords and beats and notes to create the mood and space of a song.
We really are like brothers. So traveling and knowing these guys like we do on this bus for so many days of the year has made us really good friends. Watching out for each other, realizing when somebody is just really bummed and having a bad day or a bad week…we’ve learned how to live like brothers. We really do have brothers in the band, but I consider us all brothers as well.
What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever been given?
Well, I asked my dad what I should do for college because I didn’t know what I wanted to major in and he said “do something that you love because no amount of money in the world is worth doing something that you’re not passionate about.” So I said, “well, there’s music,” and so then he goes “oh…wait..” [laughs]
Anything…except for that! [laughs]
I know [laughs], then he’s like “uhh..wait a minute” and I was like “I’m gonna be in a band!”
Well, I’d say it has definitely worked out alright for you!
Yeah, it’s worked out really well. I’ve got the best job in the world and I love what I do.
What kinds of things inspire you?
Guitar sounds, good amps, well-made instruments…old stuff. I like vintage amps and old pedals and instruments. I like the early 70′s muscle cars. I like being outside, that inspires me. I like kids, actually, because their not tarnished by reputation and obsessive about money and finances and life goals yet. They’re innocent and fun and that inspires me.
What are you listening to these days?
Well, along with the rest of the world, I was listening to Foster The People on the airplane. I like those guys! We have some friends in that band and I like them a lot.
As well as Led Zeppelin, although I don’t have any friends in that band. But, Jimmy Page, if you’re reading this I would like to be your friend!
Thank you so much for talking to me, Drew!
Always a pleasure!
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