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TUESDAY CONVERSATION: Jerome Fontamillas of Switchfoot
He’s not an original member of Switchfoot, but with 11 years now as the band’s keyboardist and occasional guitarist, Jerome Fontamillas has become a staple in the San Diego outfit’s unique pop/rock sound. But what many Switchfoot fans may not know is that Fontamillas has nearly another decade of music experience that preceded his time with Jon Foreman and company. In fact, he was part of such groundbreaking bands such as Mortal and Fold Zandura (both in which he teamed with Christian alternative pioneer Jyro Xhan).
Whole Notes caught up with Fontamillas recently to discuss, among other things, his transition from independent band to major label artist and back to being independent again. Read more of what this talented musician had to say:
Bonham: What kind of adjustment did you have to go through back when you went from playing in small independent bands to being a part of the Switchfoot phenomenon?
Fontamillas: It was actually really fun. When they asked me to join, they were just a three-piece band from San Diego too. My band and their band had played together at small clubs all around Southern California. When I joined, my band wasn’t playing and they needed a keyboard player. They’d become good friends of mine. So they said, “Why don’t you join us and we’ll see where it goes?” It wasn’t too long after that when a lot more people started coming out to the shows. The albums started doing really well. I was like, “Wow! I never knew it could get to this point.” Before it was like, “Hey, I’m playing with some friends of mine in some clubs.”
Bonham: Before joining Switchfoot, you had a lot of experience with independent production and small labels. Did that make it more comfortable for you to work on Hello Hurricane and the new record Vice Verses?
Fontamillas: It reminded me a lot of my roots and where I first started. We have this blank canvas and we can do whatever we want with it. It’s really exciting. It does remind me of back in the day when I first started out (in the music business).
Bonham: Was the process of working on a second independent record as invigorating and creatively charged as the first time?
Fontamillas: Now that we’re kind of adjusted to having our own recording studio in San Diego, we have a lot of say. Being an independent band, we do partner with Atlantic Records for distribution but the idea that we can go to our own studio means we have more control. We get to decide who is going to produce us and engineer it. It’s really cool to have control of a lot of that stuff because we are an independent band. The second time around doesn’t feel any different than the first time around. We have this place. Let’s do this. It’s like clockwork now. It’s a lot easier. It’s your lifestyle now.
Bonham: Is there an underlying message for the new album or is just a collection of songs you recorded at a certain point in time?
Fontamillas: We recorded 90 songs for Hello Hurricane and chose 12. On this album, we were a little more direct. We wanted to choose 12 to 15 songs and put everything into them. By doing that, we had a more focused recording. You’ll see that in the new album. We’re more focused and you can see that we put more time into each song. You could see that there’s more directness in this recording.
Bonham: How has the addition of both you and Drew Shirley (formerly of All Together Separate) changed Switchfoot’s sound and aided Jon Foreman’s role as the front man?
Fontamillas: That’s key. That’s why it was so good that Drew came in to the band. I was tied down to the keys and there was this idea that we really wanted Jon to connect and bring the audience in to the music. We needed to free him up a little bit more and so it’s so great to have Drew there to fill in (on guitar) when Jon goes out.
Bonham: That was pretty evident when I saw you play on the Third Day tour. I don’t think I’ve seen Jon connect with a crowd better than he did that night.
Fontamillas: Yeah. Yeah, it’s really special when he can connect with the audience. You can see when he does draw them into the music. You can see the audience’s eyes. It’s really cool to see.
Bonham: Of course, I’ve seen you smiling while playing for 50 people and I’ve seen that same smile when you’re playing for 5,000 people. It doesn’t seem to matter to you.
Fontamillas: (Laughs) You know, I really love doing music. I’ve been doing it now for almost 20 years. I can’t believe I’m able to do this. It’s just a blessing. God’s been really good.
Bonham: I always felt like your previous bands, especially Fold Zandura, were too creatively advanced at the time for the Christian music industry. Would you agree with that?
Fontamillas: I felt that too, but the idea that you’re pushing your limits creatively, that’s more important to me. It was something we really wanted to do. People will like it or they won’t. It’s more about creating music that you enjoy.
Bonham: And don’t you get that same flexibility playing with Switchfoot?
Fontamillas: Yeah. They’ve been really good to say, “Jerome, you’ve gotta do your thing. You know what to do.” They give me a lot of freedom.
Join Whole Notes tomorrow for music news featuring Sanctus Real lead singer Matt Hammitt.
Want to read more from Chad? Check out his sports blog “Inspiring Athletes” or go directly to some of his high-profile interviews and features by clicking on the names below:
Fernando Ortega set to release first album in five years
Once a leader within the evangelical worship community, Fernando Ortega has taken a different direction as an Anglican music leader and proponent of a resurgent liturgical movement. This new focus is highlighted in Ortega’s July 12th release Come Down O Love Divine (Stylos Records/Word Distribution), a collection of original instrumental songs and lyrical hymns and his first album in five years.
“Come Down O Love Divine is really about a longing for the experience of heaven on earth,” Ortega said in a press statement. “That is how I think we are supposed to approach life, and I think for me, this album is about how every aspect of our lives should be measured out by the narrative of Christ’s life.”
To keep up with the latest on Ortega’s music, visit his official website by clicking here.
Jesus Culture’s Jake Hamilton making big impact with Freedom Calling
The Jesus Culture movement out of Bethel Church in Redding, Calif., has been shaking up the worship community for the past couple of years. On the frontline of that spiritual earthquake is rock-influenced worship artist Jake Hamilton who recently released his sophomore project Freedom Calling. The new album includes 11 original songs and a DVD that features three songs and a 30-minute piece about Hamilton.
“I long to give the Body of Christ a language for reformation and revival through melodies that will be carried on for generations,” Hamilton said in a press release.
For information on Hamilton’s tour dates and his appearances with Jesus Culture, visit the group’s official website here.
Superchick’s Tricia Brock branches out with solo worship debut
Known for her role as lead singer of the quirky but highly melodic pop/rock band Superchick, Tricia Brock is showing another layer of creativity with the week-old release The Road (Inpop Records). Brock’s distinctive voice is evident throughout the record, but the musical background and its lyrical content is more targeted towards worship and adult contemporary listeners.
Brock relied on husband Nick Baumhardt, best known for his work with Stellar Kart, FM Static and Thousand Foot Krutch, to produce the project. Brock’s first single, “You Are My Shepherd” is currently being played on Christian AC stations across the country.
For more details on the new album and Brock’s solo efforts, check out her official website here.
Upcoming album releases (June 21):
Peter Furler – On Fire (Sparrow/EMICMG)
Stuart Townend – The Journey (Kingsway/EMICMG)
Aaron Keyes – Dwell (Kingsway/EMICMG)
Shonlock – Never Odd Or Even (Universal/EMICMG)
The Katinas – Collage (Independent)
August Burns Red – Leveler (Tooth and Nail/EMICMG)
The Martins – New Day (Spring Hill/EMICMG)
The Crimson Armada – Conviction (Razor and Tie/Provident)
These Hearts – Forever Ended Yesterday (Victory Records/Provident)
Ronnie Freeman – Perfect Love (Universal Music/EMICMG)
Danen Kane – Love Is Waiting (Digital Indie Release)
Patrick Paegel – Unfailing Love (Penny’s Gang Records)
Casey Darnell – Coming Alive (North Point Music)
Great Worship Songs Praise Band – The Acoustic Set (Great Worship Songs)
Various artists – EMI Gospel 2011 (EMI Gospel)
Various Artists – Fire It Up (Tooth and Nail Records/EMICMG)
Various Artists – Great Worship Songs For Kids Vol. 5 (Great Worship Songs)
Various Artists – Holy Hip Hop Vol. 11 (Holy Hip Hop)
Various Artists – iWorship @ Home Vol 14 DVD (iWorship)
Various Artists – Time Will Pass You By (Tooth & Nail)
Join Whole Notes tomorrow for an interview with Switchfoot’s Jerome Fontamillas, and coming soon, interviews with Blindside, Royal Tailor, Hillsong United and Burlap To Cashmere.
Switchfoot hosts seventh annual Bro-Am charity event this weekend
Switchfoot has played for thousands, sold record to millions and won numerous prestigious awards including a Grammy earlier this year. But according to keyboard player/guitarist Jerome Fontamillas, not much can top the feeling the band gets from participating in its own annual Bro-Am surf contest and beach concert.
“It’s probably one of our favorite times of the year because it’s not about Switchfoot the band,” Fontamillas told Whole Notes. “It’s about giving to the community and helping out (Stand Up For Kids). The band is there to help out but it’s more of a community thing.”
This year’s event will be held Saturday, June 18th at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas, Calif., The seventh annual gathering includes surfing contests, food and games and a beach concert featuring Switchfoot, The Howls, The Romany Rye and The Silent Comedy, along with a private auction and an after-party concert at The Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach headlined by Goo Goo Dolls front man Johnny Rzeznik, Little Hurricane and Jon Foreman’s side project Fiction Family.
While the event is enjoyed by thousands of people each year, Fontamillas said that the Bro-Am is ultimately all about community and giving back.
“It’s really a charity event and Switchfoot just happens to be there,” he added. “It’s cool because we’re not really the focal point. The charity is the focal point and we’re there to help out anyway we can.”
This year, the Bro-Am will once again benefit the San Diego and Oceanside chapters of the non-profit organization StandUp For Kids, which pulls together resources to assist at-risk, homeless and street kids.
“(A few years ago), we were able to visit their place and we saw how they were connecting with the kids that are struggling in San Diego,” Fontamillas said. “They really take them in. That struck us and we wanted to help out. It’s a great organization.”
So far, the Bro-Am has raised more than $400,000 for various San Diego-based children’s charities including last year’s event that pulled in $135,000 on behalf of StandUp For Kids.
For a full list of the weekend’s events, visit the band’s official Bro-Am site by clicking here.
Visit Whole Notes next week for more from Switchfoot’s Jerome Fontamillas including his thoughts on the band’s upcoming studio album Vice Verses (September 27th).
RED launches video for “Feed The Machine”
Already known for its creative music videos, Grammy-nominated hard rock band RED has done it again with its latest single “Feed The Machine.” Described as “more a short film,” the video debuted last month on ARTISTdirect.com and can be seen by clicking here.
“We’re movie fanatics!” guitarist Anthony Armstrong told ARTISTdirect.com. “’Feed the Machine’ is an intense song, and we wanted the video to be equally, if not more intense, than the actual song itself. The band actually came up with the idea. It wasn’t anything that we got a treatment for from a director. The idea belonged to us. We teamed up with the Irwin Brothers and gave them the vision of what we wanted to do It’s a pretty intense video.”
RED continues a busy touring schedule throughout June, July and August. Fans can keep up with concert dates and other band news by visiting the official website here.
Royal Tailor debuts its first-ever music video
Just two weeks since debuting Black & White, pop/rock band Royal Tailor has released its very first music video for the single “Make A Move.” Directed by Ry Cox, the video features choreography from Nick Bass who has also worked with iconic pop stars such as Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Madonna.
Check out the video for “Make A Move” below:
With significant sales success already to its credit, Royal Tailor is poised to make an impact on multiple radio formats due to its diverse sound that includes elements of pop, rock, funk and RNB.
For more information about Royal Tailor, including blogs from lead singer Tauren Wells, click here.
Join us next week for more Whole Notes Music News and music reviews of Royal Tailor and Superchick’s Tricia Brock.