Switchfoot is preparing to release their eighth studio album on September 27th. The iconic rock band has always lived in both the secular and the Christian worlds, making statements that are as deep as they are relevant. 'Vice Verses' builds upon that legacy, crafting anthemic sounds through big guitars and roaring drum and bass patterns. The band calls it their “most soulful record to date,” and they can't wait for their fans to experience it. Fans will get their first chance to hear five of the songs, as well as see the video for single "Dark Horses," on ESPN this Saturday night.
I caught up with band members Drew Shirley and Jerome Fontamillas while they were playing a festival in Mesquite, Michigan. We talked 'Vice Verses', songwriting, faith, and music. As an interviewer I have to say, these are some of the nicest guys in the business, and the new album is going to be well worth your time. Pre-order it here and check out the interview below!
An interview with Drew Shirley
What is Vice Verses to you?
Wow. Vice Verses to me? Let’s see. It was a very special album for me. Personally, I feel like I’m coming into my own on this record and I think the band is really on a… search for greatness really. This is our most soulful album to date. I think it is our most introspective but [also] our most listener friendly album. I think this batch of songs was one of the most honest batch of songs we’ve had, and then we committed to things musically early on and we were focused on recording something that had a concise statement. So we picked the songs we were going to record at the top of the recording and then hit 14 songs and picked 12, which is pretty slim for a band like us. A lot of times we’ll record 80 and pick 12. So, in that respect, it’s much more focused and I think we’re learning what songs we sing best.
A producer once asked us, you know, “what are the songs that only Switchfoot can sing?” I think we’re honing in on those songs on this record more than any other record that we’ve ever done. Musically, it’s got a focus on the drum and bass that we’ve never pushed for but that we’ve got. So there are some songs that you will hear that are new from us. It’s like we’ve gone into our experimental cave and what felt right for us this time around was less guitars right up front and a focus on the rhythm section. There are even a couple songs where Jon does like a free form talking vocal lyric which is cool and different for us. It’s fun to push the envelope. It’s fun to find new boundaries and this record does all of that.
Explain what you mean about this being the most soulful record to date.
“Dark Horses” is the first single which people are hearing now. It’s charged with like unity for the underdog type of spirit and it has a lot to do with the homeless kids that we’ve been in contact with through the Center for Kids San Diego, that we give money to. There are songs like, gosh, the last song on the album, “Where I Belong” it’s called. That song brings me to tears sometimes. It’s very much a song about who we are as people and about finding our place in not just the musical world but in the actual world that we live in as men.
There’s a longing in this record which I think Switchfoot is known for. We’re known for that sense of sort of longing, asking questions that make people think. We’re very much a band that asks more questions than gives answers. Songs like “Where I Belong” and “Restless”, those two to me are very much kind of worship songs, they have like that spirit in them of worship where it’s a longing or reaching, a seeking. “Selling the News” has a lot of social commentary which is another kind of song that Switchfoot does very well. And then “The War Inside” is an honest song about struggling to live out what you believe on the inside and that has a lot to do with our soul. When I say it’s the most soulful album, I guess that’s kind of what I’m thinking. Our struggles, our personal struggles are out in the open on this record.
How involved do you get in kind of the writing process?
Well, a typical song on a record, John will write it on an acoustic guitar, bring it to the band in a rough format and say “look at this.” We’ll all listen and take thoughts in, we’ve been a band for awhile so no one is precious about their stuff and Jon isn’t precious about his writing. He’ll allow quite a bit of input. The lyrics are mostly, you know, Jon writes and Tim will jump in sometimes as an editor. Then the music is more of the full collaboration and I guess that’s where I come into play. I think I do a lot more inputting on the music; the guitar sounds, the parts, the arrangement, the how to express those words in sounds.