Drew & Jon Foreman of Switchfoot at the Radio 92.9 studios (photo by Cayte Devastation)
I recently had a chance to chat with Drew Shirley, guitarist for the San Diego rock band Switchfoot. The band is playing this Saturday, May 19th at Radio 92.9 Earthfest in Boston. I got the lowdown from Drew on the band, and an exclusive on his own line of guitar amplifiers.
The current single off the new record, “The Afterlife” is one of my favorites. What inspired you guys to come up with the name “The Afterlife”?
We have a motto with the band that says “life is short, live it well”. It’s the kind of song, you know, we’re thinking about the afterlife, and a lot of people are thinking, “well I’ll do what I want right now”. It’s about not waiting till you die to think about how to valuable life is and how important it is to realize, you know, it’s kind of what the song says – not waiting for the afterlife to basically cherish the people I love and consider how valuable life is.
When it comes to playing live shows, how would you compare the east coast/Boston crowd to other parts of the country, or around the world? Are there any differences?
Yeah, they’re small differences in different places. For the most part, an audience just wants to enjoy the show, loose itself in the music, and to see obviously a good performance. But even more than that, we try to make it a conversation with the audience, where we’ll change songs on the fly, or people will request a certain song and we’ll play it right there in that moment. Sometimes it’s a little scary because you don’t know what’s coming up in the show. Different cities have different vibes, and we’ve always played the east coast a lot. I’d say, as it compares to international, yeah, international is a whole different animal. People are people, but different cultures have different ways of expressing themselves.
It’s obvious everyone in the band is in great shape. This can’t be easy to maintain on tour. How do you guys stay fit while on tour?
[laughs] It’s kind of the same as we stay in shape at home. We’ll hit the gym. Sometimes we’ll play at colleges, and that’s kind of cool because they have a gym there for us. Sometimes it’s just a treadmill at a hotel, or a walk around the city. We stay pretty active. I think for the most part, it’s just more a question of the food you eat than anything. Eating good on tour is tricky. We eat out for like a month straight – restaurant food isn’t the healthiest stuff.
What’s in your headphones while you’re on the bus these days?
I’ve been listening to Delta Spirit. I love the new record from the Black Keys, really into their last two records. I like Jack White, his new album is great. I’ll just put together a mix tape for you with Led Zeppelin, The Police, Depeche Mode. There’s a pretty eclectic taste from the band I’d say too. And I love dance music – Junior Senior, Justice, some of that stuff.
How do you and your families cope with all the touring? Do they ever come out on the road?
They come out sometimes, but it’s very hard because you say goodbye for the time you tour. You miss them while you’re away – you do a lot of Skype, FaceTime. I’ve got kids at home, so it’s doubly hard. It really makes me cherish the times that I am at home.
What do you like to do when you have some time off?
Play with my kids – we had a picnic yesterday. Just normal stuff – taking down a tree and catching gophers. I’ll do dishes and all that because I don’t ever do dishes on the road. You know what I mean? There’s no dishes to do on the road. We live in San Diego, so there’s a lot of stuff to do. There’s plenty of beach, so stuff like that.
This is one for the guitar nerds: you guys have amazing guitar sounds. What are your favorite amps and guitars?
Well, maybe I’ll make an announcement: I’m actually making my own amps now. I’m building and designing my own with a friend Eric here in San Diego. I’ve always loved playing different amps, I’ve played a whole bunch of different kinds, old school tube amps. I’ve not even gotten a name yet. They’re definitely going to be awesome though, I can tell you that right now.
Does the equipment you use on the road differ than what you use in the studio?
I’m sponsored by Elliott guitars. My concept is always old school tube amps so I love old Supros, and Strats, classic stuff. All analog – I don’t like using wireless controllers and digital effects. I really enjoy the old school way of an amp connected to a guitar, and just making the amp sound like they’re going to explode. Something that’s just alive, and expresses the emotion that I like.
The band’s career has been an amazing success story. What do you think has been the key in keeping the same line-up together so consecutively?
I think the same lineup has been awesome. We’re a team, we’re a band, we’re brothers. We have two brothers in the band, but we’re all brothers with each other honestly. We still like hanging out with each other, which is funny to say, it’s kind rare for bands. We’re looking forward to doing events together. We’re doing the Bro-Am coming up, which is a charity event on the beach that we’re sponsoring and promoting a lot right now. It’s something we dreamed up and wanted to do, and decided to do. To help out others and not just ourselves, to do good while doing well. It’s been quite a ride. It’s been really awesome to see all the different kids whose lives are affected and the different stories about the homeless kids here in San Diego who have been helped by this. We’re all just really excited about it. All the info is on our website, switchfoot.com. This is our eighth year doing it.
Aside from Switchfoot, do you see yourself doing anything else down the road? Do you have any aspirations in another field?
Well we’re going to make a documentary. It’s going to be called Fading West. We’re filming it all year long. It’s going to be a surf documentary mixed with behind the scenes footage of the band, as well as a lot of songs written along the way. You’ll see how we write songs, how we work as a band on the road, travel, and hit some exotic surf destinations. Also, the soundtrack will be released as a CD and it will be our next album. So there will be a film accompanying our next album. We’re looking at next summer [for the release].
I’ve got some side projects happening. Like I said, I’m going to be releasing an amp, I’m going to play my own amps, and design a guitar or two with Elliot. Also, I do some producing on the side. I’ve got a few bands lined up that I can’t talk about yet. Just looking forward to keeping busy. Switchfoot keeps so busy, it’s hard to find time to do anything else.
What’s your songwriting process like? Does someone come up with lyrics and then the music? Do some of the songs happen when you’re just jamming?
A lot of times Jon will write all the songs on the acoustic guitar, and then we’ll all put the music to it. A lot of times he’ll have the DNA of the song sketched out on an acoustic, or just a recording on his laptop. And then we’ll all as a band put everything together and make it come alive and come up with parts for different things.
Do you know what the next single is going to be?
I don’t – it’s going to be a mystery single. It’ll be a surprise. [laughs] I don’t know, I honestly don’t. Sometimes we know what’s happening next, but sometimes we don’t. We’re looking forward to just touring the heck out of the country and the world. We’re going to make this documentary and “Dark Horses” has been released, and “The Afterlife” has been released. If I had to pick a single, I would pick a song called “The Original”. But we’ll see what happens with the powers that be.
Its been a while since we’ve seen a Switchfoot music video that really tells a story. Do you guys have any plans to get back into that?
We don’t have a story-type video, except for our documentary that we’re working on. Nothing as of right now to tell you about.
What is the inspiration behind the song “Souvenirs”?
It’s a song about remembering that the valuable things in life are people, not stuff. It’s about valuing the memories we have. You look at a picture, you remember the memory. You have a souvenir there that you can take with you from different places. It’s better than a coffee mug from visiting somewhere.
Last question – this is a big one: Red Sox or Yankees?
[laughs] Red Sox, of course. Or anyone who’s playing the Yankees.
Alright, thanks so much Drew. Looking forward to seeing you guys in Boston on Saturday!
Radio 92.9 EarthFest with Eve 6, Switchfoot, Spin Doctors, and Third Eye Blind. May 19th at 12:00 p.m. Free. DCR Hatch Memorial Shell along the Esplanade, Boston. 617-822-9600. www.earthfest.com. Watch live at 1:15 p.m. EST here.
Read Full Post »