Rock steady: Switchfoot is made up of (from left) Jerome Fontamillas, Chad Butler, Jon Foreman, Drew Shirley and Tim Foreman. Shirley says travelling and surfing around the world has helped the band come up with songs for their latest album Fading West.
Rock band Switchfoot takes fans on a whirlwind journey in the documentary, Fading West.
ONE of the most poignant moments in Switchfoot’s Fading West documentary is when members of the band contemplated on whether or not they should say “hi” to Slash at the 2012 Soundwave Festival in Australia.
The band, together with Slash and several other big names in rock music, were part of the festival. Backstage, the band chose to just walk past Slash and wave at him. Unfortunately, the legendary guitarist didn’t really reciprocate.
“Well, he kinda looked at my direction for a second,” Switchfoot guitarist Drew Shirley said in the film.
Formed in 1996, the San Diego, California band already has eight albums but somehow, bassist Tim Foreman feels that Switchfoot – which also comprises vocalist Jon Foreman, drummer Chad Butler and guitarist Jerome Fontamillas – has yet to find a sense of belonging in the vast mainstream rock music scene.
After the less-than-exciting backstage “encounter” with Slash, Foreman says in the documentary, “We don’t know where we fit in.”
Filmed during Switchfoot’s whirlwind year of touring in 2012, Fading West offers fans a glimpse into their lives. Shirley described the band’s touring year as “crazy with a lot of air miles”.
During a recent phone interview with Shirley, he revealed why the band decided to make the film.
“As a band, we’re always looking for ways to tell a story. There’s only so much you can tell with a four-minute song. So we decided to let this camera crew follow us around for a year to document our travels. We didn’t know how or where all the footage would end up,” he said.
While Slash and some metalheads might have snubbed Switchfoot, the band found its moments of clarity while travelling through South Africa, New Zealand and Indonesia and getting acquainted with the countries’ oceans via surfing. In fact, surfing is one of the most essential elements featured in the documentary, so much so that the band decided to incorporate surfing music in their upcoming album, which is also titled Fading West.
Shirley revealed, though, that the album will not be a typical surf album. “Most people would think surf-inspired songs would be laden with that particular guitar reverb and 1950s-kind of music. But for us, it was more of incorporating an international experience to our songs.
“At places like Bali and South Africa, we paid attention to the sound that traditional instruments made and thought of how it could fit into our songs,” he explained.
He added that touring around the globe also gave the band a broader perspective on life. South Africa in particular, he said, left a deep lasting impression on him.
“We visited kids who were affected by HIV/AIDS. You always think that you’re going to be the one to help. But, honestly, I think they are the ones helping me. In many ways, they taught me a lot about life.”
Shirley also talked about the “correlation between surfing and performing live on stage”.
“The way the crowd behaves during live performances and the waves that form at sea – it’s all really organic. Both are just things waiting for you to take your chances and make something happen.”
At the end of the day, Shirley said it’s important to “forget about waiting for things like the perfect wave or moment”.
He added: “The result is entirely up to how you choose to shape it.”
Despite the tiresome 2012 they had, Shirley noted that the band is ready to take on the new year with another tour. “It’s going to be a fantastic time in our band’s life!”
The positive vibe that you get from just speaking with Shirley is infectious. So much so that you may actually feel like disliking Slash for snubbing the guy!
“We hope that our fans will take away a message of hope from Fading West. We live in a world full of pain and joy. But at the end of the day, how you live your life is really what makes a difference.”
> Fading West – the album and documentary – will be available on Jan 14 through Warner Music Malaysia.