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Artist Interview

Switchfoot’s Vice Verses: An Interview with Bassist Tim Foreman

By Hannah Goodwyn Senior Producer

CBN.comA more focused passion to make moving music is the push behind Switchfoot’s new album, Vice Verses. The Grammy-winning band (consisting of brothers Jon and Tim Foreman and friends Chad Butler, Jerome Fontamillas, and Drew Shirley) have an established track record of putting out rock music that’s accepted across cultural lines with hit tracks that are featured on mainstream radio stations and sold in local Christian bookstores. Their new release, which goes on sale next Tuesday (Sept. 27), adds a new depth to that music catalog. It’s a musically diverse album that looks at the polarity of life.

To get an insider’s perspective on the project, met up with bassist Tim Foreman. Here are snippets from that conversation: Vice Verses is said to be “a sequel to Hello Hurricane, and the boldest [of the Switchfoot music catalog] to date.” Why do you think that’s true?

Tim Foreman: Well, I don't know that I would call it a sequel to Hello Hurricane; although, I think they’re cousins. Hello Hurricane definitely felt like the beginning of a new chapter for us. But we didn't just want to make Hello Hurricane part two. We're really proud of that record, and we wanted to capture some of the heartbeat and passion behind that album, but musically really push ourselves. And I feel like we're able to show a few different colors, different color palette with this record than we have on previous records. You’re on record as saying that Vice Verses features the strongest songwriting that you’ve seen your brother [lead singer] Jon Foreman put out.

Foreman: Yes, these are some of the best songs that he's written for sure. It's a different process for us on this record. With Hello Hurricane we weren't really sure what the destination was, which posed unique challenges in and of itself, and yielded unique results. It was a real wide-open canvas, and we just started painting, and we spent a lot of time…. We recorded over 80 songs, and there was a real circuitous journey before we finally arrived at a destination.

Whereas with this one, we knew what album we wanted to make. From the very beginning, we set goals, one of them being to make a very rhythmic record, a very soulful record, and a very hard-hitting record that really pushes the boundaries, the highs and the lows. Instead of recording 80 songs over the course of two and a half years, we were really focused for three months on recording the 14 songs we had picked. Out of those, 12 made the record. It was a much more focused process. Vice Verses was the second album Switchfoot recorded in your own studio, correct? There's got to be a little bit of freedom in that.

Foreman: Yeah, with this one we were learning a little more of how to harness that freedom. Again, I don't know if we could have made Hello Hurricane any other way. But that was the full exploration of that freedom, and pursuing 80 songs over the course of two and a half years. The challenge with that record became trying to tell the forest from the trees, when it becomes so thick with different directions that we could've taken the record. With this record, we were able to harness some of that freedom into a more focused effort. The band did something new this time around. You listened to the full album together with the producer and filmed the experience (watch the video). Tell us about that day.

Foreman: It's funny. This is our eighth record, and I don't think we've ever stopped full band and sat down and listened to a record from start to finish. We do that on our own quite a few times at the end of a record. But to do it together was a really special experience, and I know for me, this album carries a lot of emotion. It's one of the most emotional experiences that I've ever had with one of our records. A few songs in particular, ”Thrive,” and “Where I Belong,” and “Restless,” just really tug on my heart in a really special way. So to be able to go on that journey, the five of us, with Neal Avron who we made the record with, it was a really special moment. Thematically speaking, what does Vice Verses say? What’s the punch line?
Foreman: Well, it's not a concept record in the traditional sense, but I think it really deals with the polarity of life, the highs and the lows. The theme “vice verses,” the concept behind that is the idea that rebirth is often birthed in struggle. So these are the verses that have been birthed through struggle, the “vice verses.” What’s the story behind “Dark Horses”, Switchfoot’s current radio single?

Foreman: That’s a song that was inspired initially by a group of homeless kids in our hometown of San Diego, Calif. We work with an organization called Stand Up For Kids. They have a benefit every year called Switchfoot Bro-Am that benefits these kids. We've done it for eight years now, and we've been so overcome by the strength that these kids have.

They're the “dark horses” of our society. They’ve been written off, not just in San Diego. I'm talking about the homeless youth of America. Society has written them off. These aren’t kids who have chosen homelessness. They've been kicked out of broken homes, forced to live an adult life from a very early age, fend for themselves wondering where their next meal is coming from, and yet they haven't thrown in the towel. They're still fighting for it. They are people worth writing a song about. “Selling The News” is another stand-out song. How did that one come together?

Foreman: It's funny being a band as long as we have been; there are a lot of songs that we've recorded that we've never put on records. You choose a different color palette with every record. So for this album we wanted to choose a few unique colors that no one has seen before or heard, and that's one of those songs.

It’s actually a song that we wrote four years ago and had to give it some time to incubate, and soak, and figure out the right way to introduce it to a Switchfoot crowd because it is different for us. We felt like this is the record to really start taking some of those risks. I love the concept that the things that we see in the news and the television, and trying to sift through it all can be really confusing. So it felt like a good way to sort through it. I think music is always a good way to sort through those things that I don't understand. If there's any finger-pointing, we’re included in that. But we use music to kind of sift through the messiness of life. Is there another song on the new record that really speaks to you?

Foreman: For me, Vice Verses is about finding home. You've got various journeys around that theme beginning with, “Afterlife,” the idea of finding home in the here and now. And then the last song on the record, “Where I Belong,” it's a really aching song, longing for something beyond what we see and what we feel in the here and now. So between that and, “Thrive,” and “Restless,” there's a real heartbeat. And I love the imagery of “Restless,” like drops of water that are just relentless in their pursuit of the ocean. I feel like that sometimes. “Thrive” has the powerful lyric, “a warm body don’t mean I’m alive.” When do you feel like you’re alive, and how did you get there?

Foreman: Life is a bit upside down the way we see it. We're all guilty of pursuing what we see as normal, good, human goals, but are often really selfishly motivated. The idea that life is upside down has been one that I'm continually learning. The things that I feel like are going to satisfy me, the things that we chase after, so often are just let downs. For me, I feel like I'm thriving when I'm not thinking about looking after my own well-being. I feel like I'm thriving when I'm looking outward and not inward and, I guess, involved in what's going on in the world around me. Easier said than done. But, that's the goal.

Hannah GoodwynHannah Goodwyn serves as the Family and Entertainment producer for For more articles, visit Hannah's bio page.

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featured album

Vice Verses by SwitchfootVice Verses

(Releases Sept. 27, 2011)