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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Chautauqua Institution Music

Hang 10 with Switchfoot
Music is vital to the San Diego alternative-rock band, but so too is surfing.

BY BRYAN OBERLE [more details]

Published: June 26. 2008 6:00AM

Switchfoot: An energetic show by a band that relishes being on stage. (Contributed photo)

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When you Google "Switchfoot," more than 4 million hits are recorded. That seems like an impressive number for this accomplished San Diego alternative-rock band.

That number is also somewhat deceiving. Switchfoot is also a popular surfing term. Which makes sense, considering Switchfoot band members remain deeply immersed in San Diego's iconic surfing lifestyle.

"Surfing has contributed heavily to what we are as a rock band," said Tim Foreman, bassist and younger brother of Switchfoot vocalist and songwriter, Jon Foreman. "Surfing culture is all about a cool, relaxed lifestyle. That has influenced our music and our approach to how we grow as a band."

Switchfoot's career roller coaster has raced from an early flirtation with Christian rock to near stardom after the band's 2003 major-label debut album, "The Beautiful Letdown," sold more than 2.6 million copies.

If it's possible for a rock band to remain relatively unknown after a double-platinum seller, Switchfoot has managed the trick. Which is hard to fathom since the band made its mainstream mark in a 2002 Mandy Moore movie vehicle, "A Walk to Remember."

That film featured four Switchfoot songs, including Moore singing the band's "Only Hope," plus a duet with Jon Foreman on the soundtrack.

Now the band has recorded a new song, "This Is Home," for the film, "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian." The song is included on the film's soundtrack and was released to radio stations in April.

Yet Switchfoot remains the sort of near-anonymous band that even if you never heard of them, it's a safe bet that tunes like "Meant to Live" and "Dare You to Move" will jolt the memory bank when you hear them.

Foreman, who Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia reports graduated from San Dieguito Academy in 1997 with the title of "scholar athlete" for his high achievements in surfing and education, previewed Friday's Chautauqua Institution show.

Surfing has definitely influenced our approach to performing," said Foreman, who sounded like a surfer during a telephone interview. "We approach every night's show as a new experience and simply embrace what happens. If my bass goes dead, is that a good or a bad thing? I don't know. We'll have to see."

What you're likely to see Friday is an energetic show by a band that relishes being on stage. Besides the Foreman brothers, drummer Chad Butler and guitarists Jerome Fontamillas and Drew Shirley are at heart southern California surfers who just want to have fun.

The Switchfoot sound should ring a bell. Listening to the band's most recent album, "Oh! Gravity," a steady melodic sound is pushed along by hard-hitting guitar riffs. The album earned solid reviews and entered the Billboard charts in the Top 20.

But you get the feeling from Foreman that critical and commercial success is basically gravy for five guys who really don't care to leave San Diego's beaches all that often.

"Having 'rock musician' as your occupation is just ridiculous. Think about it," Foreman said. "We like to get out of San Diego and experience different things. But we all love what we do and understand how lucky we are."

Let's see: Surfing, San Diego, rock musicians. That's pretty sweet. And that's Switchfoot.

The skinny
Switchfoot will appear Friday at 8:15 p.m. at the Chautauqua Institution's Amphitheater in Chautauqua, N.Y. Tickets are $37 and are available at the box office, (716) 357-6250, Mon.-Fri. from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and online at


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