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Switch them on

7 November 2009

Best-known for the hits Dare You to Move and Meant to Live, alternative rock band Switchfoot is back with its first single in three years.

Mess of Me is also the lead single from the San Diego group’s seventh album — and first for Atlantic — Hello Hurricane.

During the three years that Switchfoot has been off the commercial radar, the group has made a dramatic shift from the aforementioned romantic ballads from its 2003 multi-platinum album, The Beautiful Letdown. The shift is most evident on Mess of Me, whose raw, forceful sound and edgy, introspective lyrics reveal Switchfoot’s darker side on an album that deals with life’s stormy side.

“I am my own affliction/I am my own disease/There ain’t no drug that they could sell/There ain’t no drugs to make me well,” vocalist/guitarist Jon Foreman sings. “I made a mess of me/I wanna get back the rest of me.”

Foreman notes that the “shock element” of Mess is what drew the group to the song. “We wanted to do something that was a drastic change from anything we’d done before.” In addition to Foreman, Switchfoot’s members include his brother Tim Foreman (bass), Chad Butler (drums), Jerome Fontamillas (keys/guitar) and Drew Shirley (guitar).

While Mess and another track, Free, showcase the group’s expanded musical range, other songs like Enough to Let Me Go are reminiscent of the original Switchfoot. Another song, The Sound, has been selected by Verizon Wireless for its national ad campaign for the BlackBerry Storm 2.

Parting ways

The band was signed to Columbia until 2006, and its last album for the label was Oh! Gravity. But the band left Columbia because it wasn’t in tune with the Sony label’s restructuring.

“Our music is very communal, and to assemble a new team of people to represent it every few months was very counterproductive,” Foreman says. “We also wanted the autonomy to explore and rediscover what we love about what we do.”

After leaving Columbia, Switchfoot built its own studio in San Diego. During the next three years, the band recorded 80 songs before narrowing the list down to the 12 that appear on Hello Hurricane. Atlantic approached the group after listening to the project, recorded with noted producer/bassist Mike Elizondo (Dr. Dre, Eminem, Pink). Although Foreman says the band was leery about dealing with another major label, “it was a dream to have people who are passionate about songs that you’ve spent months and months working on.”

After a busy summer — co-headlining with Universal Motown’s Blue October on the Crazy Making Summer tour and opening for Dave Matthews Band — Switchfoot is gearing up for an even busier fall. The group will kick off its headlining tour on November 8 in San Diego. Ending on December 9 in Boston, the 18-city trek includes stops in Los Angeles, Houston, New Orleans and New York. Along the tour route, Switchfoot will collect donations for local food banks.

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