Switchfoot to showcase film, songs from ‘Fading West’ at Arena
By Rachelle Reeves
GCU News Bureau
Switchfoot returns to Grand Canyon University Arena next week for a uniquely personal show that includes the premiere of the band’s new film.
Fans who attend the Sunday event can view “Fading West,” a feature-length “rockumentary” surf film that carries the same title as Switchfoot’s new album, which is scheduled for a January release. The event also is designed like a mini-concert, in which the band will explain the meaning behind new lyrics and answer fans’ questions via Twitter.
Guitarist and songwriter Drew Shirley told GCU Today that the “Fading West” film portrays Switchfoot through a year of touring as the members searched for new songs that eventually ended up on the new album.
Here’s what Shirley said about music, surfing, faith, family and bringing Switchfoot back to GCU:
Question: How do you find God in surfing and how does that relate to “Fading West?”
Answer: Now, I’m going to be honest with you, I’m the least of the surfers. I enjoy it when it’s warm and sunny and not early in the morning. So I get to go to a lot of great surf spots, but surfing has been a part of the band since we started. Even the name of the band Switchfoot is a surfing term. Surfing is kind of like the baptism. (Lead singer Jon Foreman’s) wife calls it his baptism because if he’s in a bad mood or not feeling good she just says, “You need to go surfing.” When you get outside, you get in the water and nature and look at the horizon. You’re literally in God’s creation.
Q: Is this the band’s first film? If so, why did you see the need to make one?
A: This is! We’ve done music videos and we’ve done podcasts, but this is a feature-length film, so it’s different than both of those. A film crew came up to us and asked us if we were interested in doing a documentary. … We said, “Well, it would have to involve surfing, and we’re a band that travels,” so we thought why don’t we put together a movie that is searching the world for waves and songs?
Q: Why did you decide to make the film a half “rockumentary,” half surf film?
A: This is a natural thing for our band. We’ve sort of shied away from surfing for a long time because it’s just sort of a personal hobby thing that didn’t fit with rock and roll. But now we realize that it’s so much a part of who we are. We include our families in this film. We include behind-the-scenes looks at our conversations on the bus and backstage or eating at the dinner table. It’s just an in-depth of the band. You get to see what I look like when I first wake up in the morning. Ha! Seriously.
Q: How has this CD and film grown or changed the band?
A: It’s grown us a lot because when you look back at your own story you’re able to understand a lot of it that you weren’t able to before. For me, being away from my family has always been hard. I have kids at home and we tour a lot, so I didn’t see my daughters take their first steps. I know there’s so many birthdays and anniversaries that I’ve missed. But it’s almost like the film helped us deal with that and cope with that.
Q: Why did the band want to bring the tour to GCU?
A: We love Grand Canyon University! We’ve had a few great shows there. That’s our audience. The college community is a thinking community and we like that. They’re also a fun community and we like that, too.
Q: We have a big population of students who grew up listening to Christian music. How is this concert focused on students?
A: Well, what’s cool about this concert is we’ll show the movie for just over an hour, then the screen will go up, and then we’re going to play about an hour’s worth of music. It’s like a “storytellers” kind of set where we talk about the songs … which really fits the movie because the movie is more personal and interactive for us than anything else we’ve ever done.
Q: What sets a university like GCU apart from other concerts on the tour? How does GCU fit the tour that you’re on?
A: College students are really a big part of our target audience because I really find that college students listen to the music, the words. They internalize it and let these songs speak to them and let them be their soundtrack.
Q: What is your hope for students to leave from this unique film and concert experience with?
A: Of course, we want people to leave with a better understanding of why we do what we do and who we are as a band. We hope that inspires people to do things in their own life and to tell their own story. To live wholeheartedly for what they’re called to do. We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from the film … people saying that it was inspiring to them to see who we are behind closed doors and who we are offstage as fathers and as friends, as surfers, as brothers. Life is not lived onstage. The stage is an overinflated, sort of fake place to exist. It’s what you do with the other 23 hours of the day that defines you.
Q: How is the CD relevant to the film?
A: In the film, you’re going to hear a lot of new songs from the CD. We came home after filming this movie for a year and went in the studio and recorded all the songs we wrote over that year. So the album, when it comes out, is influenced by all the places that we went. You’re going to hear the children’s choir from South Africa that we show in the movie. You’re going to hear the gamelan players and instruments we sampled in Indonesia in one of the songs. You’re going to hear the acoustic instruments from Australia and New Zealand that we picked up along the way.
Q: How will introducing your family and seeing day to day things on the tour affect your fans?
A: I think once they see our lives open on the film, people feel like they know us better, and they do know us better. They want to tell their story and be more open with us. They take these songs more as a part of their lives. That’s what you want as a musician. You want to write a song that impacts people and moves them.
Reach Rachelle Reeves at email@example.com.