Switchfoot riding the wave of love with their new record, Native Tongue
“My words come out like an avalanche in silence. But all I need is the love that I believe in. Love is a language, love is your native tongue.”
The above – are strung-together lyrics from the first three songs Switchfoot released off their upcoming record, Native Tongue, out January 18th.
The waves of 2018 have now rolled on by. A few sets will remain within as their ripple effects set the course for a brand-new start. In addition, with a new year often comes a fresh perspective – in search of a new swell. For Switchfoot, there’s an invitation in the form of 14 songs that encourages you to jump on the band’s melodious surfboard and glide along by the simple challenge of balancing on the force of love.
There is no disguising such a wave can be quite challenging. In fact, “This life feels hollowed and mostly borrowed” is the first thing you here frontman, Jon Foreman say in the ripping opening track, “Let it Happen”. But tomorrow knows what tomorrow knows, you can’t it make it get here sooner. In other words, trust your process and well, “Let it Happen”. Like in surfing, you must keep paddling. Along the way will you dig new streams while at the same time hearing voices that may knock you off the board. You’ll find the strength to let go. You’ll feel the butterflies inside with the countless mountains still to climb. But look around and try subscribing to love as your “native tongue” and you will find the person next to you saying “Take My Fire” as you lock arms and cruise to shore.
The result is – “We’re Gonna be alright”. And what a wonderful feeling that is.
Right before the holidays I had the chance to speak with Foreman from his native land – the always inspiring, San Diego. Here, Foreman takes me inside the attitude of Native Tongue. It all started from the purest of forms, and I could not be prouder to have this message be the way we kick-off 2019.
Speaking of Artist Waves…
What is the anticipation like – starting the year by releasing a new record like Native Tongue? How are you feeling?
It’s amazing, it’s a really beautiful feeling. Just to be home in San Diego during this season has been incredible. These songs come from here in such a natural way. Now, to have them finally coming out, I have nothing but good things to say for so many reasons.
You spoke of your perspective on this record in the intro video, focusing on the bright light of love even in the hardest of times. It resonated deeply with me, especially when you mention how your point of view changes when holding your child.
Perspective is paramount. There are moments in our lives, like with birth or death, when we are reminded of a bigger narrative as opposed to the smaller things we dwell on a daily basis. When somebody cuts me off on the freeway, it’s not the end of the world when I think about the birth of my son, or someone near me struggling with cancer. All of us have this common narrative of life meaning something more than how many likes you get on Instagram. For me, this album is definitely rooted in that mindset. It’s a larger narrative than just a band on tour, it’s being part of a community or being a part of a story that is more than just yourself.
I saw that Native Tongue began by you simply asking, “Why are we doing this?” and then answer of pursuing joy revealed itself. How did you arrive at that moment?
I think you are always tempted to do something for the wrong reasons. It’s ironic that motivation for our actions sometimes has more moral implications than the actions itself. Why we do what we do is often more important than what we do. How we do it and why we do it are huge. The way you say something is usually more important than what you say. For a song, the moment it comes to an end, as a listener I am left with the big question of – do I believe it? I listen to my favorite artists not because of their musical prowess, but because they say something that resonates with me. The beauty and truth that they sing awakens something in me. They could hit wrong notes and they can make mistakes, but I believe them by the end of the song.
The beauty of Native Tongue is that we were not making an album. We were just enjoying ourselves. When I listen back to it, for me, the record doesn’t care about itself, it’s not self-cautious, it’s just enjoying itself as it unfolds.
That typically enables the purest art. It’s a very moving record and I found the heartbeat of it was “love” with all its’ dimensions. Was love the driving point for everything you wanted to convey?
Yeah, we live in a polarized time. It seems like we are divided down to our very core worldwide. You are either a this or a that. The bottom line is, there are more than two colors to paint with. The reality of life is much more beautiful and complicated than just a binary system. This album is an attempt to remind myself and anyone that wants to listen – beneath the divisions, there’s a commonality that runs among us that is much stronger than any of the divisions that we have. Often times, the things that divide us are wall which rise up out of hatred – which is failure of the imagination or fear. Hopefully this is an album that will awaken the large narrative. Everything I see on social media or on the news spotlights voices that are shouting. Usually, it’s the quiet voices of assurance that know what they are talking about. My aim is for this album to be a quiet assurance that love is our native tongue not hatred or fear.
One thing I’ve always noticed with Switchfoot is that you practice what you preach. You embody the messages you are talking about and that creates a really special vibe in a live environment. How important is that to you?
I’ve heard this expression where philosophers create this incredible palace of philosophy but then they live in the shack next door, it’s easier said then done. I do find that singing a song about hope is easier than living it out, yet, for us as a band, if we are going to sing a song about hope, it’s imperative we live it out. That’s one of the reasons why we host the Switchfoot Bro-Am in our hometown in an effort to help homelessness and at-risk youth. Every tour that we go out on, we partner with an organization that we believe in. We don’t want to just go out and play songs, we strive to have each tour impact the world in a positive way. It’s goes back to the messages of our founding fathers – you don’t just look out for yourself, you try and make the world a better place.
On that point, Switchfoot has always been proud representatives of San Diego. How does your greater community continue to inspire the band?
The post-modern notion that you can work from anywhere and all you need is the internet to do your job is a complete false notion. I believe your location has everything to do with what you create. It doesn’t matter if you do graphic design or if you’re a scientist, our minds are constantly picking up bits of stimulus and information from wherever we are. San Diego is the only place where our music could form. Because we are close to Mexico it makes us aware of the rest of the world – where we are not in this bubble of America only focusing on ourselves. We are continuously looking for swells coming from the Pacific and the rhythms to it – the high tide, the low tide and connecting with the weather. All that ties in to how this record came to be in addition to the flow of it.
The music alone on Native Tongue, is such a wave to surf upon. The outro on “Let It Happen” or “Take My Fire” for example, the music is very emotional. What was it like in creating the backbone of all these songs?
It was the exact same theme where the engine that we were driven with was joy. It’s was a very pure and high-octane fuel to burn with. If we had a moment where we asked, “Can we fit a guitar solo in here?” The answer would always be, “Yes, we can, let’s do it.” It was a thrilling part of the process.
Coming full circle here, with all these elements considered, if you think about this moment in the band’s history – what does Native Tongue mean to you?
This record didn’t have to exist. Some albums come from being forced or owing the label something. This was born out of deconstruction. It exists based off the simple joy of playing music together. From there, I think it stems off the desire to remind my country and my planet that we are more connected than we can ever dream. We rise and fall together. There is always a way to speak and act out of love rather than fear.
Watch: Swithfoot’s new video for “All I Need”: