GRAMMY Award-winning rock band Switchfoot have released their new album interrobang via Fantasy Records. interrobang is the follow up to 2018’s Native Tongue and last year’s Covers EP. Brimming with child-like imagination and a futuristic mindset, Switchfoot reaches a bold new creative peak on interrobang, the twelvth full-length album of the multi-platinum selling rock band’s twenty plus year career. Working with producer Tony Berg (Paul McCartney, Phoebe Bridgers, Andrew Bird) at both Sound City studio in Van Nuys, CA and the band’s own studio in Carlsbad, CA, Switchfoot: Jon Foreman, Tim Foreman, Chad Butler, Jerome Fontamillas, and Drew Shirley recorded the album in a burst of pent-up mid-pandemic creativity throughout last year and into 2021. Fearlessly marrying 60’s experimentalism and synth-driven new wave swagger, the band pushed past its comfort zones and retooled its sound. Drummer Chad Butler talks to Hi Fi Way about the album.
It must be a great feeling knowing that the album is out now given the challenges of the last twelve months or so?
Yeah, definitely. It has been such a process to be making an album during this time, it does feel really good to be creative during lockdown and all that. I’m really grateful to be able to put this album out. It is a very unique perspective to be living during these times and writing songs during these times in response to all the political, racial tensions and everything that is happening all around us in this crazy pandemic.
Was there a celebration of sorts when you finished the album and you couldn’t do anything further?
Absolutely, I think this was a long process for us, unusually long. We tend to work pretty quickly in the studio and we took our time with this one because we had the time. Bering off the road forced us to stretch out the recording process. We did celebrate when we were done and it did feel like we climbed a mountain.
Native Tongue was such a great album did you ideas or thoughts of where you might go with what became interrobang?
We did not have a destination in mind, we were just diving head long in to the experience of working with a new producer that was a very different musical approach for us. In the past we have co-produced with people and lots of talented individuals. This particular process we wanted to work with Tony Berg, we are fans of albums he had worked on. Once we talked to him we got the sense he was going to challenge us ands push us to a new place. After eleven albums together that is what’s most important for us to find to someone to spar with creatively and artistically in the studio and Tony definitely did that. He is very opinionated, we love him and he pushed us to new territory musically and lyrically.
Was the album mostly made in lockdown and apart?
Well, we started the record last summer over Zoom. We would do Zoom calls talking about song ideas, choosing songs to work and as things opened up a little more in California studios were open. We have a private studio in San Diego and Tony came down, staying with us for a few months working on pre-production as the sixth member of the band. We set up in a room and worked out all the parts together and once things opened up more in LA we went up to Sound City, the legendary studio we always wanted to work in but never had the opportunity, with Tony and it was crazy. We had Covid tests every day, masks, created this little bubble and we couldn’t have anyone else in the studio, it was tight. Nonetheless, we wanted to do whatever we could to continue the process of making an album.
Sonically, how do you see the difference between Native Tongue and interrobang?
That’s a good question, I think working together with Tony in a new space we recorded our last three or four records in our studio in San Diego so to get out of San Diego was an adventure. We rented a house up in LA and all lived together for a month or two up there. The different environment and different instruments, we brought hardly of our own equipment as we wanted the entire Sound City Tony Berg experience. I do think the sound is different, the instrumentation leans back towards the 60s and 70s, that era channelling our favourite bands that influenced us.
fluorescent is an amazing single, was that the obvious for a single in your view?
I’m glad you mentioned that one because that is my favourite song to play live and we have been playing it live the last couple of weeks as we’ve started getting the opportunity to play live concerts again here in the States. It is a very immediate song for me as a drummer, the guitar riffs are wonderful, I love that song.
Was presenting the songs in lower case something that was planned?
Yeah, you play with all the elements that you have and artistic control over. We get bored at looking at the same fonts but I think it was a stylistic approach to the album artwork and everything. Also, in context of the record name being a punctuation mark our focus is on the way language is portrayed and how words on a printed page can be a reflection of the emotions and the feeling behind them. interrobang is a question mark on top of exclamation mark and I think that symbol sums up 2020 for me.
Was it a weird but exciting feeling playing live shows again?
It’s incredible! I didn’t anticipate how emotional it would be for me to walk on stage in front of a real audience. We have been doing livestreams over the past year, fortunate to be able to do one a month and that has been our connection to our audience through the camera lens but it is not the same. The rush of emotion when we first got to play in front of a live crowd, that connection with real people in the room, the energy you feed off of, looking at peoples faces and their reactions to the music was wonderful. I missed it so much but I didn’t experience emotion until we were actually on stage.
Are feeling optimistic about returning to Australia some stage in 2022 or 2023?
I really hope so! I want to get back to Australia as soon as we can, we are all very adventurous and love travelling seeing different parts of the world. We have such fond and great memories of touring in Australia but as soon as they let us we will come.
Interview By Rob Lyon