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Switchfoot isn't into the rock band image

While secular music—tunes without a religious undercurrent—has its fair share of artists who exude beauty and sex appeal (Britney Spears, Beyonce, etc.) in its totality, pop stardom does not demand a chiseled jaw line and flawless skin. There's room for imperfection. Sometimes a lot of it.

Consider: Tom Waits. Bob Dylan. Even Lady Gaga. Underneath all that makeup, she's no Marilyn Monroe.

So why then, when it comes to religious music—namely Christian music—is it so difficult, if not impossible, to find an artist or band without stunning, sent-from-heaven good looks and wardrobe combinations that appear to be taken directly from the J. Crew catalogue? Tim Foreman, guitarist for the Grammy winning band Switchfoot, thinks he knows the answer to that question.

"I think that's a definite challenge that the church faces," said Foreman in an interview with the Source." The moment you stamp a genre with a faith, then you're supposed to suddenly be the poster child for that faith, so then there is not a lot of room for honest failure."

Switchfoot is a rock band from San Diego oft associated with the gospel or Christian rock genres, and perhaps best known for its double platinum album The Beautiful Letdown which included the band's biggest hit "Meant to Live." While Switchfoot's music definitely has a proclivity toward the spiritual—sounding like a Third Eye Blind, NEEDTOBREATHE hybrid—the band straddles a middle ground between outright Christian worship music and alt rock filtered through the lens of people who believe in a higher power. It's the kind of balancing act gaining popularity with the success of bands like Mumford and Sons and The Avett Brothers, and aided by the unremarkable appearance of Switchfoot's members.

Sure they still look the part of a rock band, but they don't embrace the unkempt image of artists like Bob Dylan, nor do they ooze polish like Christian band Jars of Clay. They aren't ridiculously good looking either; they're just regular guys.

There is no mistaking the fact that Switchfoot is a group of guys who believe in Jesus; they just don't sing specifically about that belief in their music. Instead their music is colored with themes about heaven and the idea that life on earth can be better and worth celebrating. Foreman—whose brother Jon is the band's lead singer—says their music is about acknowledging the reality of human existence.

"With our music, we've always tried to be really honest with the struggle," said Foreman. "That's why we ask more questions than give answers. We have our hopes but we also have our doubts. We're all trying to figure out why we're on this planet and what we're here for. It's important to express those ideas and the longing for more than what we're fed by the headlines."

As a result of that approach, Switchfoot makes it's music the central reason for being a band, rather than rock star personas—something refreshingly wedged in between the worlds of shock-value twerking and glossy consumer-friendly religious music. According to Foreman, they'd rather not be famous, just guys with something to say through song.

"We try and shine the spotlight onto the music and the themes that are discussed in the songs," said Foreman. "The casualty that comes along with that is that as the music becomes famous so does the band. We didn't really sign up for that, but it comes with it. But we don't thrive off of that."


7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14

Ridgeview High School Auditorium

4555 SW Elkhorn Ave, Redmond


About The Author

Ethan Maffey

Both a writer and a fan of vinyl records since age 5, it wasn't until nearly three decades later that Oregon Native Ethan Maffey derived a plan to marry the two passions by writing about music. From blogging on MySpace in 2007 and then Blogspot, to launching his own website, 83Music, and eventually freelancing...
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