We Are One Tonight
This was the last track we pulled out for the record. We camped out for a day in a studio called The Pass that a friend of fields owns- such a great place! I think I want to rent it out and live there. Pool table, kitchen, shower, couch, and a room to cut drums in... Honestly, what more could a guy want?! Chad gets to the studio and hobbles in on his crutches with a badly sprained ankle and proceeds to destroy the kick with an iron foot. That was a gratifying sight to see! Glad we could get the wook in on the record too- if it wasn't for this last minute addition we wouldn't have been graced with his name on the credits.
The Setting Sun
I wrote this one in Australia a while back. I remember it well. Sometimes I get really down on myself and the world around me and wonder why we're all here, spinning around on this planet. It seems that we're unable to escape the ugliness that lies within us nor around us and yet we all have this immense appreciation and appetite for beauty and truth: a paradox indeed. Here's another one- the worlds of politics, business, or even music tend to behave with the social etiquette of a Jr. High School playground. Do we all become marginalized as mere products to be sold? I'm not buying it. Neither the good nor the bad. I don't believe the hype. Meaningless, meaningless, a chasing after the wind. There's a place where all of these shadows will fade and no amount of hype can take that away from me.
Song Stories from Jon Foreman, the songwriter.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Over the course our time on the road as a band I have met so many amazing, beautiful, desperate, lonely people. We are the lonely nation. We are the disenchanted, the disillusioned- we are the remnant of lonely souls wanting more than anything that we can buy with this cold, hard cash. I wrote this song while we were playing a stretch of rock radio shows. I'd walk around near the back and just breathe in the loneliness- masses of lonely, scared kids. I remember thinking about the irony. Here you have this connected generation of online communities, IM, TM, myspace, and cell phones that grows more and more lonely every day. This is a song is still yearning, saying, "Don't settle, please, don't give up. Fight for only the true and the beautiful!"
We wanted to start the record with this track because we feel that this song picks up where Meant to Live left off. There is hope for meaning and truth in this life but it probably doesn't come in the form of a corporate slogan. We, the target market, want more than this world has to offer. This is a song where tim and chad drive the verses and the guitars take the chorus. We've played this song many times live and refined it quite a bit from it's original state. There's nothing like playing a new song in front of real people with real opinions. The people at those shows, (the extended switchfoot family), they shaped this song as much as anyone.
Here's another song that we've been playing live for a while. Maybe it's the Led Zeppelin side of me but I love a good rock riff and this one is really fun to play. It's a good builder that I'm anxious to play this summer.
Speaking of summer, I have a theory about social entropy; if you and I ever end up talking about existence drinking caffeinated beverages in the wee hours remind me to tell you all about it. For now let's just say that in a world of pain and war and divorce and greed and genocide, how does anything good ever happen? I understand the second law of thermodynamics in the physical world to be something like this: "Any system which is free of external influences becomes more and more disordered with time. This disorder can be expressed in terms of the quantity called entropy."
So without some sort of external influence on the social plane, I find no logical reason why humankind didn't see her last day a long time ago. Call it grace or love or anti-entropy- there must be something keeping things together. The question becomes, why do good things happen to bad people? In the song, the first verse looks at things from Descartes perspective, pinning the center of the universe on the individual. "Maybe I've been the problem," maybe I'm overcast, falling apart, etc... The second verse talks about our world from the perspective of the stars looking down on earth from the eternal dance of gravity and motion. I love the night sky. It reminds me of how small and insignificant i and my problems are in light of the infinite. When I look at the stars i feel like myself.
Happy Is A Yuppie Word
A year ago I had a late night talk with a friend who stated the quote: "Happy is a yuppie word." I stayed up after he left, turned off the TV war and wrote a song about our happy, yuppie world. Turns out, Bob Dylan was the one being quoted.
"In 1991, when Rolling Stone interviewed Dylan on the occasion of his 50th birthday, he gave a curious response when the interviewer asked him if he was happy. He fell silent for a few moments and stared at his hands. 'You know,' he said, 'these are yuppie words, happiness and unhappiness. It's not happiness or unhappiness, it's either blessed or unblessed.'"
For me this song is the heart of the record, pumping blood out to the limbs and fingers and mouth and such. And maybe every lyric on the record might be needed and true, still this song has kept everything alive for us. We had the privilege of opening for Wilco a few years past- I would like to dedicate this song to the incredible music that they have given all of us down through the years.
The Shadow Proves The Sunshine
Here's a tune that is a bit different than anything we've done before. It's a very simple tune- so simple that we almost overlooked it. The fight with this one was to work slow. The song didn't want much else other than a very honest performance. So when we went in to start overdubbing we would track a bunch of ideas and then come to the conclusion that we liked it better naked. So we would take everything off and start from scratch. It ended up being one of my favorite songs on the record. One of my favorite moments on the record was singing the words into the piano to get all of the strings resonating; I had the idea a while ago and have never been able to pull it off. It felt great to scream into a piano and hear the piano scream back. I can't wait to play this song live- it feels like it needs to be sung outdoors, against the backdrop of a dark night.
Easier Than Love
Another song inspired by irony or paradox or perhaps sheer confusion. How is it that one of the most meaningful, intimate moments in a human's life is now used to sell beverages or magazines or auto parts? And indeed, sex sells. It's no wonder that sex is easier than love, because love is extremely difficult, almost impossible at times. I have no fingers to point, my friends, I'm simply stating the obvious and I love screaming this one out. This one was inspired by the Shins- a great band with great production elements. In many ways, Romey really made this one come alive.
Drew's feedback on this track was so great. he had two combos cranked with different pedals chained to each. Noise never sounded so beautiful! But the true hero for me on this tune was Tim. Don't tell him I said this but he's a freaking genius when it comes to parts like this. I walked back into the control room and there was Paul Mc- I mean Tim- making things happen. I tend to write some of my favorite songs on significant days in my life- birthdays and such. Anyhow, here's a tune that was written on new years day 2004. I pulled an acoustic demo of the song together and threw it on the pile of songs we had for the record. We loved the way the vocal sounded on the demo- raw and honest so we kept it. To sing a song about the new year in march just wouldn't sound quite right, so the vocal on the record is the first time I ever sang the song: 1/1/04. This one means a lot to me, like our modern day Psalm of sorts. This would be the next step from the beautiful letdown lyrically and musically- a long meandering song about how the end of the world might actually be a beautiful day. It will be a day like this one when the world caves in.
We played this one downtown in Washington DC, surrounded on all sides by the government buildings. You see, I believe in democracy because I mistrust all humanity equally, (including myself). Power corrupts us all and we become political, (in the worst connotation of the word). We become simply pawns of our own insatiable hunger for control. Maybe control is a myth, like Santa Claus or the easter bunny: a nice fable that makes the children want to be good all year round. Well, seems to me there's a monster in all of us. I pledge allegiance to a nation without borders, without pride, without politicians like ourselves.
We are lonely souls in the land of broken hearts, far from home but this is where the story begins. And yes, you are the protagonist, you are the hero and the villain, the prince and the pauper and the clown all in one. So where do things head from here? well, that's your call... I remember drew laying down his line over top of the verses, this mellow, ethereal roof over top of the song.
The Fatal Wound
I wrote this song so that we would have a tune to play during the set with a harmonica. I'm deadly serious here. The harmonica will drive a man to do many things, (especially, in conjunction with a few bob dylan disks). This song was one of those tunes that you just spit out and try to figure out what it means after you're through- a rather dangerous way to go but very honest, almost free association type of thing. Well, it means a few things to me but overall it's a song of hope. The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. Hope for the hopeless in the form of the king of failures. The bed of e-bow guitars at the beginning really set the tone for this track for me. I whispered some Bokowski-ish lines over top and viola! -a vibey track appears from the mist of the harmonica flatlands.
A few general thoughts on new tunes and their relationship to our previous four albums:
A part of me wishes I could say that our music was formulated and planned out by brilliant, methodical minds who structure entire records out of themes that are independent of anything that has ever been thought of before. In reality, most of these songs are simply the spontaneous ramblings of a man with a guitar who can't sleep- trying to make sense of a broken heart in world that is upside down. In many ways these songs mirror the melodies in my own life: relationships, fears, hopes, insecurities, doubts and so forth all set to the major and minor keys. But it makes sense that these honest songs are the ones that we're proud of; because whether it's Elliot Smith or Stevie Wonder or Pavement or whoever, the honest ones have always been my favorites.
So at the end of our time as a band perhaps we will have only one song to sing- just one very long, rambling, eclectic song that touches on life, death, pain, sex, anger, joy, peace, politics, God and the other elements of a searching soul in the twenty first century. Maybe at the end of my life I will sing only one song, a song that has been refined and purified. A lonely group of notes that will be a sweet, sweet sound for an audience of one. Or maybe I'm still trying to figure out this broken, beautiful planet- writing songs as a way of therapy in the hopes of a better understanding of this existence that we call life. Either way, the bitter struggle for meaning and truth in the postmodern world is a subject matter that I don't think I could ever exhaust.
"Nothing is Sound" is the fifth Switchfoot record. For me, it feels like the next step of a journey, diving deeper into uncharted territories. Because we've lived and breathed on tour for the last eight years, onstage is where our music comes to life, a life that is hard to pin down on tape. If you think this record feels a bit like a "live" record, we're proud to say that these recordings have somehow captured the energy of our live show more than any other record we've ever made.
Perhaps the best way to look at this record is as the next chapter in a mystery novel: many of the the same characters, the same settings and yet a few more clues come to life. Who knows, it could be a dark chapter revealing even more mysteries to be solved. I'm pretty sure you're the only one who can decide for yourself; I'd be curious to hear what your thoughts are. I certainly have my own... Whatever the theme of this record might be, believe me- it was only partly intentional! Hope you enjoy the tunes.
Ah, daisy! sweet daisy... this one is my wife's favorite. I wrote it a while ago yet somehow it didn't make it onto the last record. I'm really thankful it didn't; I don't think we were ready for it then. Some songs age like wine and others age like milk finding a sour, over-thought, overproduced end. This one lasted for a long time and kept getting better. I feel really great about how it came out. In fact the end of the tune might be my favorite rock moment on the record, ironic because the beginning of the tune is anything but rock- so sparse and pretty. Because of the different tuning, it's a pain to get the guitar back to normal afterwards so we've never played this one live. I want to wait for just the right moment. I remember chad was hitting so hard on this one that he ended up breaking the kick pedal on the last hit of the song, he shouts out,"I think I broke the kick pedal!" We ended up cutting it out for the record because it seemed a little camp. Maybe we'll put it up online or something, because it needs to be heard. Classic Chad: the man with the iron foot strikes again!
For me, this is an appropriate way to finish the record- A song about letting go. When we're making an album I tend to go into this mode where all I think about is the record, the record, the record- in very unhealthy ways at times. I usually put a lot of pressure on myself because the music means so much to me. but like everything else, a record has a beginning and an end. You have to put the brush down and walk away. I'm not sure I've done that yet but I'm working on it! I've heard it said that a record is never completed, you just move on to the next one. I'm very proud of this record and feel like this is better than anything we've done so far and yet I'm anxious to beat it. Thanks for listening and thanks for reading.