Meant to surf 

Photo: Chris Burkard

The guys behind Switchfoot never think clearer than they do out on the ocean.

Surfing binds the band and its brotherhood as much as music or faith. And on the eve of the ninth studio album from the defiantly relevant alt-rock group (after 18 years together and a decade in the national spotlight), the gentle roll of the water brought with it an idea to do things a little differently this go-’round.

In the name of finding inspiration for new material, Switchfoot sought the solace of some choice surf spots across the globe: Australia, South Africa, Bali and more. The five-piece decided to film the global excursion, and soon, Fading West morphed from a standalone record into an accompanying soundtrack and then into a documentary film of the same name, marrying footage of the surf travelogue with scenes from the group’s 2012 world tour.

should have been a victory lap instead turned into the biggest
undertaking of the band’s career. 

“We needed to get out of the formal
routine of writing and recording in a studio, to actually make this
journey across the world and let those environments inspire it,” drummer
Chad Butler said. “We chased waves and songs across the planet.”

exotic locales demanded not only big, grand arrangements to match the
breathtaking landscapes but also “an exercise in restraint” in capturing
the quiet moments of beautiful serenity. It awakened a desire to write
music for traditional film down the line, but the endeavor acted as more
than a mere creative exercise, instead bearing an insight into the very
heartbeat of the band.

wasn’t always easy to keep the cameras rolling, especially when things
went wrong,” Butler said. “But the music has always been very open and
honest, and we wanted to let people see behind the curtain a little bit,
the good and the bad.”

The unflinching look gave Switchfoot — appearing Thursday at Diamond Ballroom — a chance
to define itself to fans and critics alike. The opportunity largely was
eluding them since “Meant to Live” and “Dare You to Move” made the
group’s fourth record, The Beautiful Letdown, a double-platinum
smash hit. Soon after, the band was pigeonholed as Christian by many
when its five members felt they were, well, so much more.

been trying to stay out of boxes since junior high,” Butler said with a
laugh. “We just continue to make honest music, songs that relate to
everyone. The best part of what we do is looking down from the stage and
seeing people from all walks of life and beliefs singing the same song.
It’s a powerful thing.”

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