STORY WRITTEN BY GARY GRAFF
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Switchfoot’s latest album, “Where The Light Shines Through,” is something of a seminal moment for the group.
It’s the faith-based San Diego quintet’s 10th studio album in a career that began 20 years ago. During that time Switchfoot has had a double-platinum triumph in 2003’s “The Beautiful Letdown” and scored rock hits such as “Meant To Live,” “Dare You To Move” and “Stars.” The group has also won a Grammy Award and three GMA Dove Awards. The band performs on Oct. 25 at The Fillmore Philadelphia.
As its title suggest, “Where The Light Shines Through” deals with the band coming out of some dark and heavy circumstances but ending up in a better place — and singing about it. The album debuted at No. 10 on the Billboard 200 in July, and time on the road has given Switchfoot’s members even more perspective on the set, according to guitarist Drew Shirley…
• “Where The Light Shines Through” wound up in different place than it started, Shirley, 42, says by phone from a festival stop near Seattle. “It started off as a dark album,” he recalls. “It was pretty dark. We were going through a rough time and Jon (Foreman, Switchfoot’s singer) was writing a lot of songs about dark things. But with the track ‘Where The Light Shines Through,’ things began to change; We saw light and hope and joy, and we started infusing that into the album. It was a very cathartic process for ourselves as a band.”
• So what was going on that was prompting those dark songs, anyway? “There were some side project ventures that didn’t go so well,” Shirley says. “There were some investments that caved in. We got dropped from our label after the last album, so we were sort of wondering, ‘Should we keep doing this or not?’ I think with every album you kind of wonder if you’re going to continue as a band, anyway — ‘Do we have more things to say? Are we all happy doing this?’ We’ve done this for a long time; We all have families, and you just sort of break up the band and reform to do what you want to do next. You can’t help but wonder, ‘Is this the time we DON’T get back together…’”
• Clearly, then, Switchfoot doesn’t take much for granted, even after a pretty steady 20 years of success. “The shelf life of a rock band is five years, and we’ve been around for 20,” he notes. “We’ve long-stayed our welcome as a rock band, so it’s nice to still be there. We became a household name and sold three million copies of (‘The Beautiful Letdown’) and caught the last wave of the music industry before record sales tanked. So we had a bit of momentum to go off of. The industry’s changing a lot, so we’re in a good place compared to other bands.”
• Because it’s Switchfoot’s 10th album, the group “wanted it to be great,” according to Shirley. So it enlisted producer John Fields, who had also worked with the band on “The Beautiful Letdown.” “We knew we had to deliver something, so we went back to (Fields),” Shirley explains. “He’s a friend of ours that we had worked with before, and we thought it would be a great pairing for later in our career now. It’s always great to work with him.”
• The presence of Christian rapper Lecrae and sacred steel virtuoso Robert Randolph on “Where The Light Sines Through” are clearer acknowledgements of Switchfoot’s faith, which the group has always treated gently in its music. “We’ve balanced on a fence for a long time, so long we sort of made it a path and walks this, ‘Are you guys a Christian band or what?’ line,” Shirley says. “Now it doesn’t matter; We’ve made it into a pathway. We’re believers, and we make rock ‘n’ roll music. But these guys are super-talented musicians, so we’d want to play with them no matter whether they were Christian or not.”