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Keeping feet in two worlds

Secular-Christian divide challenges band and fans


Steve Penhollow

Whatzup Features Writer

Published September 26, 2019

Heads Up! This article is 3 years old.

For much of its two-decade existence, Switchfoot has courted two not-always-complementary camps.

Switchfoot’s music has always appealed to both the Christian music audience and the secular music audience.

These audiences can be intolerant of each other for various reasons. But although Switchfoot just wants everyone to get along, it hasn’t always worked out that way.

The goal is honesty

Christian fans have tended to want more overt Christianity in the songs while secular fans have wanted less.

The band’s guitarist, Jerome Fontamillas, said trying to strike a balance between these two mind-sets isn’t preferable to making whatever music the band wants to make at any given moment.

“Definitely not a goal,” he wrote in an email interview. “We just try to write meaningful songs with honesty and hope.”

Aesop (or some anonymous epigrammist) said it best: “Those who seek to please everybody, please nobody.”

The band was founded in 1996 by brothers Jon and Tim Foreman.

Switchfoot got signed to Re:think, a label dedicated to marketing Contemporary Christian artists outside the Contemporary Christian realm.

It was quickly acquired by Sparrow Records, a label that wasn’t as interested in marketing Contemporary Christian artists outside the Contemporary Christian realm.

Since then, Switchfoot has straddled both worlds, not always comfortably. Thankfully, the band’s members and the band’s fans have both lightened up considerably in recent years.

“Most people dive into the honesty of the music and how it relates to them whether Christian or secular,” Fontamillas said.

Hope deserves an anthem

There is a common thread running through many of the band’s songs that can be appreciated by any sort of listener, unless he is a nihilist.

“In the music is where Hope resides,” Fontamillas said, “and we believe Hope deserves an anthem.”

As collaborators, Jon and Tim Foreman are no Noel and Liam Gallagher. They know how to fight without blowing everything up.

“There are times when the boxing gloves are put on and they hash it out,” Fontamillas said. “But at the end of the day, it’s all about respect for each other’s viewpoint and collectively working towards a compromise.”

All the band’s members (except, of course, for the two that share a mother) are brothers from different mothers, Fontamillas said.

“We’re like family. We like hanging out with each other… . We genuinely have a mutual respect for each other.”

Maintaining one’s Christian faith in an industry that is rife with secular temptations is not easy, Fontamillas said. The band members hold each other accountable, he said.

“We are fortunate enough to have close relationships with each other,” Fontamillas said. “We watch each other’s backs and take care of each other on the road.”

Fontamillas, who was diagnosed with kidney cancer in December 2018, got an unexpected chance thereafter to test the closeness of the band. He is now cancer-free and he said his bandmates provided invaluable support and comfort throughout his ordeal.

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