Switchfoot: one word, two definitions. For most, the term refers to a rock band that just released its 10th album, Where the Light Shines Through (July 2016). But for others, the word means changing footing on a surfboard to get a new perspective. The aforementioned rock band — which was formed in 1996 by brothers Jon and Tim Foreman and Chad Butler and is perhaps best known for their Grammy Award–nominated album Learning to Breathe, which spawned the hit “Dare You to Breathe” — fully embraces the dictionary definition as part of its namesake. The members are surfers themselves, and much of their music is about inspiring hope, which can come with a simple shift in viewpoint.
On tour for Where the Light Shines Through,
the band will be performing at the Arlington on January 26. I recently spoke with Switchfoot drummer Butler about what it’s like to make a career out of music, the unbreakable bond among his bandmates, and good times he’s had in Santa Barbara.
What’s the band up to these days?
We’re touring around the country right now, then heading overseas after for a world tour for the rest of the year. We love playing music; we love delivering the songs firsthand to the people. We are a rock band. We live and breathe onstage. We enjoy playing the songs live every night.
You’ve been with the band since the start. Did you ever imagine you’d make 10 albums together?
Never. I think the average life span for a rock band is one or two records, and we’ve surpassed that. So yeah, every day is a gift, and I’m so thankful to get to play music I love with people I love.
What is the band’s origin?
We met surfing. We actually went to the same high school and same college and were on the surf team together growing up, and played in different bands in San Diego, then joined forces as Switchfoot. We then put out a record in ’97 and ended up going on tour, and have been making music together ever since.
Do any of you have any side projects?
We’re all fully committed to the band full-time. Definitely, there are little side projects that pop up, but we have a commitment to this band and making music together. We have a studio down here in San Diego where we make all the music. That’s been an amazing thing — to stay in California and not have to go to New York or Nashville or even L.A. but to be home.
How many albums were recorded in that studio?
We’ve made four records there. It’s kind of the headquarters for our band here. It’s close to the beach, so we go surfing in the morning and then head into the studio and make music.
Do you still go surfing together?
Every day that we’re home. In fact, we’re talking about surfing next week in Santa Barbara.
You should go to Rincon.
Yeah, I love that spot. I surf there a lot.
Are you guys excited to come to S.B.? It’s not that far from San Diego.
Yeah it’s not that far. I might just walk, ride my skateboard. [Laughs.] Santa Barbara is amazing. We all went to UCSD, and we’d be up at Santa Barbara competing against UCSB in surf contests, so we spent a lot of time up there, chasing waves at Rincon. I have a lot of great memories there. On our last tour, actually, for our last album, we stopped in Santa Barbara and showed our surf-rock documentary, Fading West. After the showing, played a show and then headed down the street for some great Mexican food.
Does playing live ever get repetitive? How do you keep the shows fun?
We never play the same set twice. Even when we write out a set list, it always changes during the show depending on the energy in the room and how we’re feeling. We have to keep it interesting for ourselves first, to really push ourselves and keep it fresh. I think that’s one of our strengths, that each night is unique. It’s not all about the band; it’s a two-way conversation with the audience. I remember the last time we were in S.B., the crowd was singing louder than the band at moments, and I think that was the best moment of the night — when you hear the voices of everyone in the room singing the same song together.
Have a lot of the same fans been going to your shows throughout the years?
Yeah, definitely. People who grew up listening to our albums, and now [we see] families come together to see us for a sort of introduction to new fans, a younger generation of Switchfoot fans. Not a lot of bands get to experience that.
What is the future for the band?
We just love making music. Music is something we’d be doing whether or not we’d be touring or performing as Switchfoot. We are constantly writing new music. Having a studio in San Diego allows us to keep making music year-round. We’re already talking about recording new songs after this tour and looking forward to what next year will bring. We still enjoy traveling together, touring, and playing shows live. We also enjoy the time home being in San Diego and recording.
How do you balance touring the world and having a personal life?
That’s the challenge, isn’t it? At any job, you gotta find that balance. The family time, to be creative, that’s a juggling act. It’s a lifelong journey of finding that balance.
I grew up listening to your music while at church. How do you appeal to audiences who may not identify with Christianity?
We’ve always just called ourselves a rock band. People will call you what they want, and that’s fine with me. We’ve always just tried to make honest music that relates to real life and regardless of people’s backgrounds or beliefs. I think the great thing about our audience is [when] I look out and see people of all ethnicities, all faiths, all different beliefs singing the same song. That’s the power of music.
What do you want people to take away from your music?
Hope. I think the world needs hope, and music is one of the amazing places where you can go to find it. The title track of the record is “Where the Light Shines Through,” and here in our country, that’s been something important to find. We live in some turbulent times, and everybody is looking for hope. I am just thankful, through music, we are able to explore the world together and shine a light in dark places.
Switchfoot plays with Relient K on Thursday, January 26, 7 p.m., at the Arlington Theatre (1317 State St.). Call (805) 963-4408 or see thearlingtontheatre.com.