Switchfoot Behind the Songs of Oh! Gravity.
Ever since their debut album The Legend of Chin released in 1997, Switchfoot has been making waves all over the world. Their latest release Oh! Gravity. has thrust them into the limelight once again.
Here lead singer Jon Formean tells the stories behind the songs on Oh! Gravity.
Oh! Gravity. is a conversation with a well-known law of physics. The question is this: If in the physical world things naturally move closer together, why are we falling apart? War and rumors of war, divorce, hatred, violence, and everything else on the evening news seems to contradict gravity. This song is a fun happy-clappy tune about a grave matter: "Sons of my enemies, why can't we seem to keep it together?"
American Dream. I am proud to be an American. Proud of my grandfather who was shot down in world war two. Proud of some of my best friends who are in the Marines. I believe in a nation that is serving a higher calling than a TV. I have nothing against the material world. I have nothing against consumerism as a social structure. Certainly we are consumers with physical bodies, but if that's all we are we've lost what it means to be human. When success is equated with excess the ambition for excess wrecks us. As the top of the mind becomes the bottom line when success is equated with excess.
Dirty Second Hands. the machine. the clock. our own hands. The dirty second hand of time is always ticking- bringing us and all that we have worked so hard to achieve closer to the grave and the second hand store. In my fight with depression, lust, pride, and boredom I have found that the biggest challenger is often within me. The very machinery that I loathe and have fought so hard to defeat stares back at me from the mirror. This mechanism is always ticking. And in my spiritual life I have found that this is a part of me that has to die everyday if I am to be truly alive.
Awakening. How quickly I am lulled back to sleep! How quickly I forget. In one of my favorite Wilco songs Jeff Tweedy sings, "You know I would die if I could come back new." Perhaps to be truly reborn death is not optional. Here's a firsthand story about new life, it always starts at the bottom.
Circles. Here's a tune that had its roots in the past. We actually played a version of this song a few tours ago while we were gearing up for the recording of "nothing is sound." It's an ecclesiastical song about the modern machine. We tracked a previous version of this song while we were tracking stars. But something about the song was never quite right. When Sean and Sarah Watkins (our friends from Nickel Creek) came in, the song took on a new life and became something truly special. The end of the song represents one of my favorite moments we've ever had on a CD.
Amateur Lovers. Oh that we knew how to love each other well! Here's a song that elaborates on the title track with another set of social-physics questions. We all need love so badly- it's how we were made. And yet we're so bad at loving one another. It's our attempt to put another matter of grave consequence in the skin of a pop tune.
Faust, Midas, and Myself. two mythologies and the truth. Or more specifically, a man who makes a deal with the devil, a man who has a touch of gold, and my own personal struggles. CS Lewis had a lot to say about mythology. On one occasion he said that he writes fantasy to get past the watchful dragons of religion. That's why I write music, because our minds are often so closed that even the truth can't fit in to set us free. This is a story about following the fantasy and seeing where it leads. Sometimes the dreams turn into nightmares... In a million ways, I know firsthand that the taste turns sour very quickly.
Head Over Heals. This is an honest love song. Love is not a silk flower- always bright, with artificially whitened teeth and a fake tan. No, love is a fight. Love is what happens when you've been hurt and you want to quit. Love is what happens when you decide not to. Love is not the beginning of the story but the ending. Perhaps the thirty-minute sitcom has done a disservice to the sheer magnitude of what love is.
Yesterdays. I wrote this with my brother. The song is very straightforward. I have hope in this life and beyond the grave.
Burn Out Bright. One of two tracks on the record that is a command. Seems like every story I can relate to starts off with a broken heart, broken dreams and bleeding parts. There's a story I know about a man named Israel who wrestled with God. From that day on he walked with a limp. I guess in a lot of ways I don't trust a man who doesn't have a limp. The future is yet unwritten. Write it well.
4:12. another musical thesis on the subject of materialism. I've heard it said that we are souls and we have bodies. And yet our physical world is always hungry, always thirsty, always watching, always listening. It gets to the point where I begin to believe that all we are and that all of our dreams are nothing more than material. That love and fear and pain and justice are material? It's nonsensical.
Let Your Love Be Strong. My wife's favorite song. This one means a lot to me. "Maybe I'm just idealistic to assume that truth could be fact and form, that love could be a verb, maybe I'm just a little misinformed." I wrote this one after a long walk in the early morning before the sun came up. I was sitting out by the train tracks halfway between the ocean and the freeway. When everything in your life falls apart you begin to realize what's worth holding on to and who's got a hold on you. Let the world fall apart ... all of my life rests upon the love that created every breath I have been given.
I have a hard time explaining what I do for a living. I sometimes wish I played the role of inventor: purposefully creative, a wizard with notes and words. But in fact my occupation is much more like an archeologist. Always digging. Always sorting. And occasionally I feel that I stumble across something truly remarkable. Like a hidden city buried in the ground, the notes and words seem to have been there long before me- as though the song would exist without my involvement. Or maybe it's more like farming. Preparing the soil, planting, watering, pruning and caring for these ideas hoping to see a bumper crop yet knowing that the outcome is almost entirely out of my hands.
With that in mind, this collection of songs then is something that I can only partly take credit for. Most of my favorite moments on the record represent the times when my fingerprints are the lightest, where my own self-conscious second-guessing is absent and the buried city can speak for itself. I suppose to some extent I'm talking about honesty- allowing a song to be itself rather than forcing your own will upon it. This was a goal not only in the writing process but in the studio as well. Many times on this record we deliberately went back to the first take and the rough draft to find our direction simply because the first response to the song is often the most honest. Your first instincts might be poorly played or incomplete but they were honest.
I am so proud of these songs, like I am proud of my friends or as I imagine a father would be proud of his son. I truly feel like there is only so much credit that be given to the songwriter, for the buried city was waiting there all along.