In late 2017, Grammy award-winning alternative rock band, Switchfoot, decided to take a break. After 20 years of non-stop touring, the band went on an indefinite hiatus. They went home to San Diego to reconnect with their roots. But soon after the music came calling. Songs came quickly and organically, and a year later, the band released their eleventh album, Native Tongue. 

We caught up with Jerome Fontamillas to talk about the band’s latest album, growing up and gaining perspective, and Switchfoot Bro-Am.

Switchfoot play the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Saturday, April 13, 2019. Tickets are available online.

In December 2017, the band announced it would take an extended break for the first time in 20 years. Could you tell me about that decision? How were you envisioning spending your time?
We’ve been touring nonstop for the last 20 years and we felt that we needed to just step back and reflect on where we’ve been and to reconnect with our family and friends back home. My time at home was spent just relearning how to be a husband and a father to my kids.

Less than a year later, Switchfoot was back with new music. With no plan to create an album, how did Native Tongue come together?
We never left writing new music. It’s who we are as people and as a band. We have a studio back home where we can go into anytime of the day and just lay down song ideas. Sooner or later, you’re going to have a whole bunch of songs recorded and ready to be released even if you weren’t planning to. We didn’t know if we were ever going to do another album but at the very least we were able to lay down a song idea whenever we wanted.

Rooted in your music are ideas of positivity, hope, and love. Lyrically, why do you gravitate towards these elements?
Jon has a way of writing themes starting from darkness and aiming for the light. Songs are written from what’s happening in life through adversity and pain, but in the midst of it is…hope.

“Native Tongue” talks about love as a universal language. Given our current political, social, and cultural environment, what can we do to help foster unity on an everyday level?
You take small practical steps. We believe that with every breath you have, you can change the world. You have to ask yourself, what can I do today that can make the world a better place and DO IT.

On “Voices” Jon sings, “I’ve got an army of voices in my head.” What issues or ideas are at the forefront of your mind? What big questions do you think about?
I guess the big question is how am I going to survive today and go from there. Storms come and go in life, and you just try to learn to navigate through them. When you’ve learned to deal with that, then you go to the next step which is how can I help others navigate through their storms.

The band has faced its share of ups and downs. Twenty plus years and eleven albums later, how has your perspective changed? What matters the most to you nowadays?
I guess you grow up. Twenty years ago, we were singing about a chemistry class. Things we sing about now are a bit broader and definitely laced with life experiences. I think the things that matter to us now is to live our life the best we can, to live it well which is our mantra of sorts.

Vancouver is the last stop on the tour. What’s next?
In a couple months, we’ll be having our annual Switchfoot Bro-Am back in San Diego. We always look forward to this. Probably our favorite day of the year where we can give back to our community and help at-risk youth in our hometown. Also, we will be in Europe this summer playing a few shows with Bon Jovi. We’re really excited about that.

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