Chad Butler of Switchfoot: "Christianity Is A Faith And Not A Musical Genre."
Switchfoot is one of those bands critics love to hate: religious, relatively clean cut and exceedingly family-friendly. But over the years, the band's has shown an admirable independent streak. Forsaking a major label in 2009 was just the start.
Speaking from the San Diego airport in anticipation of Sunday's Edgefest performance in Frisco, drummer Chad Butler chatted about his faith, the Christian rock genre and Switchfoot's recently issued remix album.
The band has been together for nearly 16 years. What has been the most significant change over that time?
Has it been that long? Wow. I guess that's right. Eight albums together, I can't believe it. The biggest change has been having the opportunity to take these songs around the world. When we started, we were just going to college and playing places in San Diego. We never dreamed that we would be touring in Places like Australia and throughout Europe. It's been quite a ride. The thing that keeps us going is our friendships within the band. We've got really strong support from our families and the city of San Diego. Being home is amazing and our friendship keeps us wanting to make music together.
Your major label debut, The Beautiful Letdown, sold more than two million copies. Does such early success create a lot of pressure on each successive release?
Yes, the numbers will drive you crazy. We try not to look at the numbers, but we try to continue to make better music with each record. We want to say something new and go to new places. If you make music just so it would sell, you would lose your soul in the process. It has to be something that is exciting to you on an emotional level and on a spiritual level. That's what keeps you going, helps you play these songs night after night. We change up the set list for our show every night just for that reason. We don't want it to get stale.
The band has shied away from being labeled a Christian rock band. Would it be better to say that your music has a spiritual aspect?
We've always called what we do rock and roll. We try to make music for everyone. It's been said that we make music for thoughtful people. I like that. People will call us what they will. I think those categories are just about which shelf in the record store they put your CD on. I think that matters less and less these days. We want everybody to be invited to the party.
I've never been to a record store with a Jewish rock section or an Islamic rock section. Why have a Christian rock genre at all?
Yes, that's an interesting point. The ways music is categorized can be strange. There are double standards there to be sure. Judging someone by their beliefs over their musical integrity is just wrong. I grew up listening to Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan. Those were people who were not afraid to ask big questions in their music.They challenged the status quo. We've been very open about our faith. Christianity is a faith and not a musical genre.
In 2009, the band left Columbia Records. Are you one of the few bands to voluntarily leave a major label and not get kicked off of one?
The music business has changed so much since we first started. The issue for us has always been about finding people who believe in our music as much as we do. We want people who want to partner up with us to get the songs out there so they can be heard. It's been a journey. For a time, we were on Columbia and after a while there wasn't anyone left who we knew. Doing things independently feels good.
Last month, the band released Vice Re-Verses, a remix album. Whose idea was that?
We've been fans of the remix/deejay culture. [Guitarist] Jerome [Fontamillas] comes from a background working with electronic musicians. Having the opportunity to have our songs chopped up and remixed was exciting to us and I love the results.
Switchfoot performs as part of Edgefest at FC Dallas Stadium (formerly Pizza Hut Park) on Sunday, April 22.