Solid footing

Grammy Award-winning Switchfoot to perform at Hampton beach Casino Ballroom

Special to the Union Leader
August 02. 2017 12:18PM
Switchfoot will perform on Friday at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom. The band features, from left, Drew Shirley (guitar), Chad Butler (drums), Jon Foreman (vocals, guitar), Jerome Fontamillas (keyboard) and Tim Foreman (bass). 
If you go...
WHO: Switchfoot with Lifehouse as part of the 'Looking for Summer' tour

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday; doors open at 6 p.m.

WHERE: Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, 169 Ocean Blvd., Hampton Beach

TICKETS: $40 in advance; $45 day of show


Switchfoot keyboardist and guitarist Jerome Fontamillas says each song is like a personal “journal” — even when literally a hundred are written for one album.

“You’re writing down what you’ve been doing or what you’ve been feeling that day and Jon (Foreman, vocalist and guitarist) likes to write what’s going on in his head a lot of the time, and all of a sudden you have 100 songs.”

Clearly, the band has plenty to say. The alternative rock group first got its start as a Christian-based rock band, but has since delved into the mainstream rock arena, making waves all the while. Its seventh studio album, “Hello Hurricane,” earned the five-piece a Grammy for best rock gospel album in 2011.

Ahead of its show at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom on Friday, Fontamillas spoke about the band’s 10th album, 2016’s “Where the Light Shines Through,” mentioned some interesting day jobs and discussed serious times for the band.

UL: How did you join Switchfoot?

JF: I was in a local band around the same time they started Switchfoot and we would play together in different clubs here in southern California, and that’s how I got to know them. We became friends and eventually my band broke up and they asked me to join their band.

What else do you play besides keyboards and guitar?

You know, a variety. I play the drums. I try all these different assortments of instruments. (It’s) one of those things you’re like, ‘Uh, can you play this?’ I’m like, ‘I’ll try.’

It doesn’t worry you if you’ve never tried a certain instrument before?

That excites me. It’s a challenge, you know. ‘Oh and try this instrument, try this.’ To me, that’s more exciting.

What’s your favorite keyboard?

I do a lot of synthesizers. My favorite keyboards — they’re basic. I play a Rhodes, a Rhodes 73 keyboard on stage. I love it, and I love to play the piano. Those are really cool. Actually, my favorite instrument to play is the bass. But obviously, they have a bass player already (bassist Tim Foreman). And he knows it too. (laughs)

Did you ever take formal lessons?

The only thing I took formal lessons in is piano, and I hated it. It was when I was I think 7 or 8. My parents forced me to play the piano, and all I did for four years was scales. (laughs) It was horrible. But I tell my parents this every week, ’Thanks for letting me learn those scales, because I use it all the time as a musician. It was invaluable to me to learn all that stuff.’

What was your day job before you became a musician?

Well – OK, don’t laugh. I’ve had a few jobs. I was a dairy farmer. I milked cows. I worked in a hospital, but my job was to take the dead people from their room to the morgue.

That sounds ... interesting.

Those are my crazy jobs, and I’m glad I had those jobs. It gave me a reality dose of how to work. Especially milking cows. I worked at 4 in the morning. Milk them up, about 300 cows, and that was it. Then you woke up at 4 and did it again.

When I moved on to the hospital job, it wasn’t just bringing dead people to the morgue. The job was called ’dispatch’ and you were like a courier almost. So you were carrying blood samples, and this or that, or transporting dead people from the room to the morgue. It was weird. And now I’m in a band.

So the band spent a year and a half working on ‘Where the Light Shines Through’?

You start off slow. You start off trying to get inspiration and you write a song here and there. But the way we do it is, John, our lead singer, basically writes so many songs that by the time we decide to record the album, there’s about 100 songs to choose from. So it gets really overwhelming, but it takes about a year and a half from the start of an album to finishing off an album.

What happens to the songs that don’t get picked?

Sometimes you wait for the right time. It’s like your kid, you know, some kids grow faster than others. We put it back in the vault. Sometimes you’ll never hear it. Sometimes the song isn’t even that good.

Tim Foreman has said this album was made during a ‘dark season’ for the band. Can you talk about that?

Before we do every album we always ask ourselves, ‘Do we have enough in us to make another album? Do we have enough to say something important, or say something that we are going through?’ It’s always a dark time. Especially on this album cycle, there were a lot of things happening, around in the world and in our country. Even in the band, where you’re just like, ’Man, there’s so much darkness and so much negativity, so much pain and suffering, you know, do we have it in us to keep going? Do we have it in us as a band to write about these things?’ In a sense, it was a dark time, but what was awesome is we were able to channel that, put it in music ... and that’s where the song, the album title, “Where the Light Shines Through,” came in.

The song “Bull In a China Shop” seems different and funkier than the rest of the album. How did that song come about?

That song was interesting. In the album, you always look at it like, ’We need a song that’s a pick-me-up, a very party-type song.’ For me, that song is special because that was the first time they ever let me, as a keyboardist, just do whatever I want. So when we were recording that song, they said, ’Jerome, just, whatever comes out of your head ... we wanna record it.’ Notice at the very end of the song, there’s these piano types of solos and stuff. That was because (what) they said ... So that was very special.

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