Grammy Award-winning rock band Switchfoot released their 12th studio album, Interrobang, this month and hope it will help to ease some of the tension in the world by providing music that encourages listeners to come together as the human race rather than being divided by their differences.
The symbol Interrobang is a question mark and an exclamation mark together, one on top of the other.
“It’s a very appropriate symbol for the world that we live in right now,” bass player Tim Foreman said in an interview with The Christian Post that can be watched below. “Two polarizing things happening all at once and trying to make something beautiful and find harmony in the dissonance.”
Switchfoot, an alternative rock quintet, is comprised of brothers Jon (lead singer, guitarist) and Tim Foreman (bass), as well as Jerome Fontamillas (keys, guitar), Drew Shirley (guitar) and Chad Butler (drums). The band has been together for over 20 years and has been successful in both the Christian and alt-rock crossover markets.
Their latest album was created in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, BLM protests and the contentious 2020 presidential election.
“I feel like the record couldn’t have been made in any other time,” Jon Foreman, the frontman of Switchfoot, told CP. “It absolutely represents the year that we just lived through. By we, I mean, the human race. I’m really honored and proud to put this music out because I feel like even this week, you have what’s going on in Afghanistan, in Haiti, even right here in the U.S.”
“I think that this album is singing into all of that and attempting to ask the bigger questions: What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to find unity with someone that you disagree with?” he added. “These are open-ended questions I think we’re always going to be trying to figure out.”
He added that everything on the news has felt “so weighty” lately and he’s honored to be singing songs into that weight.
The group hails from San Diego, California, and has always made music that poses questions or reflects on faith, humanity, relationships and anything else that weighs heavy in people’s hearts. The album’s trailer for Interrobang reveals that their latest work also comes from that place of dialogue. Jon Foreman revealed that it was created from a place of “intense longing for justice and truth.”
“[In] bringing questions to people and bringing people along for that ride, I think it’s because these are things that keep me up at night, it’s not as if I have the answers and I’m holding them back from the listener. It’s literally me wrestling with these questions in the song,” Jon shared with CP.
The father of two added, “I feel so fortunate to have this medium, this outlet to be able to express these doubts, and beliefs and frustrations and pains and joys. It’s this diary that we get to bring into the world.
“In the science of sound, you have what’s called sympathetic resonance. This is what happens when there’s a piano over there and if I hit a note, that note will resonate because it has the exact same frequency that my voice is carrying. That’s called sympathetic resonance. It’s such an incredible honor to have somebody say, ‘I felt something within me come alive when you said that. There’s some sympathetic resonance when you said that in your song.’ That’s one of the biggest compliments you can have as a songwriter.”
Tim Foreman added that these are times when “you don’t have to look hard to find opinions and arguments.”
“This is an album that assumes that you lost the argument,” the younger brother said. “Which is to say that no one’s mind was changed. My mind wasn’t changed, and your mind wasn’t either. What happens now? Do we still have a relationship? Can we still be friends? Can we still stay in the dialogue and live together? What does that look like?”
Jon Foreman interjected, adding, “Even bigger, can we make something beautiful even in the tension?”
According to the album’s trailer, Interrobang was made with some tension between the band and the record’s producer, Tony Berg, who’s also known for his work with Paul McCartney and Phoebe Bridgers. The tension often came from differences of opinion; however, the music is where they always found unity.
Tim Foreman described the recording atmosphere as an “inescapable” tension.
“I think sitting in that tension, living that, is the only way that this album could have been made,” he said, describing the album as a “direct response to that feeling” because people cannot escape tension and opposition in these times.
Although the band was able to navigate the tension to make a harmonious sound with their songs, not many people have been able to do the same in such divisive times.
Jon Foreman went on to share some advice for anyone struggling to find commonality and unity with others:
“I have two thoughts: I think ultimately, when you have two humans, no matter how similar they are, at some point, they will disagree. So let us presuppose that every single person is different. Let’s presuppose that there’s going to be things that we disagree about, and then let’s presuppose that we have to find a way to live together, that maybe we share a planet. Maybe in the biblical term, we might even be neighbors, we might share a property line, we might share a city, we might share a nation together. Instead of saying, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re different than me.’ What if that weren’t a shock? What if [it was], ‘Of course you’re different than me? And of course, we have to find a way through this.’ What if that were our beginning part?”
“The second thought is I take a lot of cues from Christ,” he continued. “I think He chose to go out directly and have conversations with people that He disagreed with. I know obviously, He would retreat and have quiet time of prayer, and meditation and reflection and all of that. But His life was lived in the tension.”
He continued: “I mean, if you want to talk about taking that all the way to final conclusion, I think you have no better representation than the cross for tension. I feel like that surrender is the ultimate response to the tension. Rather than taking up arms, that violence can be lived out on Facebook, on Twitter, whatever it is, those defensive aggressions that we have, I feel like are the opposite in the antithesis of the Gospel.”
The 11 songs on Switchfoot’s new album all share their own messages, but each song has one message which poses the question: Can humanity learn to love each other despite the tension?
Tim Foreman said his favorite song on Interrobang is “Lost Cause.”
“I really identify with that song. That is the question: ‘Are we a lost cause? Or are we just lost?’
“The story’s not finished, and I’m a relentlessly optimistic person. I refuse to believe that we’re done. I’m not done,” he declared. “I’m learning every day. That’s a headspace that I’ve grown in the last couple of years is to realize that in any instance, no matter how right I think I am, there’s something to be learned.”
“Not only can I tolerate or learn to live with someone that I disagree with, but actually, I need that person. I need that person because they will either confirm what I know to be true, or they will challenge me to learn new things. That’s beautiful and painful at times,” Tim Foreman added.
Jon Foreman told CP that his favorite song at the moment is “Beloved.”
“That track it gets me,” he said. “That song was written initially, with the idea that the highest definition of a human, myself included, would be beloved. Who are you? I am a surfer; I’m a brother; I’m a father; I’m a friend — all of those are subservient and lesser than the definition of calling yourself beloved.
“That’s kind of where the song begins, and then it wrestles with the other, the neighbor, the tension that Tim was talking about. It talks about the state of the world and attempting to find a way to identify all these other different, at times, troubling human souls that we’re interfacing with trying to identify them as beloved as well.”