As any surfer can (and probably will) tell you, there is no better way to combat stress than to catch a few waves. Nobody knows this better than the members of the perpetually on-tour members of the San Diego rock band Switchfoot, who always come back to the beaches of Southern California. The band’s new documentary ‘Fading West’ follows the musicians as they play on stage and in water around the world in an attempt to stay sane and happy despite an insane schedule.
“The water washes me clean,” singer and guitarist Jon Foreman tells ‘Men’s Journal.’ “My wife calls surfing my baptism, cleaning me off from the stress of the road.”
As it turns out, being the frontman for a hugely successful band is a pretty tough gig. The band’s new film – which shares its title with the band’s forthcoming ninth album – captures some of the hardships Foreman faces. Sleep can be hard to come by, equipment fails, audiences can be less than friendly, and loved ones have to be reached over the phone. But the film isn’t about stress, it’s about relief. ‘Fading West’ follows members of the band, which takes its name from slang for an unnatural surfing stance, as they chase surf from Australia to New Zealand to Bali to Africa, and finally back home to California.
“We grew up watching surf films,” Foreman says. “The plot for most surf movies is pretty simple: Surfers chasing waves around the world. We were talking one day about the parallels with our lives as we travel around the world for shows and inspiration. The movie was inspired by these two threads: Chasing waves, and rock and roll around the planet.”
Along the way, the guys go cliff diving, spend time with a South African children’s choir, and ride with surfing legends Rob Machado and Tom Curren. In New Zealand, the band performs as Goofyfooter, with Curren singing. In South Africa, the religious bandmates witness their guide after a brief misunderstanding: They think he’s praying for big waves, but he’s really asking God to protect them from sharks. Back in San Diego, the band hosts its annual “Bro-Am,” a beachside concert and surfing competition that raises money for homeless youth that Foreman describes as “what I’m proudest of.”
In the end, ‘Fading West’ takes its cues from rock documentaries and classic surf flicks like ‘Endless Summer.’ As Foreman says, “The movie became our chance to tell a bigger story than a four-minute rock song. . . . Surfing is more of a solitary pursuit. I try to find empty places when I can be reminded of how small I really am.”
More information: ‘Fading West’ is available for digital download. The album debuts on Tuesday, January 14.