NASHVILLE (Billboard) - In recording Switchfoot's new
project, "Oh! Gravity," the lead vocalist with the Christian
rock group says part of the goal was to erase the boundary
between artist and audience. So the band devised ways to make
the fans part of the process.
"In music, the band is only half of the equation," says
JonForeman. "The other half is the listening public. The word
fan is awkward . . . For me, it's a partnership."
Switchfoot's "partners" were able to get an up-close look
at the making of the album via a 24-hour webcam that allowed
viewers access to the recording sessions. The band even ran a
special contest on its MySpace page.
"The band started really marketing the record six or eight
months ago with a cowbell contest where a fan could win the
opportunity to play the cowbell on one song," says Bob
Semanovich, Columbia Records VP of marketing. "They had 22,000
entries." The winning fan got to play on "Amateur Lovers."
"Oh! Gravity," which hits stores December 26, is the San
Diego-based band's sixth studio album and its third for
Columbia. The band is also distributed to the Christian market
through EMI Christian Music Group. Switchfoot's first Columbia
effort, "The Beautiful Letdown," has sold 2.6 million copies,
according to Nielsen SoundScan, spawning the hits "Meant to
Live" and "Dare You to Move." Last year's "Nothing Is Sound,"
has sold 549,000 units.
That's a respectable number, but sales of "Nothing Is
Sound" were hurt when it was one of 15 Sony CDs recalled
because digital rights management software on the discs raised
security concerns. That's one of the reasons Foreman and his
bandmates -- brother Tim Foreman, Jerome Fontamillas, Drew
Shirley and Chad Butler -- wanted to ensure "Oh! Gravity" had
such a fan-friendly launch. "The whole cowbell contest was
about how do we blur the line between who we are as a band and
the people who listen to us," Foreman says.
"Oh! Gravity" contains the same caliber of
thought-provoking, articulate lyrics that the band has become
known for, but the new album -- produced by Tim Palmer (U2,
Pearl Jam, the Cure) -- rocks harder and has a more aggressive
sound. Such songs as the title track and "American Dream" have
an edgy, punk-rock intensity, while "30 Second Hands" boasts an
alt-country rock vibe.
The band is currently on tour, with a date set for Monday
in Columbus, Ohio.
"Financially, it makes more sense to tour after the album
is released -- and we'll do that, too," Foreman says, "but we
were just itching to get out on the road and play these new