"This record was written in back alleys and hotel rooms far from home," says frontman and primary songwriter Jon Foreman, explaining the difference between Nothing Is Sound and its predecessor. "It's more eclectic, less settled, with more dissonance. We've tried to capture the emotional ride that happens on stage and put it into the studio. Playing that hard every night really stretches you, and all these diverse experiences have played a key role in shaping this record."
Touring nonstop behind The Beautiful Letdown, Switchfoot had no choice but to write and record the bulk of the follow-up album on the road. "We wanted to release a record this summer, and we were trying to figure out when in the world we would have time to record it," Foreman admits. "So we took out a second set of gear, tiny drums and amps, and set up in the dressing room every day and got songs ready. While the opening bands were playing, we were in some tiny room trying to make a record."
While this on-the-fly approach was predicated on necessity, it did have one major benefit--enabling the band to road-test a new song in front of a highly vocal crowd immediately after it was finished. "A lot of times you know a song is good but not how it's going to translate live," Foreman points out. "Something might be good in the studio, but you have to change a lot of things to make it work live. These songs were developed for the live show. I've heard that's how bands used to do it back in the day."
Foreman's writing was inevitably influenced by what must've felt like a never-ending tour, but Nothing Is Sound is far deeper and more complex than its origins might lead one to believe. "For me, the past few years have been an emotional and chaotic time--so many changes, so many strange memories, like a dream that unfolds in the waking hours," Foreman explains. "And all of these new songs have been a diary of this strange part of our journey, about the search for truth and beauty in uncertain times and places.
"The world is at a very volatile stage, with the war and how fast things are changing," he continues. "But deeper than that, the idea that there is an instability within myself and humanity as a whole--that's where these songs are coming from."
According to Foreman, Nothing Is Sound marks a sort of culmination for Switchfoot, which formed in 1997. "I almost feel like everything we've been through as a band up till now has been like a warm-up, as though we've been preparing this record for eight years," he says. "The Letdown put us through the fire on many levels, and we've come out the other side more united than we've ever been. There's this urgency and immediacy in the camp, like this record might be the most important thing we've ever done together."