Star Scene: Chad Butler

SWITCHFOOT ~ Chad Butler's scene of music and surf remains his dynamic

Chad Butler, drummer and one of the founding members of alternative rock band Switchfoot, acknowledges the impact music and surf has always had in his life. “Growing up, music and surfing kept me out of a lot of trouble. I can’t imagine my life without those two things. I think I’m very fortunate to have lived near an ocean and discovered that at a very early age. And being in a musical environment; my father was a musician and being very passionate about songwriting. I think those two things really gave me an outlet to express myself. When I was a kid, we had a lot of records on the turntable, from Motown, Stevie Wonder, Temptations, Sam Cooke, things like that. But then I discovered rock bands when I got a little older, like The Police, Nirvana, and began playing drums to those records”.

[pullquote] I tell people: play music you love with people you love[/pullquote]Music and surfing being his staple, Butler appreciates that his love and respect for this scene is matched by the other band members and is the main reason for Switchfoot’s longevity. “I think a lot of the music scene is about bigger, better opportunities. It sometimes takes your focus off of where you are today. And I think enjoying each moment of playing music together has been really valuable for us, it has kept us together, enjoying every opportunity to play”.

Forming in 1996, friendships were forged for Butler and his band members. “We grew up in San Diego, and there was a very eclectic music scene. We played in different bands at high school and then in college, we joined forces and started playing anywhere we could in the local music scene; backyard parties, coffee shops, any club that would have us. Eventually we ended up getting a record deal and started touring and since then it’s been an amazing ride. We made nine records as a band and that’s pretty rare”.

Endurance on this long ride of a wave is really where the band members’ friendship was fashioned. Butler states: “I think for us the key has been that we like to hang out off stage. We just filmed a documentary about the band called Fading West and really trying to expose or show, the fact that it is very difficult to be in a band, and it can be very taxing, but the connection we have offstage is really strong For us we grew up surfing together in San Diego and being in the ocean together has always been a common bond that we have shared outside of music which has really helped to keep our interests aligned”.

Fading West may have exposed the hardships of life on the road, but it also reinforced the importance of the music and surf scene in helping the band members maintain their bond, no matter the challenges. “The film was a very honest look at who we are as people”, Butler says. “We struggled with which scenes to include in the film, there’s definitely some vulnerability when things go wrong on tour, and your family life is affected, and there’s a very human element to the film and in that process we ended up asking ourselves some very big questions. [pullquote]One of the questions being: is this worth it, travelling half way around the world, being away from your family to play music, is it worth it? It’s rewarding and obviously something we’re passionate about but there’s a cost. [/pullquote]And there was a song on Fading West that summed up that struggle and that was: Love Alone Is Worth The Fight”.

Whether it’s love of home or “headed down the open road unknown” as the lyrics of Love Alone Is Worth The Fight suggest, touring is essential. Butler was not at home, but touring, “in the middle of the country in Colorado. Tomorrow [they] go to India; doing a full lap of the globe in the next two weeks”. Though he misses family and home, Butler also loves touring. “For us, as a band, we live and breathe on stage, where these songs come to life. It’s such a privilege to go around the world, so far from home, and to meet people that are singing along, that are connecting with the music”.

As well as touring and making a film, Switchfoot has been busy releasing and making new music. “When we were finished making the film, and the album, Fading West, we picked twelve songs to form the album, but there were many other songs in the film, in the process of creating the score and the soundtrack for the film, there were quite a few songs that we really felt we wanted to release, so we put out the EP, Edge of the Earth, and it was just a way to have those songs heard. We’ve already been working on new music, in between these international tours. We’re sort of sneaking up on the idea, we haven’t officially begun working on it in a regular fashion, but for us it’s a chance to be creative in between tours. Our next album will be our tenth record, which will be pretty monumental for us. We’re excited working on that process”.

Rounding up its international tour, Switchfoot cross musical borders in Australia’s festival scene. Last time they played the festival circuit down under, it was Soundwave, now it’s Bluesfest. Yet, no matter the place or genre, Butler’s love of Australia is obvious. And vice-versa. “We’ve been coming down there for many years and always look forward to the shows. Australia has been very good to us over the years, in terms of people coming out to the shows, and singing along, and really knowing the music. You know the conversations that we have with our audience there are very thoughtful, I think people dive into the lyrics and get below the surface of a three-minute pop song, and I think that’s appreciated. The energy of the live shows, it’s a two way conversation with the audience, we’re throwing the music out there, but they’re singing it right back and I think that’s a real special experience for us every time we come to Australia”. [pullquote]We take our music seriously, but we don’t take ourselves seriously”.[/pullquote]

Even with all their success and fame, Switchfoot’s identifiable self-deprecating approach is maybe what Australians love about the band. Butler seems to sum up this attitude when asked to describe Switchfoot’s sound in food form. “Wow, that’s a great question. I guess I’d go for an upside down cake, because maybe that’s indicative of the reverse approach we take to music and life. The term Switchfoot means going the opposite way that you’d normally go on your board, and it’s sort of a tongue-in-cheek way of surfing, sort of like throwing a ball with your weak arm. We don’t take ourselves too seriously”.

Article by Mary Boukouvalas.

Catch Switchfoot on their Australian tour when they return to Australia in March and April to play playing two headlining shows in Sydney and Melbourne before heading up to Byron Bay to surf and perform at Bluesfest.

Tuesday 31st March: 170 Russell – Melbourne
Wednesday 1st April: HiFi Bar – Sydney

Thursday 2nd April – Monday 6th April: Bluesfest – Byron Bay

For more information, visit here.

About Mary Boukouvalas 1614 Articles
Mary is a photographer and a writer, specialising in music. She runs where she endeavours to capture the passion of music in her photos whether it's live music photography, promotional band photos or portraits. She has photographed The Rolling Stones, KISS, Iggy Pop, AC/DC, Patti Smith, Joe Strummer, PULP, The Cult, The Damned, The Cure, Ian Brown, Interpol, MUDHONEY, The MELVINS, The Living End, Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against The Machine, The Stone Roses –just to name a few - in Australia, USA, Europe and the Middle East. Her work has been published in Beat magazine, Rolling Stone magazine, Triple J magazine, The Age Newspaper, The Herald Sun, The Australian, Neos Kosmos,,,, She has a permanent photographic exhibition at The Corner Hotel in Richmond, Victoria Australia.