Most DVD and blu-ray releases in music are fairly mild fluff pieces. They don’t show or talk about anything real. There’s controversy in a lot of them, but most of the time that’s staged and you can tell. With the new Switchfoot documentary, Fading West, the opposite can be said. It’s about as real of a view as you’ll get into the lives of the long-running San Diego band. They’ve been at it for over twenty years and soon they’ll have been at it for nine albums. With Fading West you can watch the definition of the band come to life. It’s not just with how they interact with each other and how they feel about surfing, this movie touches on a lot of personal details of the guys’ lives. Alternative Addiction recently caught up with the band’s Chad Butler to talk about Fading West and how personal the movie turned out to be.
“It surprised us,” explained Butler. “We set out to make a movie about music and surfing, chasing waves and songs around the world. Along the way there were some unexpected twists and turns in the year that we were filming. The decision was to keep the cameras rolling and then decide what to put in the film. We captured it all, the highs and lows. The decision to put in some of the more difficult experiences was a little uncomfortable to be that vulnerable; exposing our family life and the inner-workings of the brotherhood of the band off-stage was hard. That stuff is typically very private. In this case, we felt like this was real and honest. We felt that if the movie was as human as possible then it would benefit the story. So that was a tough decision but I’m glad we did it. I think it’s a real honest look at what it’s like to be in a band, especially to be in a band as long as we have.”
It’s not like they didn’t have footage to fall back on if they didn’t want to put that stuff in the final cut. Talking with Butler about making the movie after the filming portion of Fading West was over, he talked about how much footage the band had to sift through in the editing process to find what turned out to be Fading West.
“That was the most daunting part. We had thousands of hours of footage to go through. We probably overshot this film but we were trying to cast a wide-net because we weren’t sure what we were going to capture. There was a lot of subject matter. Surfing in all of these beautiful locations, looking for musical inspiration, there were a lot of different opportunities to explore. The camera crew was with us on the road off and on for 12 months and then it took about that long to edit the film. It was definitely an undertaking, but it was our first film and you learn the hard way.”
Fading West made it’s debut a while ago and it’s been received well by both critics and fans. If you’ve seen the movie then you’ve heard the music that goes along with it. You’ll be able to pick up the album next month and then you can experience the songs away from the film. For the band, it’s difficult to separate the two. It’s hard to hear or play the songs without thinking of the movie and it’s hard to see the movie without thinking of the music that goes along with it. So, the question we asked Butler was which came first the movie or the music? He said they were kind of done and worked on at the same time in different phases.
“During the process of the tour and filming we were working on new songs and looking for inspiration for a ninth album. That was the whole point of the project in the first place,” started the longtime Switchfoot drummer. “We wanted to go to our favorite places in the world to get inspired. On-camera, you can see some of these songs come to life from the very beginning stages to Jon and Tim working on a riff at the foot of a bed in a hotel room or Jerome recording some indigenous instrument in Indonesia and taking that home. After the year we brought all of these song ideas back to our studio in San Diego and began to flush those out and develop those into songs for the album. The process was complete when the final edit of the film was in front of us then we were able to insert the songs into the scenes and adapt the music to fit the visuals. We had always wanted to do a soundtrack and what a better way to do that than to make our own film?”
The band’s currently on break for the holidays but they’ll be back touring next year to support the release of the album. You can buy Fading West digitally on iTunes, we’ll keep you up to date on package deals of the movie and the album together as they get announced.