As drummer for the rock band Switchfoot, there’s one moment Chad Butler always waits for during a show. It’s not a particular song or stage antic, rather that moment rests in the hands—or rather the voices—of the audience.
“The most amazing moment for me is to hear the audience sing a song back to us,” Butler said. “That’s a huge honor. The craziest thing about music is that we can meet people around the world and to have people sing your song back to you is fantastic. The biggest compliment you can pay to a band is to come to their show and sing along.”
And the power of music transcends borders. The group recently returned from a global tour, which included stops in Africa and India, where fans were singing their songs right back to them.
“It’s just fantastic to think that music which was written in a bedroom at 3 a.m. trying to figure out life and wrestling with the big questions…that these songs have made their ways around the globe,” Butler said. “And it’s so beautiful to see so many different types of people in the audience, and such a diverse mix of people from all walks of life and ethnicities and ages and backgrounds all brought together.”
For almost 20 years, Switchfoot has toured nationwide and around the globe and on Aug. 10, the group returned to Terminal 5 in New York City as part of the De Compadres Tour. Joining Switchfoot on the tour is Needtobreathe, another veteran band whose latest single “Brother” features Gavin DeGraw, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors and Colony House.
While all four bands specialize in meaningful lyrics, their sounds are distinctly different—some of that could probably be attributed to their very different backgrounds. It’s easy to hear the southern rock influences in South Carolina-bred Needtobreathe’s music, which includes generous amounts of harmonica, banjo and mandolin. Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, which hails from Tennessee, has a more folksy sound you want to stomp your feet to, while Colony House has an upbeat indie sound reminiscent of the Cold War Kids or Bombay Bicycle Club. Butler notes that the combination of bands has been a great mix, as have the venues they’ve been playing, many of which have been outdoors.
“Dos Compadres has been a dream come true,” he said. “This has been my favorite summer tour ever. They’re such good people and we have such a good mix of music. Each of our bands are coming from different places and have such different sounds but we collaborate so well and it’s like a big party on stage.”
Switchfoot is no stranger to touring, getting their start in 1996 in San Diego. The group was formed by Butler and his two friends, brothers Jon (lead vocals and guitar) and Tim Foreman (bass, backup vocals), who were eventually joined by Jerome Fontamillas (on piano) and Drew Shirley (on guitar). Now, nine albums and almost 20 years later, the band has done what many others of their peers have failed to: continue to not only produce high quality music, but have fun doing it.
Butler said the band’s longevity has far exceeded any expectations he had when the band was initially formed.
“I never dreamed we could make music every day of our lives and
call it a job,” Butler said. “We started out making music just for the love of it, with just a few songs we loved. We try to be in the moment and
play each show like it’s our last. You’re not guaranteed another
one and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to be on the road with my best friends.”
And stagnancy isn’t an option for the band. Butler said the group is constantly creating and are currently working on ideas for their 10th album, which they’re planning to record in the fall.
“More so now than ever, we’re trying to challenge ourselves to
play something that sounds fresh and different, and to explore new territory sonically and lyrically, whether that’s approaching the instrument differently or approaching songwriting in a different way,” Butler noted. “We’re always trying to push ourselves.”