Over the course of its career, the San Diego-based Switchfoot has been labeled contemporary Christian, alternative and radio-ready rock. Jerome Fontamillas, who has played guitar with the band since 2000, said all have been true -- and none is completely accurate.
He said Switchfoot, which will perform Wednesday at the University of South Carolina Aiken Convocation Center, is just a band that approaches music with honesty, integrity and a focus on the work involved in being a successful touring act.
"Growing up, we used to go to the clubs and listen to the local punk rock," Mr. Fontamillas said in a recent telephone interview. "Those were the working bands out there, and it's what we thought the life of a musician was. It's something that continues to carry. We still approach music like that, still are involved in everything the band does."
He said that although success has made it more difficult to engage individual fans, band members still want to make the music and themselves accessible.
"The more people hear you, the more a piece of you needs to go out," he said. "I mean, when radio plays you, when you are on TV, people want to know about you. And when that demand is there, you owe it to them to, in some way, make yourself available. It's actually something that's an honor for us."
Although Switchfoot has been both praised and criticized for churning out radio-ready hits, Mr. Fontamillas said writing catchy pop-rock tunes isn't effortless. He said that for each track that makes it onto an album, there are several that will never see the light of day.
"You have to work hard in crafting a song that people will listen to," he said. "Of course, John Foreman (Switchfoot's lead singer) is an amazing lyricist. But it is a process of sifting. We might write 100 songs, and I'll tell you, there are a lot of them that will be terrible."
The Switchfoot work ethic, Mr. Fontamillas said, is borne from the idea that success can be fleeting and takes real effort to preserve. He said the good news is that music is never about the goal but rather the continuing journey.
"People ask me if I feel like I've hit the top," he said with a laugh. "But a musician is always trying to tune the craft. There is always someone out there bigger and better, and that's good to think about.
"For me, success will always be how I treat my family, my wife, my church and my community. After all, we could be the choice of the day now and tomorrow be Milli Vanilli. Music is fickle."
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHAT: Switchfoot, with Athlete
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: University of South Carolina Aiken Convocation Center
COST: $18-$23; (803) 643-6900 or www.uscatix.com