by Nickie Wang
American rock band Switchfoot is back on touring. The group is set to stage four concerts in Australia this April before embarking on a Southeast Asian gig that will kick off in Singapore, followed by a concert in Jakarta, and finally in Kuala Lumpur. The good news, the quintet is also set to perform here in Manila by the end of the month.
This announcement was shared by Jerome Fontamillas, the band’s keyboardist and guitarist, with the author through an exclusive phone interview on March 26, same time when the band was actually recording the 11th track in its upcoming album entitled Vice Verses.
“We are going to perform songs from the album Hello Hurricane, and probably throw in some tracks off the new album as well,” Jerome talks about the band’s repertoire on April 30 at the PhilSports Arena.
The 46-year-old musician became an official member of Switchfoot in 2003, when he quitted a day job in favor of pursuing his ultimate passion for music. Jerome, who is by the way a 100 percent Filipino, feels extremely thrilled that he is going back to the country.
“We had a great time during our first visit. The crowd’s energy level was amazing. That’s one of the reasons why we look forward to perform there again. I remember, I was even forced to eat balut…I had several great memories when we first visited Manila,” the musician recalls.
Although a true blue Pinoy, Jerome does not have any recollection of his childhood here in the Philippines. Born in Pasay City, Jerome moved to America when he was only three years old.
“But that doesn’t make (me) less of a Filipino. I always tell my bandmates about the culture in the Philippines and how warm Filipinos are,” he affirms.
Switchfoot first came to mainstream attention when four of it songs were included in the 2002 movie A Walk to Remember, most popular of which is “Only Hope” that lead star Mandy Moore also covered. In 2008, the band produced and recorded a song for the film The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.
The San Diego, California-based band was founded in 1996 and all the members share the same passion for surfing that’s why, according to vocalist and frontman Jon Foreman, “Switchfoot is a surfing term that means to take a new stance facing the opposite direction.”
“We are a very closed-knit band. If we were not playing music we would still be hanging out together. That what makes us different as a band and practically the secret to the longevity,” Jerome shares.
Other members of the band are Tim Foreman (bass), Chad Butler (drums),and Drew Shirley (guitar).
Inspiring, passionate and driven music
Scenes that depict destruction can never be beautiful but if you would ask anyone who has a high level of optimism at any given circumstances, a special kind of hope can be drawn from images of tragedy and mishap.
That’s the central theme of Hello Hurricane, an album released in 2009. In December last year, Hello Hurricane was nominated for the Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album award for the 53rd Grammy Awards and on Feb. 13, the album was declared winner in the category.
“It’s an album inspired by the devastating Hurricane Katrina that caused subsequent floods in New Orleans that also caused death of many people,” Jerome says.
Jerome explained that the band took inspiration from the people who coped up with the disaster and saw the other side of the whole catastrophe. And because of the meaningful messages the album conveys, members of the band consider the record as a milestone project for it opened a new chapter in their lives both personally and professionally.
“So the new album that we call Vice Verses is more of a sequel to the previous album. The new materials that we have are relevant because of the current situation our world faces,” Jerome says also highlighting the bands effort to inspire the victims of the recent tragedy in Japan.
Another Filipino musician on the rise
Rock musician Miguel Escueta is not as popular as the mainstream music artists that we know. It’s even hard to search for interesting bits about him on the web since he doesn’t have a huge fan base or fanatics that would compile anything and everything about him (he has his own website though).
Miguel is a 26-year-old musician who plays the guitar and composes his own songs. He broke into the local music scene in 2007 when he released a pop-rock album entitled I Am Me. But his initial entry in the world of entertainment was in 2003 when he placed as a runner up in a competition held by a local radio station. Now, Miguel is regularly seen on television via his stint on Party Pilipinas.
In one occasion, Miguel and his band was given a change to open the concert of an international music artist. In October he was the front act in Kelly Clarkson gig at the Araneta Coliseum.
At the moment, Miguel is delighted to announce another milestone in his career. At the launch of his sophomore album, Miguel said that two of his songs caught the attention of a former musical director for CBS Network, and if everything materializes, his songs will soon be heard by the American audience.
According to the young musician, the tracks “Now It Starts” and “You” (both off his sophomore album) are signed for inclusion in the soundtrack of the hit American TV shows Gossip Girl, Smallville, Vampire Diaries and CSI.
“The ball is rolling already and these songs are really being pushed to be included as soundtracks to those television series,” Miguel shares.
He said that this opportunity inspires him to compose more meaningful songs and quality music videos.
“It brought new life for me and my band. That’s why we want to make good music videos as we could. Once the songs come out there and people start searching for them…we want them to see world class videos. That’s our thrust right now,” he says.