All Access: Switchfoot

May 1, 2004 12:00 PM, By Steve Jennings


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Mix caught Switchfoot at their sold-out Fillmore Auditorium show in San Francisco, while they were out supporting their still-growing The Beautiful Letdown CD. The band has played a few different legs in the U.S. and Canada, and made quick trips to Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand. We spoke with production manager/front-of-house engineer Ryan Nichols and band/stage tech Todd Cooper about the tour.

“We only carry band gear, a small supplemental light rig and merchandise,” says Ryan Nichols, Switchfoot's production manager and sound engineer. “This is definitely the toughest obstacle for me to overcome: having different gear every night. Most of the venues we play in have sufficient P.A.s. Sometimes we have to supplement the monitors, but that's where advancing comes into play. We're trying to keep things as simple as possible, but I see the band touring with full production in the very near future.

“All three vocalists are on Shure SM58s. Tim [Foreman, bassist and vocals] and Jerome [Fontamillas, guitarist, keyboards and vocals] are on cabled mics for backing vocals, and Jon [Foreman, lead singer/guitarist] is using the Shure ULX handheld version. We started carrying our own mics a long time back. The reason I chose the 58s is because they sound very smooth on any P.A. out there and they are beyond durable. There are challenges involved, like drum and cymbal bleed, but, hey, this is live rock 'n' roll. As for monitor systems, the band tried in-ears a while ago and did not like the isolated, sterile world it created inside each musician's head. We've been using wedges, while Jon uses an in-ear in his right ear with just his vocal in it.

“Technically, I feel the most important aspect of the show is the vocals. Jon's lyrics have a true positive message, so making the vocals clear is important for the crowd to understand every word.

“[For outboard gear] I use an instrument reverb, a vocal reverb, a slight vocal chorus and a delay. I'll use a Yamaha 90II, 900, 990 and Rev 7, TC Electronic M1 and D2, and Roland 1000 delay. I compress the kick, snare, bass, acoustic and vocals, and gate the second snare, rack and floor. Typical units there are Drawmer and dbx.

“We're currently in the middle of an extremely intense tour: 50 shows in 60 days. I really feel this is an amazing band with great songs. Everyone on tour believes wholeheartedly about what we are doing. It makes for a truly wonderful tour.”.

Gear up onstage comprises guitarist Jon Foreman playing through a Vox AC-30; Fontamillas is playing an Orange OR 120 head through a Marshall 4×12 cab; and Tim Foreman's bass runs through a Tech21 SansAmp for the house and uses a Gallien-Krueger 2001 head through two 4×10 GK ported cabs for his stage sound.

“My station is pretty simple,” says Todd Cooper, band and stage tech. “I run the guitars through a Boss stage tuner, then through a Peterson VS II digital strobe tuner. I also run a line from there to a small Rock It belt clip amp that I use to hear the guitars to check the tuning audibly. I'm in charge of around 15 guitars now.”.

“Since we don't have a monitor engineer with us, Tim works with the house monitor engineer while each member puts together his mix,” Nichols says. “I'm doing FOH at the same time. This lets each person have a solid mix, including being able to hear tones with or without the house P.A. on, and it doesn't overload the house monitor mixer.”.

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