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Surfing for Spirituality

Switchfoot's Oh! Gravity keeps door open for questions.

The term switchfoot is used in surfing to describe the ability to shift your feet on the board to face either direction. It's similar to being ambidextrous and requires a heightened sense of balance.

Appropriately enough, Switchfoot is also the name of a successful band that has maintained a tricky balancing act of its own over the last 10 years: Switchfoot is one of the few acts today that remains secular-friendly while being grounded firmly in the faith.

A pastor's son from San Diego, lead singer and guitarist Jon Foreman started the band in 1996 with his brother Tim on bass and friend Chad Butler on drums. They soon signed with a Christian label and built a following among fans of Christian rock.

That following broadened with mainstream exposure. In 2003, the band's fourth album, The Beautiful Letdown, proved a breakthrough hit, achieving double-platinum status (selling 2 million copies) and yielding two Top 10 radio singles. 2005's Nothing Is Sound did well with radio and retail, striking gold with half a million units sold.

Like popular mainstays U2, the Dave Matthews Band, and Coldplay, Switchfoot has achieved equilibrium between artistry and accessibility. Members enjoy experimenting with some unusual sound effects and instrumentation, but they counter that with catchy melodies that inspire listeners to sing along.

Switchfoot's sense of balance is even more important when it comes to lyrics. Though not a band known for overt expressions of faith, it's not hard to discern where Foreman is coming from as he considers whether life is all it should be ("Dare You to Move"), pondering if it isn't more than selfish pursuits ("Meant to Live") and concluding that there's grace and deeper purpose to our existence ("The Beautiful ...

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