At the end of their set at the Regency Ballroom, from left: Switchfoot’s Tim Foreman, Chad Butler, Jon Foreman, Jerome Fontamillas and Drew Shirley
Fuzzed-out rockers Switchfoot may have taken a new path for their latest, Hello Hurricane—a new studio HQ, new label and a return to their San Diego roots—but onstage, they are as effervescent and crowd-pleasing as they were the first time they stepped under the stage lights 10 years ago. Mix caught up with the multimillion-selling rock band at San Francisco’s sold-out gig at the Regency Ballroom.
For effects, Nichols taps a Fairchild 660 on the bass and acoustic, Digidesign Smack! on vocals and Crane Song Phoenix Luster on a variety of channels, “mostly to add warmth in this digital domain,” he says. “I stick with pretty basic ’verbs and choruses for the vocals and drums, with the Line 6 Echo Farm delay for specials.”
The P.A. is house-provided (all other gear is provided by 8TwentyFour Productions in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.). “Having a different P.A. every day definitely makes it a challenge to have consistency with my mixes, but that is what keeps me young! The band only uses in-ears and a single 18-inch sub for the drummer that we carry. In a lot of venues, I use house wedges for fills for the fans down front. Not having wedges leaves a hole in the coverage for the vocals and direct instruments, and those are the biggest fans so you have to take care of them.”
Ryan Nichols, FOH engineer
Ryan Nichols, front-of-house engineer/production manager, mixes on a Digidesign Show Profile, citing its small footprint and compatibility with Pro Tools for recording as perks. “You can’t knock the variety of plug-ins,” he adds. “We play the new album, Hello Hurricane, in its entirety for the band’s first set and [the board] makes my job a lot easier to be able to duplicate the exact plug-ins used in the studio. I have my FOH setup on files for just about every digital console. We travel overseas quite a bit and it isn’t always practical to demand a specific desk. As long as I can load my file, I’m good to go. It’s nice to know that I can carry multiple consoles on an airplane in my backpack.”
As for Nichols’ mixing style, keeping vocalist/guitarist Jon Foreman’s voice on top is a crucial element. “I have never been a mixer that tries to emulate the album; I always felt that the fans can go home and listen to the record; let’s make the live show its own event.”
Jon Foreman sings through a Shure UR2/SM58 wireless mic; backing vocals take SM58s. “Jon is always in the crowd a long distance from the stage and the wireless range on the UR2 is outstanding,” comments Liuzzi.
According to Liuzzi, there are two Shure 515 push-to-talk mics onstage: One is set up behind Jon Foreman’s amp (pictured) and one at the drums for the band to communicate with each other and with the monitor engineer without being in the P.A. during the show.
Jon Foreman runs a TopHat King Royale 2x12 combo and a Line 6 X3 Pro for both electric and acoustic guitars. “He tries to keep it simple so he can focus on singing and interacting with the crowd,” says guitar/bass tech Chris Beaty. “It’s miked with a SM57 and has a direct line, as well.”
Drummer Chad Butler’s kit takes a Shure Beta 91 (kick), Beta 98s (toms), SM57s (snare top/bottom), KSM 137 (hi-hat) and KSM 32s (overheads).
Monitor engineer Michael “Miggs” Liuzzi
Monitor engineer Michael “Miggs” Liuzzi (who also does double-duty as drum and keyboard tech, as well as stage manager) mans a Yamaha M7CL, using few plug-ins—mostly light compression on a few vocals and the snare drum. “The guys don’t like a lot of processing,” he explains. “They like everything wide open and ‘live’-sounding in their ears. We use Ultimate Ears UE11s; they sound amazing.”
Jerome Fontamillas’ keyboard setup comprises a 73-key Rhodes Stage Piano and a Korg M3 keyboard. Through the Rhodes, he runs a Line 6 Echo Park delay pedal and a Visual Sound Route 808 distortion pedal. For added effects on the Korg, he runs an extra line through a Korg Kaoss Pad 3. He plays through an Orange AD30 2x12 Combo miked with an SM57.
Drew Shirley (guitars) is using a 65 London Head and a 1950s Supro Super, both through a 65 cabinet with 2x12-inch Pre Rola Celestions. According to guitar/bass tech Chris Beaty, each speaker is miked with an SM57. “Drew is our effects wizard—always trying to replicate the sounds from the record through his rig and arsenal of pedals,” Beaty says. “He has two pedal boards: The one on the ground comprises an Ibanez Tube Screamer TS808 Keeley Mod, JHS Bun Runner Custom Made OD and Fuzz, Line 6 Delay DL4 JHS MOD, Electro Harmonix Holy Grail Reverb, [Radial] Tonebone Switchbone amp switcher, Aspect Design Labs Switchbox and a Boss TU-2 Tuner. There is one up in his guitar rack so he can affect with his hands. That board comprises a Menatone Pleasure Trem 5000, Korg Kaoss Pad and an Ibanez Analog Delay.”
Bassist Tim Foreman plays a Lakland Decade model run through a Line 6 Lowdown HD750 bass amp through a Gallien Krueger bass cab; he also uses a Line 6 M9 Stompbox Modeler pedal.