CONFRONT: What was the recording process like on “Between Illness And Migration”?
YOUR FAVORITE ENEMIES: I guess the best way to describe the whole recording process for “Between Illness And Migration” would be “freedom through a communal let go”. It’s from the freedom we allowed ourselves to experience that we’ve been able to create what we consider true defining musical moments, musical moments that were the defining reflection of the communion we shared, as we were letting go of anything but of the authenticity of being together in the same room. That’s why most of the album has been recorded live, in our own facilities – a former catholic church we bought a few years ago and turned into a recording studio. That’s why what’s on the record are for us true moments, from the collective writing standpoint to the final mixing process. We simply decided to assume the music that bloomed from the 6 of us playing our souls out. Alive, imperfect, broken, dreamful, out of control, dangerously out synch at times… all that, and probably more… But nonetheless completely free and assumed. That’s the only thing we cared about, having the courage of “being” and of assuming what might come out of it. What came out of it gravitates “Between Illness And Migration”. What comes out of it is 6 people’s communion, without all the doubts and fears of the exterior world, free from gravity.
CONFRONT: How does this album differ from your past releases?
YFE: I think the whole band’s dynamic and the global perspectives were the real initiators of what would arise pretty much naturally, as we first gathered in our live studio room to write the album. As everything we knew (or pretended knowing) before was the aseptically managed approach defined by a very intimate “singer/songwriter/self-producer/loner/do-only-what-I-say” kind of approach, also known as the “insecure – control freak – anti climax” approach. No wonder why the tension that came with that “self-preservation” way to manage the creative environment never gave anything collectively uplifting or worth inspiring any kind of communing let go.
So from a deeply frustrating and unbearable process we used to embrace with the shiniest of all golden fake smiles, we turned it into a live “if it’s real, it will bloom” kind of old school “PLAY – REC” type of inspirational embodiment. Which, in many ways, is why “Between Illness And Migration” could have been called “Between Epiphanies To Every Other Catastrophes” due to its total let go process and its pure free will nature.
CONFRONT: What’s one thing you learned from recording this album that you’ll bring with you to the studio for the next one?
YFE:If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it would be that it’s all about the personal degree of surrender and let go that creates a collective communion and ultimately gives birth to a true musical journey, not the magic thinking of if we stand in an incredibly creative environment it will assuredly change an emotionally sterile communion into some uplifting upper room. And trust me, the incredible singularity of being in our own church is quite soulful and stirring for the first few mornings, but we realized pretty quickly that the inspirational epiphany wouldn’t come from the spiritual nature of our creative environment. It all came down to the degree of involvement we were ready to have towards each other. Not towards the project itself, but towards our relationships. That’s the sacred place.
CONFRONT: Which song did you most enjoy seeing come to life in the studio?
YFE: As we recorded pretty much everything live, everyone standing in the same big room looking at each other abandoning himself to the moment, I would say that every single song has been really special and unique in the way it came to life. It’s mostly how they have been assumed thereafter.
But, if I had to chose one song, it would be the original version of “From The City To The Ocean” that has been released on the Japanese edition of the album. It’s a 12-minute journey filled with confusion, make-believes, illusions… a fearful hold on to a personal loss of innocence. The musical soundscape is a twisted sonic vertigo awaiting the relief of a true let go. It’s been recorded in the middle of the night. We felt the song was leading us to witness the morning lights ascending through the everlasting stream of our own self-created dusk. And through stained glass windows, that morning light was simply incredible.
CONFRONT: What was the process behind this decision to create your own record label and do you find it’s added extra difficulty for you as musicians or done the complete opposite?
YFE: The process was very simple, as it was out of complete functionary necessity that we decided to manage every aspect of our own vision. We didn’t have a 5-year plan to conquer the world. We were a bunch of outcasts without much self-confidence who got caught in a completely unpredictable stream of people who happened to relate to their music and spirits. So when people from everywhere in the world suddenly asked to get our music, we had to organize ourselves quite fast. And since our vision wasn’t shared by our representatives at the time, we decided to simply take ownership of our vision.
It clearly doesn’t allow us to get away with the costly mistakes, very bad decisions and crazy gambles we’ve lost. And it took away our opportunity of blaming the label management for doing a bad job on an unsuccessful album. We set the budget of our projects. So much for the extravaganza of the rock star lifestyle! But hey, there are a few upsides too!
One of the upsides of having our own label I think remains the fact that every single step we make needs to be strongly assumed by everyone of us because we do know that nobody will come to clean the mess after us. We really know what’s at stake. So if we’re not “all in” in a project we initiate, we simply pass on. We strongly think that when you deeply believe in something, regardless of how odd it might look like to the outside business world or how off it might be to the eyes of the usual outside doubters, you will dedicate yourself according to the measure of faith you initially had for it. Nothing ever goes according to plan, trust me. So we need to trust each other and we need to be tight together. As for us, there’s a huge difference between having ambition and having a vision. Ambition creates illusionary giggles and ephemeral fizzes, as opposed to the inspiring freedom you get from having a vision.
But to be quite honest, having our own label allows us first of all the great privilege of working with our best friends every day. That’s why, regardless of the insanely long days of work and the madly nonstop “gotta be focus” ethos we have, we don’t see “Hopeful Tragedy Records” as a traditional music business endeavour. It’s first and foremost a community, a unique family. We were pretty much all there at the very foundation of the label, and to see what we’ve been able to create all together is way beyond anything we could have imagined or dreamed of. For everyone of us, it’s a place called “home”.
CONFRONT: What was your reaction to finding out you were named Canada’s Best Kept Secret by Kerrang Magazine?
YFE: It’s always special to find out about other people’s perspective of you. I mean, we are doing our “thing” without thinking about the necessity of “being” through the eyes of the business pundits we are theoretically a part of. So we are usually taking those things for what they are, a very happy accident coming our way. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t play the “too cool to be moved by any of this”, but we are relativizing everything for what it is, and for Kerrang it led me back to when I used to read all those magazines thinking those bands and artists were totally out of this world kind of gods and untouchable creatures. So it’s always special to see ourselves in any type of publication… a mix of gratefully humbling feelings and the utterly truth of “there’s no way I could have dreamed about such thing to happen” type of sensations.
As for being considered “Canada’s Best Kept Secret”… well, with all the incredible Canadian all genre artists radiating all over the world, maybe we were the last of all Canadian horde of artists on the list who wasn’t known back home lolol… And for once, it was nice not being confused for a band from the UK or New York, like we usually are.
CONFRONT: You’ve toured extensively outside of Canada. Which city or country surprised you the most when you played there and why?
YFE: It’s true that we’ve been extremely privileged to tour in so many fabulous countries all over the world and even more incredibly blessed to witness so many magnificent things, as we’ve been invited to immerse ourselves in so many different cultures. We have special stories for every country we visited. We all have very amazing memories associated to very specific places. For me, Japan, France, China and the UK have been really singular over the years. Japan has always been very special for me. Ever since I first had the honor of visiting the country, it felt exactly like what I imagined “home” would truly be. It’s hard to describe such an emotional bond. Let’s say it’s a profound sensation of peace and rest, in my deepest time of needs.
France is a true soulful place for me to lose myself in, not only as a writer or a literature and art junkie, but because I fell in love with the people. Some may say that love is blind, but I guess I’m probably the only one in the whole world who actually finds Parisians incredibly welcoming and sweet…! What?!? If you don’t love Parisians, it’s because you have never been violently screamed at. There’s such a romantic aspect to it. Hum, scream for me again… You are right, ”je suis un enfoiré et je suis un sale connard”. That accent, music to my soul…! As for China, it’s been the most incredible human experience we have ever had while touring. We spent 6 weeks touring all over the country. We were the first band – wait, the first foreigners – to visit some cities, meet incredibly welcoming, curious, generous and passionate people. Regardless of the generation, province or city, the people are discovering the transforming power of dreams. The young people are amazingly on fire. As for the music scene, let’s say it’s New York or London between 1972 and 1979, but multiplied by 1000 times, if not more. It’s insane, so much that it redefined our whole approach on stage and offstage as well. Iggy Pop’s stage dive and other insane jumps would look like minor events beside what we have witnessed during some of our gigs. It was “is it some suicide attempt or simply a mad incarnation of what letting go is all about?” type of insane.
With all that being said, the UK remains the most romantic of all places for me. Not only is it where most of our favorite bands, the ones I grew up listening to and still listen today are from, but everything started in London for us, a couple of years ago. It was the very first time we felt welcomed to “be”, regardless of the “trend” and regardless of what should be cool. It was us, pretty messed up, but nonetheless us. This was quite a liberating sensation for us at the time.
CONFRONT: Where would you still love to play?
YFE: I would say Kyoto, Japan. We are playing once a year in a historical temple located in the mountains of Kyoto, the temple part of the country protected heritage. And we are not the only foreigners who have ever played there, but the only band whatsoever to ever play in such an out of this world and extraordinary place. The family in charge of the temple are fans, and now pretty much family to us. So once again, our music and human values lead us to the most unlikely place to commune.
CONFRONT: What’s one thing fans may not know about the band?
YFE: Miss Isabel convinced me to sing an ecclesiastic hymn song on a very old school gospel project she worked on, a few years ago. Maybe my strange mix of John Lydon – Nick Cave meets Don Mclean, Phil Ochs and Jackson C Frank type of rendition explains a little bit of why it’s still considered as an upcoming project for Miss Isabel lol…
CONFRONT: If you could perform with any musician alive or dead who would it be and why?
YFE: A common choice would definitely be Joe Strummer, mainly because his music gave me the courage to go through the most difficult period of my teenage years… and because he is the main reason I don’t think twice before jumping in the crowd from a venue’s second floor balcony. Kurt Cobain would be a common choice as well, for his passion and his total let go. But if I only had one choice (kinda like the question you asked lol), it would be Nick Cave, only because he is Nick Cave and therefore nobody else is or could be… and that’s more than enough for me!!!
CONFRONT: What three artists/songs or albums aren’t currently on repeat on your playlist and why?
YFE: Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – Abattoir Blues
This is the type of album that slowly goes inside your soul and completely transforms you as a person. And somehow, you need more and more of its chaos, of its noises, of it’s spirit, of it’s wicked whispers and peaceful screams.
Savages – Silence Yourself
This is my latest musical obsession. It’s refreshing to hear a new passionate and raging incarnation of what I grew up listening to, added with a dangerous tone and a genuine sense of emergency. It’s simply what it needs to be, with no pretension but only a death punch in the guts of nowadays’ boring and generic music.
Sonic Youth – Sonic Nurse
It’s one of the band’s all time favorite albums of mine, a mix of dirty sixties à la Velvet Underground sound, discordant twist of their unique way to balance noise with psych melodies and most of all an album for which you experience its journey on a personal level… whatever it means and where ever it might lead.
CONFRONT: What can fans expect from Your Favorite Enemies in 2014?
YFE: The cards are quite shuffled, because we set the “Between Illness And Migration” to be a multiple release, country by country type of unique release schedule. So it’s gonna be quite a busy year. We’re presently in Barcelona to shoot our next single video before embarking in a 6 weeks UK promo tour… We’re going back to China for a 5-week tour, we’re releasing a special EP exclusively for France… All that before coming back on time for the release of the Canadian version of “Between Illness And Migration”, due out on May 20th, and to tour for the first time home right after. Summer is set for European festivals’ madness, where we’ll bring back our own circus madness back in Fall. Vitamin pills, adrenaline injection shots and blood transfusion bags can be sent out to the band’s usual address under the name : “2014 survival kit” lol