We did an interview with the Canadian alternative rock band Your Favorite Enemies (following YFE), who toured in Japan for the third time from at the end of September to the beginning of October. We talked about their actions based on the DIY ethos they’ve been dedicated to since 2006, year the band was formed, and also about the heart they infused into the Japan debut album “Between Illness And Migration”.
Alex (following A) : Thanks for coming on Sunday.
– No no, Thanks to you for taking time for us despite being busy. How many people are with you on the road including the camera and video crew members?
– Twelve! Wow. It’s rare to see bands coming to Japan with such a large group of people.
A：Yeah. Like a circus, isn’t it? lol
– When it’s twelve people, it must be hard to organize everyone, isn’t it?
Ben（following B）：I think so!
A：Yeah, because we have some troublemakers. lol They should learn to behave from Japanese people.
– Do you sometimes lose some people? lol
A : No, that never happens. Each and every one of us has a different role and we are always busy, performing a show or meeting with the fans, so there is no time to do something bad. We are all having fun being together. Of course, between the band members, but also with Stephanie who’s doing photography, and Kosho & Momoka who are Japanese members of our crew. Everybody gets along with each other. And we are very close to the fans as well. As much as they are looking forward to see us, we’ve also been very excited since we arrived in Japan. We think of our band as one big community that includes the fans. In this case, it may be better to say that we’re the great movement of a large family rather than a circus. Well, we do crazy things sometimes, though. lol
– Regarding the community, I heard that the Japanese fans support the tour this time. How did you meet the Japanese fans and built such relationships?
A : I think it was 2006. When we started to share our music on the internet, we met some Japanese people online. We’ve been always a band who shared close relationships with the fans and it was natural for us to build friendship with Japanese fans as well. It’s not like the relationships between the artists and the fans but it’s deeper connections, where we can share and talk about social issues or personal worries. Through those exchanges by messages, I felt that the Japanese youth was really amazing, but on the other hand, I realized that it’s also a youth that’s depressed and worried. And it made me feel like doing something for them. Including this visit to Japan, all those projects and the concerts are the extension of our heart for Japanese people. I discovered about Japan through its people, so I loved Japan before I even came here.
– There are a lot of foreign bands hoping to have deep connections with the fans from other countries but can’t really make it happen. You guys were able to build those relationships with people. Is it because you were working much harder to communicate with the fans than the other bands?
A : I guess it was because we didn’t have any desire to create a fan base. We just wanted to be friends and family for them. We don’t have any ambitions to extend the fan base for the success in our career. We just talk with people on the same level.
– On the same level?
A : Yeah, as an example, we do have worries about how long we can keep doing music as a band in the future. So we are all the same in terms of having fears and anxieties towards living. We never had a big 5-year plan and a contract with a major label when we started the band. We are here as young people, just like everyone else. There is no doubt that the music has been a bridge for us to connect with the fans, but the so-called plan we had was to create connections, to be one as a community and to grow up all together. We’ve never had strategies or analysis. We just want to share our lives and support each other. The crew members and the fans call me Alex. And I call them with their first name as well. There is no difference between us. I guess this human relationship is the key to succeed.
– I see. So you’ve never felt the limit towards DIY? Well, I had this question but the answer would be ‘no’, right?
A : Friendship is a precious gift for me. I’m very happy to receive it and it’s really an honor for me, so I want to cherish it. I’m so happy that Japanese fans call me brother or friend. I said that the music was the bridge, but when there are deep connections, there is always this moment that goes beyond the music, internet or whatever the tool that connects us. After that we feel able to build a real relationship, feel able to grow as musicians. Of course, we did a lot of mistakes. But love is merciful and patient, so if we keep trying, love will cover the mistakes and give us the power to move forward. I think what we are doing is such a beautiful love-punk story. Well, I don’t know if there is anything like that since I’ve just created the word love-punk. lol
- How was the tour in Japan, by the way?
A : It was amazing. It was just great. We had a lot of opportunities to see people who are dear to us. I was honored and happy. A lot of musicians say that the most difficult gig is the one in your home town, but for us, every gig in Japan is like a hometown gig. We had a blast of emotions every night. We did a lot of improvisation in the songs and we created the songs depending on the vibe there. It went by so fast and I can’t believe that one of our chapters has come to an end already, I’m kind of sad. This time, we toured Japan by van. So we stopped by a lot of places and met with people who couldn’t come to the show. We met a lot of people. It was like a party everyday and we had fun.
– I don’t know if it was in Osaka or Kyoto, but I heard you stayed at a temple?
A : Yeah! Kosho’s parents house is the temple. Kosho, just like Momoka, was a fan at first. We met each other in 2008 or 2010 when we went to Japan. Kosho is now in charge of filming the videos and Momoka is coordinating the Japanese side of business and translating. I think it’s a good example of how we grew up as a community… This is why we were able to stay at the temple and have a concert there! We performed not only an acoustic set but also an electric rock set at this very historical temple. It was such a valuable experience. It was the first time I had to take my shoes off when performing. How punk is it! lol
– It must have been an amazing experience for you and fans as well.
A : Yes, we were honored to have such a rare experience. Actually, Kosho’s father, who’s a monk, was the one who was rocking the most. I was very happy to see that. I think we opened the new page for the culture. lol
– Were you able to experience something Buddhist or Zen since you were at the temple?
A : Just the fact of being at the temple and being surrounded by such an environment made us reflect on our lives. The time we spent and the things we did there came to us as a spiritual inspiration in so many aspects. It’s impressive when we think that the close relationship we’ve been feeding, a relationship that goes beyond the band and the fans, made this happen. We’ve been doing crazy things and now, we are here. Waking up in the morning, you realize you are in a temple. It was fun just like that. Experiences are made by the environment surrounding you, but whatever its shape, we always think that it’s a celebration of life. Everyday, those experiences tell us how amazing life is. And we realize it every time we come to Japan.
– Since all the band members are here, I’d like to know about each of them.
– But as we don’t have much time left and can’t ask deep questions one by one, I’d like to know what’s the first concert you’ve been to in your life. Let’s start with Ben, please.
B : Death Metal band “CRYPTOPSY”.
A : Pretty mellow. lol
B：Yeah, so sweet. lol
– Does it mean that Ben’s musical background was death metal?
B：Well, I guess so.
– How old were you?
B : I was 17 years old. Actually, 17 was not a legal age to enter the venue but I managed to get in. lol
– Haha. what about Sef?
Sef (Following S) : The concert of METALLICA, when they released “Black Album”.
– How old were you?
S : I was 16 years old. I had just started playing guitar.
A：Sef and Ben are real brothers.
– Oh, yeah? So Sef is a big brother?
– So, Sef brought Ben to a lot of concerts?
S：We now get along with each other very well, but not in the past.
B：My brother didn’t like death metal.
S : Oh yeah, I thought the music Ben listened to at that time was just noise. lol I was more into IRON MAIDEN or TESTAMENT.
－Ok, then Miss Isabel?
Miss Isabel (following M) : I guess it was when I was 16 or 17 years old, I went to the concert of COUNTING CROWS in Montreal. The reason why I remembered this is because, I was already with some of the band members, in a different band before YFE, and after we went to see the concert of COUNTING CROWS, we had a gig in West Coast, Edmonton. So we needed to drive all the way to get there for 44 hours.
M : We had 2 drivers but non-stop driving for 44 hours. At that time we were 7 people in that band, and we squeezed all together with all the equipment in one van, driving from one edge to the other in Canada. Well, we’re still doing the same crazy thing today, though. lol
– It must have been difficult for you being the only girl?
M : At that time we had another girl who was playing the keyboard. But now I’m the only one singing and playing the keyboard to save the energy. lol
A : She was the only one who was able to survive such a crazy world. lol
– What about Moose?
Charles (Following C) : PINK FLOYD. I was 16 years old.
– Which era of PINK FLOYD?
C : It was the time of “The Division Bell”, so…
C : It was a 3 night stadium concert, gathering 60,000 people and I went to the third night.
– Oh wow. You love PINK FLOYD?
C : Yeah. I love PINK FLOYD , GENESIS… that kind of progressive rock. Of course, RUSH as well, that Canada’s pride.
A : He’s very sophisticated. lol He is the only member who studied music. He has an university degree as well. I’m sorry for him. But even John Lydon (From SEX PISTOLS) didn’t go to school to study music.
Jeff (Following J) : I don’t want to answer after Moose. Mine was the concert of PENNYWISE when I was 16 years old.
– Talking about PENNYWISE, the vocalist Jim Lindberg got out of the band but came back again. What do you think about that mess?
J：Nakitakunai. (in Japanese) At first, I became a fan because of their anti-social and political claim, but Jim was going against it and got out of the band, and then he came back again. I can’t believe it’s the same band anymore. Since then, well…
– What about Alex?
A : I went to a lot of concerts of local bands but in term of professional band, it was the RAMONES who came from New York City. I was 15 or 16 years old. It changed my life. It was the first concert where I could feel there were no boundaries between the stage and the crowd. It was so powerful, loud and fast… it was so amazing. That was heavy in a real meaning. The crowd got so excited, some people took off the chairs in the venue and went on a rampage. There was someone sitting on a chair doing body surfing. It was just crazy. The reason why I’m doing crazy things now is maybe because I was there at the RAMONES’ concert. It was the night where I’ve been able to experience to let go of everything and be free by the music in a different level. Being crazy, hugging strangers, I witnessed that moment turn into something eternal with my own eyes. I heard a lot of other people who were there still talking about that night and how amazing it was. I think it was the best time for RAMONES. And I was able to feel it at the concert. When I talk about RAMONES, I always run out of time. But they left that huge impact for me.
– The first band we see live is not always the one influencing us most, but it seems like you guys have different musical backgrounds for each of you?
– Do you sometimes find it difficult to gather all the ideas from the members when you craft songs as YFE?
A : Sometimes. But the music is so important for our souls and lives that when we craft songs, we don’t need to strategize on how to do it. It comes from deep inside of us and as it gets to be more and more natural, I believe it gets to be something pure. So we don’t think too much when we craft the songs.
S : At the same time, we can discover new music because we have all different musical backgrounds. If I talk for myself, I was more into listening to the same genre of music, always staying in the same musical world. The other band members often opened the door to the discovery of new bands. Being inspired from these new discoveries and mixing in my own tastes, it can be cool for the band as well. I don’t think you lose your own tastes even if you are impacted by unknown music. To the contrary, even if you lose it, you can grow up as a musician when you challenge something new.
– What kind of bands did you discover because of the other members?
S : I’ll always remember when I first discovered SONIC YOUTH from Alex. Their music had a tension and chaos that heavy metal music didn’t have. I felt as if I was pulled into a world where there is no gravity. It was as if a new world had opened right in front of my eyes. And also the guitarist Nels Cline from WILCO. His guitar playing is such a good balance of technic, passion and chaos, all without losing the melody. He is one of my favorite guitarists, and he really inspired me.
– The interview has come to an end. Can you tell us about your plan after this tour?
A : The album “Between Illness And Migration” which has been released in Japan in March this year, will be released in the UK, France and Canada. Depending on the countries, we have different versions of the album. After every release, we want to tour each country and share it with our fans. We are really blessed just to do the music we like with our best friends, but we are also very happy to tour each country to introduce our album and thank the people who support us. Next year will be very busy. But I’m very thankful.
I just want to tell one last thing regarding the Japanese version of the album “Between Illness And Migration” in which we put a very special heart. This album was to accomplish a promise we made with a Japanese woman. She is a mother who lost her son who was a friend of ours. He suffered depression and finally killed himself. She brought Jeff and I to the 45th floor of a building in Tokyo, looked at us in the eyes and told us “Look at this scenery of Tokyo. There are a lot of kids like my son in there. I’m glad that you want to do something for them. Please do it.”
”Between Illness And Migration” was born from that promise. The result of it is its art and its music, but the emotions that we poured into it were very raw, something that pierced my soul. What she told me, looking at me in the eyes, had on me an impact that can’t be compared to any RAMONES’ concert I could ever go to. I couldn’t finish the interview without talking about this.
Read the original article (in Japanese) here