Your Favorite Enemies is an alternative rock band that was formed in Varennes in 2006. The band is now established in Drummondville, in a former Catholic church that they have transformed into a studio. The members of the band have remained the same since the beginning. On May 20, 2014, the band released the Canadian edition of their album Between Illness And Migration. The album peaked at number 2 in the iTunes chart on the day of its release, between Coldplay and The Black Keys. Between Illness And Migration was also nominated at the Juno Awards 2015 for “Rock Album of the Year”.
Find out more about this artist and hundreds of other Canadian artists in the softcover edition of Canadian Alternative & Indie Reference and Collector’s Guide. Get your copy here.
Following the unexpected success in the charts of Alex Henry Foster’s new album “Windows in the Sky”, Daily Rock Québec is happy to introduce a very particular interview with the artist. Up in the air in between two big cities, creator Alex H Foster answered our questions about this album; intimate, expressive and very appreciated.
PS: Our interviewer Jérôme Go-dreault says that he has perceived and reconnected with a vibrant and compelling sound, just like Mr. L. Cohen knew how to make me feel. Congratulations, and thanks to Mr. Foster.
JG: Who is Alex Henry Foster? Where are you from?
AHF: We are starting the interview with the question for which the answer is the most difficult to me…! I will simply say that I’m a hardcore fan of music, poetry, skateboard, baseball, and video games, and that I am the father of 2 pups answering to the names of MacKaye and Leonard, which I have adopted in Austin, Texas, at the end of a North American tour with Your Favorite Enemies, a little over 3 years ago now…
I come from Montreal, but I moved too often during my childhood to be able to say exactly where I would consider having grown up…
I studied social work, worked with children victims of sexual abuse, and at the heart of the HLM (“rent-controlled housing”) community of the South Shore of Montreal before committing to my passion for music full time with Your Favorite Enemies some years ago…
JG: Since when and under which circumstances did you start creating music?
AHF: I think that as far as I can remember, I have always created music. Some cassettes hidden in the infamous family archives testify of the constant and uninterrupted way I had to make my parents go crazy while singing continuously… and to make noise with everything that could produce a sound and could be broken or strongly damaged while making said noise…
I logically integrated punk / hardcore / noise bands during my teenage years, thus increasing the circle of people I could render insane while playing Minor Threat, Ramones, Gang Green and other compositions, all of them equally disturbing for my friends’ parents, neighbors, school’s social workers and other people worrying about the fact that not being that good didn’t seem to have an impact on the passion with which I was turning to it so devotedly and… non-stop.
But it’s when I met Sef (Your Favorite Enemies’ guitarist), during his internship at the community organization where I was working – and through him his brother Ben (multi-instrumentalist and producer) – that my passion for music went from seriously dangerous to dangerously serious. We then founded Your Favorite Enemies and left school and any other form of normal type of social life potentially leading to a life made of promises… and of being good sons.
What would follow is in theory largely documented in dark places of the internet!
JG: What are your musical inspirations and your artistic process?
AHF: They are numerous, I’d say, but they must first and foremost be authentic and honest. My process is probably based on not having a pre-established process. I like to be surprised and capsized, which probably explains why I can listen to Japanese traditional chants, Nick Cave, Swans, Fugazi, Mats Gustafsson, traditional flamenco and The Cure in the same evening… it’s the emotions, whatever they might be, that inspire me.
JG: How and why, aside from the circumstances already mentioned in the media, producing a solo album?
AHF: It happened a little bit by accident. I was on an exile in North Africa as I was totally exhausted, both physically and psychologically, after 5 years of touring with Your Favorite Enemies. It must have been close to a year since I had last touched an instrument, but I was writing poetry so as to live and assume some emotions I had buried deep down inside in order not to have to face the reality and risk of losing myself even more than how I was feeling at that moment…
Ben came to find me in Tangier to work on a movie soundtrack, and following discussions, he encouraged me to put those feelings I couldn’t express in music, which slowly became a song, and another one, and finally a cohesive ensemble of what I like to call “moments”. I didn’t have the ambition of making it an album, as I didn’t want to have to face those words, those sounds, and those feelings after, even less have to talk about them publicly, like right now…! In the end, it’s the other members of Your Favorite Enemies who have encouraged me to do it, saying that it would set me free and allow me to assume its nature fully – and they were right to say so!
JG: Would this album have come to life if circumstances would have been different?
AHF: I don’t think it would have seen the light of day, it’s that simple… neither would have any of the music to come.
JG: Tell us more openly about your latest album; WINDOWS IN THE SKY:
AHF: It’s a personal and intimate album, but from which the honesty produces an invitation to share and commune. I’m discovering its true nature through the eyes of others and through how they make it theirs.
JG: Is this album a reflection of all your expectations and what are its qualities?
AHF: I didn’t have any expectation. I never had any expectation for anything I produced with Your Favorite Enemies before. For me, art and creation have for only interest the honesty with which we abandon ourselves to it. And the more we expose ourselves, the more we accept that we have nothing more to give than what we have at the moment we are creating. It’s, in my opinion, the reason why all creations evolve naturally with time, if only for the way we give a new look at what once was, thus making it something that is in the present moment as well. Creation evolves to the measure we allow ourselves to evolve as a person. At least, that’s how I see it.
JG: How many stars on 10 would the album deserve?
AHF: I don’t believe in the gradation of art. Some artists hate that people evaluate their artwork. For me, it’s all a matter of perspective, to put it simply. People who let go to the journey that “Windows in the Sky” is have a perception that is as right as mine… I never feared critics, as when a work is shared, it no longer exclusively belongs to me.
JG: Who are the main people who collaborated on the album production and in which studio was it recorded?
AHF: Ben has been the maestro behind the creation of this project, but all the members of YFE participated in it and have all offered a piece of themselves to it. It was imperative to invite them to do it.
The production happened in 3 totally different places and in completely atypical conditions. Between a small fortune studio located in Tangier, up to the incredible YFE studio located in a transformed Catholic church, to a creation station in the highlands of Virginia…
JG: Could we hear some of the tracks on the album Windows in the Sky played with the band YFE?
AHF: I hope so! They all sent me their resume to be part of the potential backup band if I ever wanted to share the album in a live mode! I will therefore have them audition; it’s a serious and professional project!
JG: How will the future with the band YFE be seen following the success of this solo album?
AHF: For me, it’s all pretty simple, as I live music without cultivating the ambition of success and without any careerist perspective. Understand me well; I am incredibly happy that people took “Windows in the Sky” for themselves in such a personal and intimate way. But it influences in no way what is to come next. And knowing me, people for whom YFE is important understand this and support me in that sense. It is the same for the members of the band: we are, first and foremost, a family. What will follow will be determined by what we want or need to live, create and share.
JG: We heard that you were presently working on a movie project which could be a follow-up to this album. Would you like to tell us more?
AHF: I told myself that after the release of a surprise solo album while people were expecting a new YFE album, the most logical decision in terms of “career move” would be to offer a third project which would not be YFE nor Alex Henry Foster and to talk about it during interviews about my album “Windows in the Sky”…! I guess we understand a little bit better now why I wasn’t the one mandated for YFE interviews 😉
JG: Why choose Japan, is there a special link with this country, for this new album and/or with the band YFE?
AHF: It was important for me to host that type of event in Japan.
I have always had a very singular relationship with the people of this country, very intimate I would say, may it be through suicide prevention projects, the soundtrack for the Final Fantasy video game we did, or the privilege we have to be welcomed as family every time we go over there to share music or other projects.
And to have done that in Tokyo was on one hand the fulfilment of a promise I had made to the parents of a fan who tragically took his own life, and on the other hand a way for me to share emotions that are sometimes only expressible through music for people who, like me, don’t feel like they can express their nature.
JG: Is an international touring project something foreseeable for this album?
AHF: Yes, surely, but I must determine what I will want to share and the way I would like to do it. I’m still reflecting on all of this, but I have desires of “moments”, and not of another rock tour…
JG: On the album, the texts seem to have a big importance and we would like to know if those were written specifically for this album? Furthermore, if the musical compositions were inspired and crafted starting from each of the album’s texts, or the contrary?
AHF: The texts are always what comes first, which is pretty rare, as texts are often written to accompany the music. May it be for YFE or another project, for me, it all starts with the texts, which flow from the vision I wish to explore for the album that will carry them.
JG: After listening and discussing about the album with a few people (which liked it), two of them told me that in some moments, they thought the music was redundant. What do you think about it?
AHF: It’s probably due to the fact that it’s an 8-song album of over 60 minutes of orchestral noise music and spoken word…! But seriously, the nature of “Windows in the Sky” is meant to be, first and foremost, a voyage, and I believe it makes sense according to the measure with which you abandon yourself to it. We all have our way of consuming or living music. For me, it was my way of expressing myself, without having to ask myself too many questions on anything else than what I felt like sharing. But I totally understand as well why those people lived it this way. That’s the beauty of sharing and of letting the others define the experience.
JG: Does Alex Henry Foster have the idea of producing a second album of the same type and do you think it would have as much success?
AHF: If we look at my discography, I believe I’m incapable of sticking to one specific genre, of building my decisions on what would make more sense in order to surf the same wave the longest or of doing what has to be done in order to reach success…! Considering the fact that I dream of making an album mixing old shigin chants (a traditional Japanese chant) and some avant-garde noise, I’m thinking this might be the last time you will want to ask me questions – which also explains why I wanted to beat a record of words written in this interview!
Those who watched the Canadian music charts the week of Nov. 9 were scratching their heads when Alex Henry Foster’s debut album came in at #6 on the Billboard Canadian Albums chart. SoundScan reporting for Quebec sales over the next two weeks showed the Montrealer hitting top spot in the charts and reaching #3 nationally just behind powerhouses Muse and Imagine Dragons.
So who is this guy?
Well, apparently his old band is big in Japan. Foster plays in the 2015 Juno Award nominees Your Favourite Enemies whose 2014 album Between Illness and Migration had a Rock Album of the Year nod. If you don’t remember it, don’t beat yourself up. That category has given us, among others, such memorable acts as Finger Eleven, Sum 41 and Slik Toxik. Your Favourite Enemies are still active with a new album in the works.
Windows in the Sky dropped without any advance hype or tours announcements although Foster has said that there are plans in 2019 to take it on the road with a multimedia project. YFE are likely back in the new year too. But right now the focus is on this suddenly successful solo album.
Here are five things to know about it:
1: Full-on Post-Rockin’ Roll. Huge cascading guitar chords, echoed spoken word vocals, distantly reverberating choruses and as much overlaid orchestration as you can fit on a track. Songs such as Winter is Coming in sound like Bullet the Blue Sky U2 channelling Loveless era My Bloody Valentine by way of a band on Fluttery Records. It’s a big sound.
2: Seasonal sounds. If there is one thing Canada needs more of, it’s expansive and atmospheric music that goes well with snuggling down in a warm room for a few months until the “beautiful shivers go goodbye.” That may mean Snowflakes in July in this nation, but it’s all good.
3: Cool entry/exit. The Pain that Bonds (The Beginning is the End) opens the eight song album. The Love that Moves (The End is Beginning) closes it. The two songs intertwine not just in titles, but in build. Slow moody chording becomes more urgent and smashing in the opening, more distant and evolving in the closer. If the views we are supposed to be seeing in our Windows in the Sky are akin to a cranial train ride through an imagined landscape; then this works like a sonic journey.
4: The Hunter (By the Seaside Window). Perhaps in homage to his Japanese fans — the album was launched in a series of live listening sessions in Japan — this nearly 15 minute-long workout has a secondary vocalist saying something in Japanese as Foster’s vocals grow more and more paranoid. Fans of serious guitar noise must check this out.
5: Yes, it’s about grief. Windows in the Sky was written in isolation as Foster worked through the passing of his father following a long battle with cancer. It’s exploration of devotion, loss, sorrow, grief and exhaustion will echo with many who have been through such a process. Perhaps that is why the album resonated with so many, as the population ages this story becomes more and more repeated.
Canadian music industry chart watchers may well have registered surprise at spotting the high placings for Montrealer Alex Henry Foster’s debut solo album Windows in the Sky.
It came in at No. 6 on the Billboard Canadian Albums chart, while SoundScan reports showed in hit #1 in sales in Quebec in its first week of release (it came out on Nov. 9) and No. 3 nationally behind Muse and Imagine Dragons. The album stayed at the #1 position in the iTunes charts for five consecutive days last week, in front of The Beatles, Queen, and Lady Gaga, while the first video, “Summertime Departures”, has quickly earned 100K YouTube views. Released on Hopeful Tragedy Records, the album is distributed by Sony Music / The Orchard.
Foster’s name may be unfamiliar to many, but he has enjoyed prior international success (in Japan, especially) as the singer and principal songwriter in adventurous rock band Your Favorite Enemies, 2015 Juno nominees for Rock Album of the Year for their 2014 release, Between Illness and Migration.
Making the chart success of Windows in the Sky even more impressive is the fact that it arrived without any advance hype. Contacted by FYI, Foster explains that “the whole idea of releasing the record without any form of promotion was based on the fact that I wanted the music and its emotions to bloom on their own rights, and to only do what I want and love.”
“The last record we released with Your Favorite Enemies, the one that was nominated for a Juno, kept us on the road for almost five years. It burned me out completely.”
No tour dates have been announced to support the new record, but Foster advices patience. “Windows in the Sky is a multi-media project involving projections and conceptual lights, so I want to play the album in a different set up from our usual rock n roll format, and share a different type of moment and experience. That’s a long answer to say I will play the record live and will let you know the ‘when,’ the ‘where’ and the ho” at the beginning of 2019.”
To its creator, “Windows in the Sky was already a success the moment I decided to release an 8-song LP with a 15-minute song standing midway on an hour-long album! Success is truly a matter of perspective.”
As for the future of YFE, Foster explains that “everything is pretty open right now. We have a lot of never-released material from the productions of previous albums, and we recently gathered all together in Tangier to work on new songs.
“It’s important for me to say that Your Favorite Enemies are still alive and well. It’s only that with Windows in the Sky and some OST projects that I have going on with Ben (YFE’s guitar player and producer), it’s more difficult for us to define the ‘when’ from the ‘what’ we want to share with people. YFE has never been known for following the logical and well-travelled career path that’s supposed to lead to success or God knows where. So I guess that this alternative way to operate will be even more eclectic now that we have different projects blooming alongside one another. ‘We’ll see’ is all I can say for now.”
To spot future YFE shows, fans will need to be vigilant. “After the last concert we did in New York a little over two years ago, we all agreed we wouldn’t go back on a stage until we either had a new album to share with the people or festivals to check off our bucket list,” says Foster.
“We’ve been playing under different names once in while, though. Look out for “Burroughs Was a 2-Step Ballet Dancer” or “We Are Not a Death Metal Band, We Just Look Cool” in a town near you… This might become an intimate evening with Your Favorite Enemies!”
He is the leader of the Drummondville band Your Favorite Enemies
What was supposed to be an exile in Morocco for Alex Henry Foster became a source of inspiration for his solo album “Windows in the Sky”, released only a few days ago. Already, his work is charting at the top, ahead of big acts like Marie-Mai, Muse and Imagine Dragons.
The unexpected success story began two years ago. As the band Your Favorite Enemies thought they had ended a musical cycle, Alex Henry Foster decided to withdraw himself and headed to Tangier, to get inspired and work on the band’s next album.
“The last ten years have been quite busy for the band and as we’re independent in all the spheres of an album production, we were exhausted. While exiling myself, I could dive into a calm universe after the YFE storm had hit. I felt inspired and I created my solo album”, said Mr. Foster.
Slowly, the texts appeared, without music. Alongside other collaborations, his bandmate Ben Lemelin joined him to create a melody that would accompany the words of the singer. He even set a studio in the heart of Tangier.
“This album is my identity. I didn’t want for the other members of the band to carry my stories. The passing of my father inspired me and this is a personal feeling. It’s some kind of a therapy, an album to deliver myself. But with time, they kindly wanted to get involved musically”, added Alex Henry Foster who is presently in Virginia to work on other projects.
It’s without much fanfare that, on November 9, he released “Windows in the Sky”, consisting of eight songs. Rapidly, the album made it to the top of the Quebec charts.
“I didn’t do any promotion around this album. I first unveiled it in Canada to thank people from here and went to Japan for a listening session. It was a gift to myself to share my songs this way, added Mr. Foster. I didn’t expect this success at all, as I didn’t do it in this perspective, it was rather a more artistic approach. It’s not the type of music that plays on the radio, especially not with tracks going up to 14 minutes.”
Projects for Your Favorite Enemies
Despite Alex Henry Foster’s solo project and, among others, his collaborations to movie soundtracks, YFE is not dead. The main one concerned absolutely wanted to add precision to the orientation of the band, which resides in the former Saint-Simon church in Drummondville.
“We’re all exploring other things presently. We’ll get back together and be able to share our emotions. The band’s unity is always there, and I’m sure we’ll be able to feel the excitement of everyone in due time” concluded Mr. Foster.
The Quebecer, Alex Henry Foster sold more albums than Marie-Mai
With its 4,504 copies, “Windows in the Sky”, from Alex Henry Foster, ended the week of November 15 at the top of the Quebec album sales, ahead of Muse’s “Simulation Theory” (4,211), “À jamais” from Ginette Reno (4,172), “Elle et moi” from Marie-Mai (3,044) and “Origins”, from Imagine Dragons (2,492).
Muse, Imagine Dragons and Marie-Mai released their new album on November 9. Who sold the most copies after one week of release in Quebec? None of the three. All the honors go to Alex Henry Foster, a Drummondville rocker.
“Windows in the Sky”, solo project of Quebec band Your Favorite Enemies’ lead singer, shook everyone, according to the weekly Nielsen SoundScan reports. He got ahead of Muse, Ginette Reno, Marie-Mai and Imagine Dragons. Nothing less.”I’m speechless. This is beyond me!”, confides Foster to the newspaper.
In Canada, “Windows in the Sky”, ended its first week in third position, behind Muse and Imagine Dragons.
To say that Alex Henry Foster is surprised is an understatement. He had such low expectations, to the point that he barely announced the release of his album, about one week prior to its release. His promotional campaign was that minimalist that Le Journal has been the first media to interview him.
Yet, on Tuesday, Alex Henry Foster’s album was still in full swing. It landed a 4th position in the top sellers on the Canadian iTunes online store, behind the newly-released albums of Fred Pellerin, Michael Bublé, and Mumford and Sons.
The astonishment is even more surprising as “Windows in the Sky” is to the opposite of what a commercial success in 2018 should be made of. Its long tracks are an average of five minutes – The Hunter (By the Seaside Window) culminates at 14 minutes 18 seconds – and leads towards a post-rock that recalls the most exploratory movements of progressive rock.
Therefore, when we ask Foster to explain his album’s success, he can only throw hypothesis. “People probably need to hear this type of music, to live something else, to hear other sounds. Maybe it feels good to hear a 15-minute song that makes no sense on a commercial level.”
Despite this unexpected success, Your Favorite Enemies’ future, a band that sure knew how to build a solid network of admirers all around the globe, notably in Japan, is not jeopardized.
“It’s far from being the end of the adventure. To the contrary, what I’m living on my end will allow us to explore other things when we’ll be getting back together”, assures Alex Henry Foster.
For now, Foster, who’s already working on other musical projects, hasn’t planned a series of concerts. But he admits that this unexpected success “gives me this desire to push further and see where this adventure will lead me”.
For this new playlist, a band straight out of Montreal, Your Favorite Enemies, kindly volunteered to participate. (Thanks to Juliette for the opportunity). Alex, the band’s singer, shares with us his 5 favorite songs. Fans of Nick Cave, Bauhaus, or Swans, this playlist is for you!
DEAD KENNEDYS – POLICE TRUCK
Few bands know how to make me smile in a way that’s sadistic yet blissful as Dead Kennedys can do. From the first quavering chord of “Police Truck”, I immediately remember why I scream in a microphone and why I never did my law classes, to my mom’s disarray. So if you ever find yourself in doubt concerning your scholar/professional path, this song isn’t for you…!
GRINDERMAN – HONEY BEE (LET’S FLY TO MARS)
I joined the cult of the Bad Seeds / Grinderman for Nick Cave & Warren Ellis’ genius, twisted yet evangelic, and for their common emotional rage, delivered with no compromise through a sensorial whirlwind that’s profoundly heartfelt and painfully felt.
SWANS – THE GLOWING MAN
Few bands can boast being able to grasp our heart and soul and subdue spirits like Michael Gira does with Swans. Like shaman masters, they work their way through tensions and abandon, between moments of trance and uplifts. “Glowing Man” is found somewhere between shadows and lights, between madness and rebirth.
MOGWAI – HUNGRY FACE
Mogwai is without a doubt one of my favorite bands. They have a unique and singular way of touching the invisible through a mixture of emotions that take the colors of nostalgia, hope, melancholy, and sounds that oscillate between fragility and stormy, always reaching the edge of falling or taking flight.
BAUHAUS – IN THE FLAT FIELD
Guilty pleasure during my several rough patches, where I can’t feel any emotions at all. Bauhaus brings my heart numbed by boredom to wake up again through the sonic chaos that is characteristic of life, with its soul awakening, its anxiety, and its quintessential affectionate epiphanies.
We are happy to catch up with Quebec’s Your Favorite Enemies for a chat during this segment of Five Questions With. The band released their new self-produced vinyl “A Journey Beyond Ourselves” with a book about their album “Between Illness and Migration” on September 1, and we’re happy to say that a review written by us has been included in the book! Although, the book has been sold out, there are still copies of the vinyl and more great merch available, so check out their website for info.
Care to introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is Alex Henry Foster. I’m the lead singer for the post-rock band Your Favorite Enemies, which I formed almost ten years ago with 5 of my longtime friends.
We are located a little outside of Montreal, where we transformed a former Catholic church into our HQ. It is composed of a proper professional recording studio, a rehearsal space, a workplace for our multi-media and merch installations, and the offices of our record label. We are fierce DIY advocates, and every project we craft is based on a profound sense of community values and our involvement for human rights.
Tell us a bit about your music and writing style.
We’ve been described as a blend of post-rock/psych/noise/prog/alt-shoegaze and referred to as the illegitimate children of Nick Cave, Mars Volta, Fugazi, Mogwai and Sonic Youth, among others.
For us, I guess it’s a little more simple of an explanation: we’re an instinctive type of unit and don’t really care or worry about conventions and formats. We pretty much do what we feel like in the midst of moments we are sharing. We are more interested in the honesty by which we commune together than what should be shared and how it must be done in order to sound cool or fit other people’s expectations.
Do you have any upcoming shows? For someone who has yet to see you live, how would you explain your live performance?
We don’t have any upcoming shows. We’re all converging towards Tangier for a few months to work on our next album.
But, for those who saw the band live, they might say that it’s some kind of a collective uplift and communal let go, that it’s pretty alive and filled with improvisation and swapped instruments, that it’s all about the moment and that nothing is forced. We never play the same “show” twice, and we don’t believe in the replication of emotions in the name of any particular type of entertainment. When it’s real, you don’t need to try to emulate whatever has worked before… as long as it’s real. For us, it’s what matters.
Oh, and you might leave the venue asking your friends if they think the singer will be alright, as it was a really high place to jump from. No need to say it’s getting harder and harder to find any good insurance coverage… and to play venues without a proper medical team on site
If you were asked to suggest only one of your songs for someone to hear, which would it be?
“Underneath a Blooming Skylight” from our album “Tokyo Sessions”.
Canadian Beats is all about Canadian music, so who are your current favourite Canadian bands/ artists?
We all have different favourites, but the common ground would be any of those bands or artists: Metz, Neil Young, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Feist, Preoccupations, Japandroids, Ought and Leonard Cohen.