YOUR FAVORITE ENEMIES
Pssssh, keep quiet! These noise-rockers are Canada’s best-kept secret…
What are this lot being so secretive about, then?
Well, up until now, Your Favorite Enemies have been deliberately keeping themselves out of the spotlight. After forming in Montreal in 2006, the group immediately ignited a burst of North American interest. They were plastered all over industry magazines and courted by a host of labels. “It was a crazy train we were on, and at first it was a lot of fun,” explains frontman Alex Foster (the one in the tea cosy). “Then we realised we were losing ourselves to other people’s ambitions. We made a decision to define what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it. We wanted to take control of our own destiny.”
So they’re DIY enthusiasts?
Indeed they are. Inspired by the legacy of hardcore legends such as Black Flag, they started their own label, Hopeful Tragedy, and sold 40,000 copies of their debut EP off their own bats. They also bought an old catholic church and converted it into a recording studio. “When you’re doing interviews, it’s sexy to hold up that punk DIY ethic, but it’s actually a lot of work,” guitarist Jeff Beaulieu says. “It’s not just about making it in your local scene. You have to be organised and committed.”
Have they been over to the UK yet?
They’ve just played a brace of London shows and will be back in the spring when their debut full-length, Between Illness And Migration, gets a UK release. They’ve also played crazy shows in China and Japan. For a band with strong sociopolitical leanings (Alex is a former spokesperson for Amnesty International) the former threw up some challenges. “I had to consider what I said, but we thought it was better to talk about dreams and sow seeds than to be more confrontational, get our 15 minutes of fame, and have the concert stopped,” Alex says. “In Japan, we played a Buddhist temple in the mountains and had monks rocking out with fists in the air. It was unreal.”
That sounds pretty amazing, but what do they actually sound like?
Alex describes Your Favorite Enemies as “noise-rock with soul”, but they’ve effortlessly surfed moods and genres in their recorded output so far. From sinuous Queens Of The Stone Age grooves, to jarring Sonic Youth spills of noise, to lilting acoustics, they can do it all. Check out A View From Within on Kerrang.com to hear your new favorite friends.
MEET THE BAND
Now you know Alex, say hello to the rest of his secretive bandmates…
Jeff Beaulieu (Guitar)
“Jeff is the spark in the band. He’s always positive and brings a lot of ideas to the table. He’s the glue that holds the band together”
“He’s the craziest mad scientist ever. You should see his pedalboard, it’s full of lights, and like a Pink Floyd show!”
Ben Lemelin (Bass)
“Ben’s very passionate, and he brings both heaviness and amazing melodies to the band.”
Miss Isabel (Keyboard/Vocals)
“She isn’t afraid to look one of us in the eye and challenge us. She brings clarity when we’re heading different directions”
Charles “Moose” Allicy (Drums)
“Moose is like a quiet spirit of the forest. He keeps a low profile but, when it’s time to speaks, everyone stops to listen”
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.
Canada’s Your Favorite Enemies are pretty emo, they once wrote a theme song for the Final Fantasy video game franchise and now they’ve made us a mixtape featuring Pearl Jam, Nick Cave, Savages and The Cure. Here’s exactly what they cherry picked and why…
1. Ramones – Beat on the Brat
Being a kid who knows exactly what it’s like to have people waiting for me after elementary school, I’ll always remember the first time I heard that song! Parents, gotta love your children!!
2. Foo Fighters – All My Life
I was in the band for a few moments when I heard that song. I was with Alex, the band’s lead singer, and we were riding on the highway. We finally cancelled our very important appointment to quickly go to a record store and bought the record so we could listen to this song over and over!
3. Wilco – I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
I first heard this song during the summer time… I immediately fell in love and wanted to get in a studio with my band in order to record 100 songs in a row… So inspiring!
4. Pearl Jam – Do The Evolution
Yes, a little bit of mad philanthropy is always a great medicine! I especially love the video for this song. It’s time for music to go back to being a social revolution! I’m tired of those ear-pleasing songs I hear everywhere I go every day! That’s evolution, baby!!
5. Dead Kennedys – Holiday in Cambodia
Well you’ll work harder
With a gun in your back
For a bowl of rice a day
Slave for soldiers
Till you starve
Then your head is skewered on a stake
6. The Clash – Straight to Hell
I received a t-shirt from this Clash song from my best friend one day, as I got out of a drug addiction, as a symbol of spreading hope, faith and love around me now that I was out of the streets. I still have it, and to this day, this song always changes my life!
7. Nick Cave – Stagger Lee
Nick Cave has always been an inspiring and genuine artist to all of us in the band, but when he came up with that song, our fanship toward him just went to another level! Wait until you meet him… You’ll definitely flip!!
8. The Cure – Pictures of You
I’ve never been a fan of love songs, but this band, The Cure, have a way of sharing and singing about love and hope in such a dark and hopeful way, it hypnotizes me every time, and I just want to fall in love again…!
9. Savages – Shut Up
We’re always having a hard time finding real genuine and inspiring bands in this day and age… But the first time I heard this song, I really fell in love! It was so artistically, lyrically, and musically inspiring! Thanks to this band for giving me hope again in today’s rock music!
10. Ben Harper – Both Sides of the Gun
Ben Harper is my favorite artist. I could’ve made a 10-song playlist only from him! I’ll always remember when I first listened to that song in my apartment. I had friends over for diner, and poor them, my head was only with Ben, listening to him screaming his soul out! Sorry, mates! Next time, we’ll put the radio on, you’ll have my full attention!!
OCTOBER 28, 2013 1:26 PM
At 8:15pm on the 21st of October, Your Favorite Enemies performed at The Water Rats in Kings Cross, London. The show started with originality when Jeff, the guitarist kicked it off by using a violin bow to play his guitar, you knew then that this band was unique. Alex was then seen to stand on the equipment and on the drums whilst singing away, this was a man who didn’t fall short of enthusiasm and passion for his music.
The closely knitted band performed fantastically with their rock and roll sound, you wouldn’t think that back in 2006 when they all met, they were in completely different bands but it was music that fused them together. Even though, the band members have their own musical influences; Jeff’s being Nirvana and Alex’s being Minor Threat, everyone shared an interest and aspired Sonic Youth. Alex said that Sonic Youth had “The coolest vibe” which has helped them to gel as a band.
Despite the band’s performance undoubtedly showing their rock style, from Alex’s musical shouting and vocals plus the work of the guitarists, there were also elements of electronic sounds from Miss Isabel on the keyboard. The gig didn’t fall short of catchy vocals, fast guitar riffs (melodic sounding ones too) and the epic guitar solos, Alex found it difficult to underpin what genre the band fits into. He described the band to be an infusion of punk, rock, noise, rock and soul. This was clearly evident in their performance at The Water Rats, showing a reckless image, connoting the punk genre and fast drumming plus the guitar riffs for rock and noise rock.
Despite the band receiving the best reception from performing Open Your Eyes, with the audience jumping up and down and head banging too, showing their support and enjoyment for their music, this song wasn’t actually their favourite song to play. Alex and Jeff both claimed that their favourite song to play was From The City To The Ocean. This song is usually played for 12 minutes but for special shows it will be played for 25 minutes. From The City To The Ocean is such a lengthy piece as it allows the band to go completely wild and feel the music whilst being able to capture the moment, It isn’t surprising then, that they left this song to be the final piece of their performance at The Water Rats. so they could fully interact with the audience and leave them with a long lasting impression.
Your Favorite Enemies are so impressive that they are the first rock band to be able to perform in a Japanese temple, resulting in it being their favourite venue to play, it was a crazy and unique experience for them; “even the monk was jumping”- Alex Foster.
Their passion for music has even meant getting recognised by Kerrang Magazine and even having a photo shoot. This led to one of the band members having to go topless, rip his shirt making a headband and crosses across his chest with it and having tape across his mouth. “It was very crazy and cool” said Alex. This also reinforced the unity, togetherness and family feeling within the band. The family feeling and unity within the band is also shown when they perform through how supportive they are on stage, which is particularly evident when Alex puts his arm around Jeff and starts swaying along with the music on stage with him.
Your Favorite Enemies are also bringing out their new album Between Illness And Migration in February 2014 (already released in the USA and Japan) and are following the new release with a UK performance in March 2014. Alex and Jeff have said that their album is all about capturing the moment of making music together, having fun and getting back to what they started, whilst rehearsing their material in their own church studio.
For anyone wanting to start their own band, here is some advice from Alex: Remain who you are since you started, stay committed to music and each other, allow mistakes to happen, take chances and appreciate other bands, Also remember that it’s all about the art and sharing who you are through music. This is everything that Your Favorite Enemies stand for.
(DRUMMONDVILLE) The Drummondville band Your Favorite Enemies is getting ready for a tour that will bring them to Japan, Australia and Europe. While they are multiplying radio successes, notably in England, the rock band, singing in English, is however given the cold shoulder by the commercial radio in Quebec.
“There’s a common saying that no man is a prophet in his own country, says Jeff Beaulieu, politely. I don’t know what it will take for people here to finally discover us, but it’s sure that the CRTC is not helping us (with its quotas).”
Your Favorite Enemies have obtained a few rare occasions to get themselves known in the last few years, such as sharing the stage with Papa Roach. Those concerts allowed them to get a lot of fans amongst the underground culture.
In order to make new friends, the members of the band have decided to sell their albums one house at the time. They have recently decided to do door-to-door in the region of Sherbrooke. “We have adopted the DIY philosophy. We produce our own albums, and we’ve even bought our own equipment so we could print our own merch,” added the guitarist.
Founded in 2006, Your Favorite Enemies consist of Sef (guitar), Miss Isabel (keyboards and vocals), Alex Foster (vocals), Ben Lemelin (bass), Charles Allicie (drums) and Jeff Beaulieu (guitar). The band was formed in the area of Montreal, and their first HQ was established in Varennes before being kicked out in 2009. It’s at that time that the Drummondville adventure began.
“We had our studio in Varennes, but police officers kept visiting us. We discovered an old church in Drummondville, in the parish of Saint-Simon. It was the perfect place for us. It’s a very quiet place, so it allows us to really focus on what we do” explained Beaulieu.
The band finds their inspiration mostly from the grunge current, with Pearl Jam and Nirvana, and have a more “noise” sound, reminiscent of Sonic Youth.
120,000 albums sold
After creating the label Hopeful Tragedy Records in April 2007, Your Favorite Enemies released a few months later a first EP of 5 songs, dedicated to their first fans. A year later, the band released their first album, “Love Is A Promise Whispering Goodbye”. Their success on other continents brings the band to work with Japanese video games composer Takeharu Ishimoto to arrange, write the lyrics and interpret 3 songs on the original soundtrack of Dissidia: Final Fantasy.
After a few silent years in studio, the band returned in their upper room in 2012 to produce “Vague Souvenir”. This album has the particularity of containing the first French songs of the band.
With the years, Your Favorite Enemies have sold 120,000 albums throughout the world. Strong of this success, they will release their 4th album, titled “Between Illness And Migration”, due out next spring in Canada.
Now based in Drummondville, Your Favorite Enemies are getting ready to hit Japan, Australia and Europe.
What was the inspiration behind the cover?
It’s New York in January. As much as it could have been Tokyo, Paris, London, Shanghai, Sao Polo or Cairo. We were in the final stage of the mixing process of our album and I was walking on what used to be an unusually freezing night. As the cold was trying to get its grip on me, that scene (that ultimately became the “Youthful Dreams Of An Old Empire” EP cover) really struck me. It felt like the city, more than the cold itself, was trying to get a firm grip on me, in a strange static kind of motion, neon lights and other fake colors trying to simulate life in a globally acknowledged way, obscene surrender to a collective soul. We’re all faceless and identical in regard of what we used to dream of and of what ultimately owns us now, as if we had lost ourselves somewhere in the process of our everlasting desire to emancipate our souls rather than being transformed. We became the building’s reflection, perfectly aligned and organized to create the illusion of creative chaos, sad irony of our make-believes and other attempts to drain our untameable nature out of its vivid and imperfect embodiment for any kind of self-preservation type of false security.
As if life, the most defining incarnation of what art is truly about, became the plastic personification of who we are, the collective mirage of what used to lead us to define and redefine the colors of the invisible, of what our now tame nature considers the colors of a defying way to envision a proscribed dream.
The very dominant nature of every empire remains its resilience to impose itself to our intrinsic desire for freedom and its opposition to our willingness to take a chance at living beyond boundaries. When we let go of our fundamental fears of failing, we all start dreaming again, dreaming it all over again. And new morning shades arise before our very own eyes. We might have been blinded by neon lights, but every empire falls down, for we do not need to open our eyes to see. That’s what I saw. And the time I took to contemplate that scenery, musing about the illusions of holding on and about the let go necessary in order to take a chance at living, explains the major frost bites I had when I was back in the studio that night. The guys are still convinced I stopped by the apartment of a very good friend of mine on the way to the studio… well, everyone feeds the nature of his illusions and make-believes, right 😉