Alex Henry Foster: A communion for the present moment
Flashback: In 2018, composer Alex Henry Foster recorded his first solo album, Windows in the Sky in the studio of his band Your Favorite Enemies. It was located in an old church in Saint-Simon de Drummondville.
After the death of his father, Foster exiled himself in Tangiers, Morocco. Sadness, grief, depression, and spiritual questing followed. The musician and entrepreneur needed a break.
“When I heard the news, we’d just gotten home from a tour, and four days later we were headlining a festival in Taiwan in front of 90,000 people,” says Foster. “That’s crazy. When you’re in a band and you tour the globe, your link to reality is always a little off, and it’s normal that people are nice to you. On a human and emotional level, you wonder how much of it is true. It’s easy to lose track of reality. So I just hid behind the thick curtain of distant screams.”
And even though this Asian tour allowed Your Favorite Enemies to write three songs for the videogame Final Fantasy: Dissidia (they’re the first non-Japanese artists to record music for the game), Foster was fed up. “After Tangiers, I allowed myself to be, simply be, and to re-set all counters,” he says.
Ever since the group was founded in Varennes in 2006, the rapid rise of the sextet — whose sound is reminiscent of Radiohead, Swans, and Nick Cave — has turned many heads. Ardent DIYers, the band has recorded a fair number of albums and EPs in their aforementioned studio, Upper Room, situated in a place of worship they acquired at the end of the 2000s. They’ve played in 10 countries, sold more than 150,000 albums, and their videos have been played more than 500,000 times. Yet they’re relatively unknown in their own land.
The church is also home to their vinyl press, and the source of graphic design for their album sleeves, as well as the printing of their T-shirts and other merch. Your Favorite Enemies are still feeding the net: The Early Days, which will be released on Jan. 31, 2020, is a compendium of the band’s early days, from 2006 to 2009, and will feature re-mixes, a re-mastering of their first two EPs, unreleased demos, alternate takes of their most popular tracks, their entire first concert in Tokyo in 2008, and more. All of that is produced in-house, including the management and booking.
“Windows in the Sky wasn’t created with the idea of making a record, or going back onstage,” says Foster. “It’s not music you play when your family visits for New Years’; there’s a lot of verbiage and narration. It’s completely different from YFE. I mean, there’s trumpet, cello…”
Windows in the Sky is a subtle affair, yet surprisingly vigorous, a blend of nervous tracks filled with the spoken, introspective poetry typical of Foster, who irradiates an orchestrated madness while cultivating the ambiguity of his murky personality. He’s a master at rattling brains with his mix of clear and distorted sounds.
“It took me by surprise,” he says, “because the album wasn’t created with the idea of marketing it, but I think YFE’s fans were eager to hear that universe.”
In the wake of three convincing concerts in New York in early December, Foster and The Long Shadows — his band, largely composed of YFE members — will head to Europe in February and March 2020 for a string of 26 shows. He fondly remembers the shows in the Big Apple: “It was a tiny venue with minimal technical support. Some people in the crowd were crying. That’s why I make music: to experience those emotions communally.”
Kind of like a religious service, then? “You have to live in the moment,” says Foster. “If you resist, that wave is going to spit you out. It’s like being a tightrope walker without a safety net; if you fall it’s a huge drop. People want to experience something that’s bigger than the music itself. I don’t feel it rests entirely on me, because it’s so musical and immersive. And I’m just as exhausted after one of those shows as I am after a YFE concert.”
January 23, 2020