Alex Henry Foster: Homemade success
If we asked the general public to guess what artist finished the year at the top of the charts for digital sales in Quebec in 2018, very few would place their bet on Alex Henry Foster. Nonetheless, the singer-songwriter’s first solo album did finish ahead of A Star Is Born, Loud, and Shawn Mendes in the charts. His first concert will take place next Friday at a sold-out Club Soda for the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal. How did he make this happen? La Presse has tried to find out and visited the atypical creation space where his band, Your Favorite Enemies, do everything themselves.
Jogues Street, in Drummondville, between the local elementary school and road 143, stands an imposing church of gray bricks. But the church is no longer one. When the City needed to get rid of two of its three religious buildings, at the end of the 2000s, one has been demolished, and the other one sold to the members of the rock band Your Favorite Enemies. The entire place has been desacralized. The nave is now a recording room.
Thursday morning, Alex, Jeff, Miss Isabel, Sef, Charles, and Ben guide us through their facilities. In the basement, Jeff, one of the guitarists, explains that they have visited churches all over the province of Quebec before finding this one, in 2009. Based in Varennes in their beginnings, the band would rehearse in the basement of a house. “Our music quickly became our main gig, so we had to move out”, he says. When they found the Saint-Simon church, the six friends jumped onto the occasion with both feet and have all moved to Drummondville.
In what used to be a storage room, they have installed a kitchen. In the adjoining room, we find a toilet and showers. When they aren’t on tour, in Europe, in Asia, or elsewhere, the band members spend the majority of their time here, in this commune.
Sitting in a couch in the living room, where the bookcases upon yellow walls expose hundreds of books, vinyl records, and trinkets, Alex tries to understand the success of his first solo album. Windows in the Sky was released last November. That same year, it has been deemed best-seller (digital format). An achievement, knowing that he rubbed himself against artists with already-established success (Lady Gaga, Éric Lapointe, Shawn Mendes, and Ginette Reno). The cause behind this success? The fans, already faithful to the band Your Favorite Enemies, have also been faithful to the singer, believes Alex.
Emotions are palpable as he speaks about this poetic solo album, written on an exile in Morocco that lasted 2 years after the passing of his father. “I got afraid to release this album, and it is still very difficult, he says, as tears well up in his eyes. I can’t hide behind the band anymore. I am totally out there.” He had no intention of bringing this album to the stage, but the demand was such that he surrendered.
The band’s popularity, discreet but sustained, has been cultivated. Your Favorite Enemies have turned to DIY (do it yourself) for every aspect of their creation rather than giving the reins to the “machine” of the music industry. The work is thus multiplied, but so is the fan experience. The sextet is aware of this and works so that the “human bond” with their fans be the most important thing, says Alex. “This is what creates a connection between the people and us, what makes them follow us.” His success is the living proof.
Perfect example to illustrate this DIY ethos: in a room in the basement, at the end of a corridor, a member of the band’s production team, Yann, works around a serigraphy machine and a textile press. Isabel, for her part, explains the process behind the printing of a poster created especially for the concert at the Club Soda. This is also where the t-shirts are printed with the band’s own designs. A few examples of previously completed projects hang on the walls of the room.
They do everything. The t-shirts and posters are designed and printed in-house, so are the vinyl records and their jackets and the music videos. “From the idea to the final product, everything comes from us, says Isabel. We are our own limit.” And it doesn’t stop there. Founding their own record label in 2007, they have released each and every one of their albums under it.
On the first floor, in front of the large nave where the original pews can still be found, the instruments are disposed on the stage with the same configuration that the band will have at the Club Soda. This is where the band rehearses their set. On Friday, they will play Alex’s whole album, cabaret-style, with 5 other musicians. The day after, the fans are invited to the band’s HQ in Drummondville for another concert. “Those who have tickets for the July 5 concert will have access to the show on the 6, explains Isabel. We even thought of a bus shuttle system to help with transportation.” “Fans are coming for a whole weekend, so we also planned a few other activities, adds Jeff. Some are coming from Europe and Asia to see us.” Without a doubt, Your Favorite Enemies are dedicated to their fans. And they do give it back to them in a wonderful way.
Alex Henry Foster will be giving a sold-out show on July 5 at the Club Soda for the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal.
June 29, 2019