As published in La Presse
Read the original article here
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
Le Festival international de jazz de Montréal (FIJM) célèbre cette année son quarantième anniversaire. Encore une fois, l’offre musicale s’avère copieuse et pour l’occasion, on vous suggère une dizaine de concerts jazz : cinq par des super vedettes, acclamées dans certains cas depuis des décennies sur tous les continents, et cinq autres par des artistes pas moins talentueux que l’on gagne à découvrir.
Si, comme sa musique, la définition du jazz a évolué depuis quatre décennies, il n’en demeure pas moins que c’est au sein de l’événement créé par Alain Simard et André Ménard que l’on peut entendre annuellement les plus grands représentants du genre.
Pas une fois depuis le début de l’année ai-je quitté l’une ou l’autre des salles de la Place des Arts ou le MTelus sans me faire remettre en main le petit tract visant à promouvoir le concert d’Alex Henry Foster à venir durant le FIJM. Son album Windows in the Sky est le disque en format numérique le plus vendu au Québec en 2018, devant Délivrance, d’Éric Lapointe, et A Star is Born, de Lady Gaga et Bradley Cooper. Grosse foule anticipée.
June 26, 2019
Surprise success during last fall music releases in Quebec, Your Favorite Enemies’ singer, Alex Henry Foster, releases a second music video off his solo album Windows in the Sky, this time for the song Shadows of Our Evening Tides.
“The weight of the world is love…” Filmed in Japan and featuring the words of famous American Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, Shadows of Our Evening Tides makes us travel to Tokyo.
The dreamy images of the Japanese megalopolis and its inhabitants are the canvas to what the artist describes as “the ineluctable pursuit of an everlasting happiness within the implacable context of a life hastily passing by.”
Shared online in November, the videoclip for the song Summertime Departures, now has, for its part, close to 500,000 views on YouTube.
Scheduled on the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal’s program, on July 5, at the Club Soda, Alex Henry Foster took the music world by surprise, last November, when his album made an entrance at the top of the sales in Quebec, ahead of the new releases of Muse, Imagine Dragons, and Marie-Mai.
April 4, 2019
We listened to all the new releases and here are our choices! Here are the 5 albums you MUST listen to that released in November 2018.
Alex Henry Foster – Windows in the Sky (Psych/Art-Rock)
Unexpected. That’s the word you’ll read on almost every article written about Alex Henry Foster’s first solo release Windows in the Sky. Since the album came out, it has chart topped Québec sales even reached #3 on Canadian sales. Its first video, Summertime Departures is still the most watched video in Quebec per palmares ADISQ. No small feat for a record that has been released without any promotion!
Magnetic. This is the word I would use. The album is hard to describe but there’s an unseen power that attracts you to it. And forces you to play the album again and again. It’s an intimate, cinematic voyage often led by Foster’s spoken-word delivery. The guitars, airy, are majestic. From The Pain that Bonds (The Beginning is the End)’s first lyrics “I just don’t know how it feels anymore” to The Love that Moves (The End is Beginning)’s final ones “I will conquer darkness and make it shine”, the poetry, dark, reflective, often repetitive, will captivate you all the way through.
The Hunter. This mammoth of a song (14 min 36 secs) is the masterpiece of the album. With “The Hunter is coming” as its leitmotiv, the song, structured like a crescendo, changes perspective halfway through and unfolds like a short story. Haunting!
Must. Listen. To: The Hunter (By the Seaside Window), The Pain that Bonds (The Beginning is the End), Snowflakes in July, Winter is coming in, The Love that Moves (The End is Beginning).
December 14, 2018
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!
December 8, 2018
Windows in the Sky | Hopeful Tragedy Records
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.
November 27, 2018
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.
Friday November 23, 2018
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!”
Friday November 23, 2018