Quebec-based rockers Your Favorite Enemies continue to expand their already impressive catalogue with a new massive project entitled A Journey Beyond Ourselves. Crafted entirely in-house by the members of the fiercely DIY band, it includes a box set containing the double vinyl album Tokyo Sessions, as well as a 10-inch vinyl of the unreleased track "Underneath (As Strangers Falling in Love)", recorded live in their studio, a converted church outside Montreal.
On top of that is a lavish book filled with personal notes from lead vocalist Alex Foster, comprised of excerpts from his tour journals and never-released poetry, along with photos taken on their world tours, accompanied by commentary from each band member.
A Journey Beyond Ourselves is indeed a journey through the past five years of Your Favorite Enemies, telling the intimate story of the six individuals behind the group, and what went into making the multiple versions of their previous album Between Illness and Migration.
It also marks Foster’s return to full-time activity after several months recharging his batteries after the previous creative period that he describes as draining, both physically and emotionally. For more info on A Journey Beyond Ourselves, go to yourfavoriteenemies.com.
A Journey Beyond Ourselves is an impressive project. How long did it take to put together, and what were the challenges?
It took us a little more than a year to complete the project.
In fact, the idea first emerged around the time we came back from Japan where we did a show that was a complete reinterpretation of our album Between Illness and Migration. The concert led to the creation of the album Tokyo Sessions shortly after, and as we were getting ready to transition to our upcoming album, A Journey Beyond Ourselves briefly resurfaced. We were all too busy at the time to honestly consider working on such a colossal project, which was reconsidered while I was living in Tangier a year ago.
I think the dilemma of how transparent we wanted to be was more challenging than our collective willingness to truly be honest. This is what became the real cornerstone of the project as it slowly took shape, as it went from being the story covering the album concept for Between Illness and Migration, all the way to the five years of worldwide touring that followed. But somehow, as we re-opened personal notebooks and revisited personal travel journals, the project became more intimate and personal. It was now a deeper look into our relationships, the challenges associated with depression and isolation, the dazzling reality that comes with discovering the world through the eyes of six completely different individuals all coming from very humble backgrounds.
The album’s story suddenly revealed itself in a different angle, and instead of trying to rewrite it and shape some look-good type of myth, we decided to fully dwell in it and use it as a way to reconnect with each other.
Facing where we came from, who we were, what we've been through, and how incredibly difficult it's been to get out of it alive has been more challenging than the incredible amount of time we spent in our archives or all the technical problems we faced crafting every single element of the project ourselves.
I guess that’s the long answer… Well, a part of it anyhow!
Why was it important to you to open up about yourselves so much?
I think it became necessary the moment I admitted that I somehow became the shadow of somebody else’s story, a witness to my own life, that I grew apart from everybody else and that I was completely isolated emotionally. I could have talked about it to some professionals or just opened up to the others, but writing has always been my way of expressing myself. So I faced it. And honestly, more than truth, allowed me to let go in a positive way rather than a drama-like public self-flagellation. I was pretty reluctant at first, but I somehow knew it was alright to do it.
Even if we’re a little more sensitive to those issues, I realized that depression and mental illness are highly difficult to admit to yourself. It became a taboo of sorts, as being “strong” has always been the answer to questions that might require being fragile. Well, at least that’s how I see it and how I now allow myself to address those issues. Matthew Good’s personal story raised a flag for me a few years ago… It broke the cycle of isolation in a way.
How would you describe what has made the band such a tight-knit unit, both as friends and musicians?
I would say that we learned to accept our differences – and God knows how different we are! So rather than feeding the necessary band compromises, we try to keep defining and redefining the nature of our shared language. We’ve acknowledged the fact that we’re all fighting our demons and shadows, and we’ve learned to receive each other for who we are rather than trying to fit others into our self-preservation views.
It’s difficult to define why, but we found each other, and we kinda found our purpose. The rest is a choice. We’ve learned over the years that projects, as fresh and uplifting as they might be, aren’t substitutes for the time we invest in each other, nor can they truly cover any problems forever. All good mottos and philosophical views we need to remember, sometimes more than others!
What can you say about any new music you're working on now?
We’ve been working on different musical projects. Sef, Ben and I are presently completing a soundtrack project to be released sometime next year. I’ve got a French spoken word/noise/experimental album coming up as well. And I’m bringing the whole YFE circus to Tangier at the end of the month to start working on our next album in a recording studio I established in the heart of the city… Let’s just say there’s currently a lot of noise in our lives!
What are your fondest musical memories as you were growing up?
I think it would be the passionate debates and fights over real rock ’n’ roll legitimacy. Between my mother’s love for Elvis and my father’s allegiance to Creedence Clearwater Revival, the fierce conversations led to my first understanding of a man having to sleep on a couch for whatever reason! Anyway, they would later find common ground by being on the same page for their total despise towards my passion for Ministry, Skinny Puppy and The Cure. I know, I never understood why either. Maybe it has something to do with the hair… I don’t know. Go figure!