Formed in 1986 in Quebec, Your Favorite Enemies have stealthily established themselves as one of Canada's most successful alternative rock bands. A stubbornly independent collective who work out of a group-owned converted church, the sextet are living proof that that hard work and a DIY ethic can still take a band far. As we premiere the group's new video, we caught up with guitarist Jeff Beaulieu for an insight into the YFE mindset.
Q. You’re a new name to our site, so can you tell us how Your Favorite Enemies came together and what was your original vision for the group?
I guess it’s fair to say we were a band way before we even tried to create some cohesive noise together. We’ve been in different bands in the past, but when we got together, it was more about being in a community than putting together a 5 year plan to become Vampire Weekend or another pink polo type of band. It was more about the mess we were in and the desire we had to get out of that funk. Music came together along the way. For an historical point of view, let’s say Sef (guitar) and Alex (Foster, vocals) started the band when they met through social work. Saving the world was really tiring, so when they found out they were both into music, solving the world’s problems became a part time hobby.
Sef brought his youngest brother Ben (Lemelin) to play bass, probably in order to keep roughing him up as Sef wasn’t spending much time home anymore. Ben was not only an amazing musician, he was a great guy to hang out with. And it was refreshing for Alex to talk about art, music and books without hearing Sef always bring back stories about how underrated Metallica’s Load and Reload albums have been reduced to by jealous people. And no, I’m not jealous… really! Miss Isabel (Keyboard) joined this little eclectic trio almost instantly. Being another outcast of her own, she fitted quite perfectly. Myself (guitar) and Moose (drums) naturally added ourselves soon after, as we thought we would be magnificently famous, ridiculously rich, would date incredibly amazing super top models and hang out with Dave Grohl, Bono, Thom Yorke and Nick Carter (Moose has always been a crazy fan of the Backstreet Boys - he will kill me for saying that!) Yes, illusions can be very strong. At least, Moose was able to meet Creed’s drum tech. What? Creed used to be a super huge and famous band you know…
We immediately bonded and all our major dysfunctions became the ultimate acknowledgement that we were actually a band. A completely messed up one, but a legitimate one. Well, it’s a little blurry, but that sounds like how we started the band. Add all the usual dramas, a zillion more Metallica stories and it would be quite accurate! Well, it would be at least one side of the story!
Q. Who are the bands/writers/artists who’ve most influenced the YFE sound and aesthetic?
We all grew up having different influences and being inspired by all sorts of different arts and artists. But in terms of music, what instinctively comes to mind would be the chaotic exploration (and musical dangerousness) of Sonic Youth, the gloomy landscape of The Cure “Pornography” era, the early Nirvana punk type of utter melodic let go, the defiance of The Stooges, the raw essence of the Pixies, up to the ethos of Fugazi and the freedom of the Grateful Dead… and I would have mentioned Radiohead because it’s trendy, cool and serious to name them as being influential. But ever since our Canadian pride Avril Lavigne mentioned them in her latest single, I guess she took it all with her… Oh! And Sef would be really happy if I mentioned that he grew up fantasying on spandex shredders like Yngwie Malmsteen. Sadly, he can’t wear the same for undisclosed biological reasons…
Honestly, I think it’s the spirit of it all that makes the whole difference for us a band. The let go, sometimes brutally quiet and sometimes whispery intense. The paradoxical elements of rawness and fragility that truly make something unique and special. Without the dangerousness of taking a chance to let a creation be the live incarnation of the moment, it ain’t worth paying attention for us. It’s just nice ear candies meant to numb our emotional guts off… it’s nothing. It needs to feel like it could be taken away from us at any second. So we need to live it for what it is and make something out of it. Again, it’s based on our degree of commitment to the “let go” nature of the moment…
Q. From day one your band has operated on a self-sustaining DIY basis: has that independent, autonomous stance given you an advantage as the music industry has been transformed over the past decade?
Since we weren’t cute, didn’t have cool dancing shoes and weren’t 11-year-olds brilliantly playing bongos on YouTube for 6-year-old girls to be smoothly led into the cash flow market of pre-puberty, we preferred doing our own things and creating our own world. Being true to yourself might not be sexy in nowadays whore-shipping fake gold digging endeavours, but still, you can do whatever you envision based on your own values and measure of involvement. You can curse all you want after the state of the industry, you can secretly envy all the bands who are pushed and supported by big time corporations, but it won’t change the nature of the business we are in.
There are no equal chances, there are no fair deals, there’s no may the best one win, there are not even communities of artists. Everything is scripted in advance and you don’t stand a chance at winning and keeping a straight face. That’s why we created our own world. Would we make it, whatever it means? The best of all news is that I already made it, and that everything has yet to be discovered. That’s my point of view. DIY is cool to brag about until you realize your van broke in the middle of nowhere and that you won’t be able to play in front of the 25 people you’ve been able to drag to your show by begging them. But still, it’s the best way to live it if you want to work it out. Otherwise… well, I’ve heard there’s a whole lot of work for anyone able to repair ukulele and mandolins nowadays…!
Q. We’re previewing Where Did We Lose Each Other on the site: what can you tell us about the song?
I see it as Alex’s most personal song ever written… I see it as a description of a very pure enlightenment that probably occurred in the middle of one of those long nights, a moment by which even the contemplation of your own illusions and make-believes aren’t enough to cover the shadows of your self-alienated desperation. It’s about this exact moment where you simply stop walking toward a direction because you know, even if you’re walking toward the right place, you’ll never fully reach it, since freedom isn’t a destination, but a state of mind being deeply rooted into a purity of heart that elevates you and others around you… a simple but powerful invitation to take a chance toward what really maters in life, toward your loved ones or loved one..!
Q. Your current album Between Illness and Migration has been hugely successful in Canada: what problems/tensions – if any – does this acceptance into the ‘mainstream’ create for the band?
If by “mainstream” you mean not being played by every so called ‘cool’ radio stations, magazines and tv shows, well, this is exactly where we’re at here in Canada… For us, we’re here today because of every one out there who’s been supporting us since the very beginning of this crazy journey! By everyone, I’m not talking about media but our fans, friends, and loved ones having most of the time more faith in ourselves than our poor selves! Genuine is key, if it’s stardom you’re after instead of being relevant and faithful to who you truly are, you should have learned to kick a football, to create apps or to attend music business for dummies, as they are the new rock stars.
True recognition, for me, comes in the one and only fact that we’re still together, the six of us, after so many storms, doing what we enjoy the most, sharing it with incredible people night after night around the globe, without being afraid of simply being, and enjoying it to its fullest for what it really is, not for what I would like it to be! And to be able to do it at home, I really take it as a very precious gift…
Q. What’s the road ahead for YFE over the next six months?
The up coming months will be crazy busy for us starting with sharing the stage with Seether here in Canada this October, and also, our first gig in New York City during the CMJ festival! Afterwards we’ll be back in Europe this November opening for …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, promoting Between Illness and Migration, which is being released on November 3rd all over Europe. We’re actually working on a few surprises that will be announced shortly!
Q. Describe your current mind-set in just five words.
Exhausted from a NYC trip!
Your Favorite Enemies kick off a 17 date European tour with …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead in Germany on November 3. UK dates are as follows:
Nov 14 Glasgow The Art School
Nov 15 Coventry Kasbah
Nov 16 Manchester Ruby Lounge
Nov 17 London Dingwalls