Canadian Musician - November/December 2021 - Page 27


We Wrote Our First Song … Let ’ s Buy a Church

By Alex Henry Foster

Every band or artist will eventually come to the point where their dreams need to be a little more organized and structured . That pivotal moment usually comes with questions ; what else could we look at when we already agreed to live in a van or someone else ’ s floor for the rest of our lives , knowing that gas money , half a sandwich , and cheap beer is a perfectly sustainable future ? Isn ’ t having some “ plan B ” a lack of faith in your art ? And if splitting $ 100 into equal parts between five people had never been problematic at the beginning , it could escalate into a very tense climate when you want to reach the next level of your creative journey or when you all want to quit your day job ( you weren ’ t there too often anyway …).

When we started Your Favorite Enemies a decade ago , we had the blessing and the curse to see our band grow incredibly fast . A blessing because it felt like everything would be simple and effortless . A curse because everything became painful and complicated faster than it began . When people say the more people that are involved in decision-making , the more problems there are , it is true . So , imagine six musicians alongside 15 other people who are all involved in capital aspects surrounding the band , from operating your label ( which was just a cool name at that point ), to your shipping logistics , setting up your online store , and media departments , etc . In other words , everyone was on Facebook . For all those reasons ( and more ), trust becomes an increasingly significant currency . And trusting was my biggest challenge .
Forced to move from the little home where we were rehearsing — thanks to the neighbours who hadn ’ t realized they had the next Rolling Stones living next to them — we had to address the degree of commitment we all had , both the band and crew members . So , when I opened up about the necessity to move , the perspective of buying a place that would allow us to rehearse without having the cops knocking at our door every 10 minutes , everyone was on board . It was simple and effortless . Until it wasn ’ t anymore . Some of our friends decided to quit before it was too late , in an instant of great lucidity brought about by words like “ mortgage ,” living in a communal setting , and having to move to the middle of nowhere . What was supposed to be a promise to achieve that creative vision turned into a poignant goodbye for some of us . I can ’ t blame them , it was completely naive and inconceivably crazy to think it would actually work — let alone make a living out of it .
Those who stayed soon realized that sometimes naivety and craziness are required to achieve the impossible . And that ’ s exactly what happened to us . It got us all closer to each other . The dream was suddenly tangible . And if it wasn ’ t insane enough , we decided that buying a former Catholic church , along with the priest house , and turning it into a studio would be perfect . Considering the fact that so many churches were either for sale or almost abandoned all over Quebec , we were confident that it would be simple and effortless . You can guess the rest …
Finding the place was easy . Making a buying offer was effortless . But no bank would finance a band buying a church . The decision needed to go through all the religious organizations , which took six months . Finding the money took several more months . The day before our offer deadline , we were still short by a good margin . But against all odds , we managed to do it , and finally , we were the proud — and burnt out — owners of a church , a huge empty space , and a priest house .
The next 18 months were dedicated to fixing the place by ourselves , a period that also got us closer to each other . Over the following 10 years , it slowly became a unique recording studio , a proper record label , a multi-media facility , and a merch company . We wrote and produced several albums , including one nominated for Rock Album of the Year at the 2015 Juno Awards . We shared so many other fulfilling creative endeavors and evolved as friends , family , and business partners . The original six band members remain the same , as well as most of the original cast of misfits who initially joined us in pure madness . We were even able to pay everyone back .
Again , naivety and craziness can go a long way when you are willing to trust , if only a little , those who are walking by your side , may it be for a short instant or for what seems to be the long run . Reaching your destination as fast as possible doesn ’ t really matter , it ’ s every step that becomes priceless . But most importantly , it ’ s the communion and camaraderie that will keep on transforming you .
In short , whichever stage of your journey you find yourself at , it ’ s the people you share your projects with that will make it special or unique . More often than not , I realize that it ’ s through finding your people that you can find your purpose . As long as everyone has a piece of a sandwich and their own floor space to sleep on , the rest is simple and effortless … Trust me .
Alex Henry Foster is a Montreal-based singer , musician , writer , and activist who fronts the Juno-nominated alternative band Your Favorite Enemies . His solo debut LP , Windows in the Sky , was released in 2018 on Hopeful Tragedy Records , and he recently released Standing Under Bright Lights , a triple LP and DVD from his sold-out concert at the Montreal Jazz Festival . www . alexhenryfoster . com .