Bio: Your Favorite Enemies’ distinctive blend of dirty and polished type of sonic textures, along with their introspective poetry and symbolist type of lyrical approach gathered fanatics from all different musical backgrounds into a defining communion of high level noise, post-punk, psych, shoegaze and prog rock.
Well known for their old school DIY dedicated ethos, for being fierce human rights advocates and for their insanely unique scenic let go type of live performances, the six members of the band devote every aspect of their career based on their community values.
Sonically twisted, lyrically juxtaposed symbolistic and creative polemics are amongst the few aspects that make Your Favorite Enemies one of the most exciting, intriguing and artistically fascinating ventures to emerge on the musical front scene over the last couple of years.
In one of the lengthiest and best answered interviews we’ve had back yet, Your Favourite Enemies’ fill us in on, well, everything! Check these guys out as our newest Best Thing You’ve Never Heard…
Let’s start with the basics; for those that aren’t aware of you, can you please give us the abridged version of the ‘Your Favorite Enemies’ story, how you came to be and the decision on the name of the band?
Everything started with Sef and I. We were both involved in social work studies and realized we had more in common than our part-time commitment to change the world and our week-end dedication to solve humanity’s problems. Music was a defining common ground. Actually, it was quite incredible and touching to realize how much of a common ground art, culture and music were, a true bridge for our heart and souls.
It was fascinating to learn about each other. Sef was into “real” male “rock” “Hard” “metal” bands such as W.A.S.P., Mötley Crüe, Metallica and Toto. I was into bands such as The Cure, Joy Division, The Clash and Nick Cave. Sef’s all time favorite albums were Metallica “Load” and “Reload”, “Master Of The Rings” by Helloween and “Fantastic” by Wham!. My favorite albums were Patti Smith “Horses”, “Pornography” by The Cure, “Ramones” by The Ramones and “Daydream Nation” by Sonic Youth. Sef’s favorite poet was Tom Clancy and the guy who wrote the script for the movie trilogy “Blade”. As for me, I was into Burrows, Ginsberg and Baudelaire. Sef believed Spandex changed the course of music history for good… I believe Spandex should be banned from anything related to music (and pretty much everything else… wait… from everything!!!)
I couldn’t believe how unique of a duo we were. Despite very little differences regarding our cultural foundations, our art interests, our musical influences, the bands we loved and the vision we had about music in particular and life in general, everything was naturally bonding us. We were soul mates as Sef kept saying as he showed me his personal and secret ideas for our future album’s artwork (“oh Sef… a long hair dude using his flying V guitar sword throwing water to an evil female dragon trying to tear his spandex armour away… very interesting bro”… very important note to self: “never let Sef near any artistic aspect of the band… ever) … so based on the very fundamental element of the connection we had (we were both human beings after all) … we keep “bonding”…
Therefore, soon after Sef agreed that no spandex, no glam metal or anything he ever loved about music, art, literature AND artwork would ever be involved or mentioned in our own music, even by some very far extent, Sef brought his younger brother Ben to play bass. After Ben answered my long list of questions about what he truly thought of Sef’s artistic interest (I needed to make sure it wasn’t genetic) we immediately got along. It was refreshing for me to see that contrary to Sef, Ben didn’t believe Nirvana was an Indian restaurant and when asked about Henry Rollins he wasn’t answering the guy that started the Rolling Stones. Not to mention that it was great not to hear some Metallica story every time we were talking about music! After Ben officially joined our eclectic duo, Jeff (rhythm guitar) and Moose (drums) followed, not long after Miss Isabel (Keyboard) had joined the band as well. We were more of a community than a band in itself at first, until we needed to find a band name.
A name that came pretty much at the same time we were getting more open about our personal demons. There were real tough times. We were all beat up hearts and messed up souls. The idea behind “Favorite Enemies” came after we talked about how carefully we were taking care of our own emotional enemies. All the fears, the doubts, the guilt and bitterness. We were feeding those illusions and make-believes with all our best moments as we always looked for someone or something else to blame. “Your” bloomed out and became a reminder to take care of each other.
That’s kind of how everything happened. Well, since it’s an abridged version of our story, I left aside some name ideas one of the band members had. “The Unforgiven 6”, “The Enter Lightening Sandmen”, “The Every Roses Has Its Thorn”, Symphony of Fears, Doubts and Bad Stuff Misery Destruction” and so on. We were also told by that very same band member that, no, we wouldn’t need spandex uniforms, and that no, purple leather pants and pink sparkle latex shirt aren’t cool. By respect for Ben, Jeff, Moose and Miss Isabel I decided that I wound’t involve them in that part of “our” story.
Can you now please introduce each band member and give us a rock ‘n’ roll fact or myth about each of you?
Ben: Bass player
Jeff: Rythme guitar
Sef: Lead Guitar
Miss Isabel: Keybord
Alex: singer and the interviewed
Moose: He looks very mature and always pretty quiet. Well, don’t believe the hype about drummers, they can be quite evil at times! Moose is probably the funniest of the pack. You know, the one who’s whispering some totally inappropriate stuff during a very serious interview, but in a way that only the one answering the questions hears it… and what follows is a bit off track since you are thinking about what Moose said and wondering if anyone else heard it. And then right after, you have Moose answering something very clever, looking brilliantly spot on! I hate him for being so smart! Oh, he loves spending an hour freaking shampooing himself, and after every single gig he spends a crazy long time to “clean” himself with wet towels before being seen in public! That’s it, it’s been said!
Miss Isabel: If you look at her thinking she is a vulnerable sweet angel, forget about that. She might be the only girl in a long hair and bearded rock band, but she’s the toughest of us all. After a concert we had somewhere in America, a guy who kept screaming insanities at her all night went to see her to try his A-game, you know… She told him she would knock the shit out of his sorry misogynic ass if he was to take another step in her direction. The guy did make another step laughing. I don’t think that dude will ever scream at any women now. I spare you the details, I’m too scared Miss Isabel would be mad at me for telling!
Ben: Ben is not only an amazing musician, he’s quite a comedian too… and no one knows, but he kept receiving offers to play in all sorts of things. And I mean, all sorts of things. From a Rocky Horror Picture Show theatre play production in Montreal (Ben never wanted to tell us for what role he had been approached), to a Jimmy Page kind of biographical movie a Belgium production company was looking to produce, to a major French Canadian sitcom looking for a (and i quote) “Sexy Bad Boy”. So if anyone is looking for a sexy bad boy, you know who you might contact now! (Sorry Ben, I had to tell that one)
Jeff: Jeff is the sweetest guy I know, a true heartfelt guy. He’s always there for others. A real good guy, but all the bad things happen to him. He was the subject of quite an insistent stalker a couple of years ago. He’s been really nice to that person, but at one point he had to call the cops, because it was becoming way too crazy. And well, really dangerous. It lasted for years. He is still terrified to the only mention of the stalker’s name, which gave us very good arguments when we wanted to have Jeff’s place in the plane, to decide it would be Jeff doing 5 am interviews the morning after a crazy concert… And you know, other things like that. Only by the power of saying: “Oh, you really don’t want to take my turn to pack all the gear tonight? I know, I know, you did it last night… well, I’m wondering if that [put stalker name here] knows your new mobile phone number…” Jeff usually has a change of mind towards the idea of helping you out… it only helps with the Stalker name… sorry!
Sef: Sef doesn’t speak English very well, bless his heart. He’s only an amazing and brilliant lead guitarist in a rock band! But since we are touring the world and that the world’s common language is usually English, it puts our beloved bearded bro in all sorts of strange situations, which always turn in his favour. If only for that one time when he’s been arrested by British special force (you know the ones with riffles and who are trained to be nice to other human beings… yeah, those ones). All that because that officer asked a question to Sef, who didn’t understand quite well, and answered something that looked offensive (that was actually the word by word English translation of a French answer… something like “what have you said” but turned out being interpreted by “go to hell” or something…) But in reality, Sef is the most polite bearded rock star ever… I mean, he would never be rude to anyone and would probably never even think about being impolite as an option when answering to someone else. Our tour manager had to pick up our dear Sef at the police station, only to realize Sef was eating sandwiches and laughing with 3 officers. And when he saw our tour manager, Sef said: “man his son saw us live 2 nights ago! And we’re all die hard Iron Maiden fans! It’s crazy, right?” Yes, some people have quite a blessed lower back… and yes, we secretly all hate Sef for that (amongst other things)! lol!
This year you are going to release your new album ‘Between Illness And Migration’, so if you had to give us your best door to door sales pitch to convince someone to listen to this release before they slam the door in your face, what do you say to them?
First of all, It pretty much depends on the person opening the door. I’ve got a way to talk with very old people, so that would be really easy. Especially with those having a hearing aid. The album’s got such a high level of noise, so much energy in the bass and drums, amazing high frequencies and low ends, all so perfectly balanced that it would be delightful for those elderly fans to hear the album. Especially if I’m charge of the volume. It would be a major hit with them. “YES MA’AM, IT’S OLD BING COSBY SINGING… IT’S GOOD RIGHT, MA’AM…”
As for those who don’t have that very special hearing aid, I would talk about the heartfelt journey of the album, a record composed of moments we communed as a band and that we wanted to share with anyone willing to live an experience. I would talk about the genuine spirit you can find through the noise and soul of every single song, the unique nature of the lyrics all whispered in bursts of life screamed through the colorful mosaic of every layer of the uplifting sounds. I would talk about the personal pilgrimage that defined the writing process and the collective emergency we had through the recording of the album, about the assumed imperfections we found in the defying art of truly being alive. And I would end up asking if they’d love to listen to the music on ridiculously loud volume. And I would give earplugs. For those who like rock music and those who don’t alike.
My management company would also insist for me to say to the people who don’t like our music that we also have crocs sandals, fluffy band member teddy bears, cupcake molds, coffee mugs and lava lamps, all blessed with the band’s logo on it, for sale. Our managers are always saying that it’s important for people to understand our heart and soul, our no-compromise punk ethos, our artistic beliefs and our DIY lifestyle. They say that even if people hate our music, there’s always away to sell ourselves away. Always!
In terms of your song writing, what do you consider to be the most important ingredients that make up one of your songs?
Authenticity is always the only element we are concerned about. We believe that honesty towards what we’re crafting will always define the true nature of what we’re doing. We don’t care about finding the “new sound” and following any sonic “buzz” because as much as life creates life, honesty will always vividly and relevantly make your creation evolve. And that evolvement is always based on the degree of engagement we have towards “being”. And “being” is way beyond the “feeling” and the “living” parts. You’re setting your true limits by defining your real determination to “be”, regardless of anything else.
Both lyrically and musically, what or who inspires/influences your music the most?
Has you’ve read through the band’s story, we all have different musical influences and different artistic inspirations, we all have quite an eclectic musical background. I grew up with 70′ punk rock music like the Pistols, The Ramones, The Clash, with post-punk noise wave such as The Cure, Nick Cave, Sonic Youth, as much as with songwriters like Leonard Cohen, Dylan, Ochs and Guthrie. I was fascinated by Yeats, Sartre and Rilke. Yes, I grew up in a messed up emotional environment…
Sef and Ben were more into heavy stuff. Well, Sef considered LA Guns heavy, so let’s say Ben was into really really really really heavy stuff. Jeff was into bands such as Zeppelin and Floyd. Moose was into Rush and Pearl Jam. Miss Isabel grew up in a very musical protestant church, so I don’t know anything about those bands, if only it was more rockin’ than any of the stuff Sef called heavy…
So it’s really the mix of it all that gives the unique tone to everything we do. Well, I guess you’ve got a better understanding of why there’s so many noises, so many words, so many beats and so many different artistic elements in Your Favorite Enemies’ music!
It’s crazy, but it’s only recently that we agreed on records to play in the tour bus and in parties. The Cure being the starting point. Placebo, Nick Cave, PIL, Nirvana. Kasabian. And most recently Savages, Foals and Daughter.
Important note: I have to be honest and mention that Sef also contributes to the band. He’s the one with the long hair and the beard in the band. So yes, everyone really contributes. We’re a legitimate band after all!
You have your own label ‘Hopeful Tragedy Records’, what does having this allow you to do as a band?
It’s clearly not allowing us to get away with costly mistakes, very bad decisions and crazy gambles we’ve lost. And it took away our opportunity of blaming the label management for doing a bad job on an unsuccessful album. We set the budget of our projects… so much for the extravaganza of the rock star life style! But hey, there’s a few upsides too!
One of the upsides of having our own label I think remains the fact that every single step we make needs to be strongly assumed by everyone of us because we do know that nobody will come to clean the mess after us. We really know what’s at stake. So if we’re not “all in” in a project we initiate, we’ll simply pass on it. We strongly think that when you deeply believe in something, regardless of how odd it might look like to the outside business world or how off it might be to the eyes of the usual outside doubters, you will dedicate yourself according to the measure of faith you initially had into it. Nothing ever goes according to plan, trust me. So we need to trust each other and we need to be tight together. As for us, there’s a huge difference between having ambition and having a vision. Ambition creates illusionary giggles and ephemeral fizzes, as opposed to the inspiring freedom you get from having a vision.
But to be quite honest, having our own label allows us first of all the great privilege of working with our best friends every day. That’s why, regardless of the insanely long days of work and the madly non-stop “gotta be focus” ethos we have, we don’t see “Hopeful Tragedy Records” as a traditional music business endeavour. It’s first and foremost a community, a unique family… We were pretty much all there at the very foundation of the label, and to see what we’ve been able to create all together is way beyond anything we could have imagined or dreamed of. For everyone of us, it’s a place called “home”.
Do you have plans to expand the roster and the label?
We would love to, but every time we fall in love with a new artist, we help them set their own things, so they can be completely free from anyone else’s influence and remain amazingly artistic in their terms. We’re really happy that most of the people we supported are doing pretty good for themselves. And some are doing really, really good for themselves. So yes, every time we meet anyone of them, they have to pay the diner bill… what?!? Anyway, paying the bill is not that bad, except when there’s very good red wine… and you’re in Paris!
You released your first EP back in 2007, and in the six years since then and looking at your new album what do you see as the biggest difference that has taken place within the band musically?
I think the biggest difference is the freedom we allowed ourselves to fully embrace through the whole process. Most of the album has been recorded live. It’s a journey made of moments, from the writing stand point to the final mix. It was all about assuming what we first envisioned and letting go of any possible ambitions leading us to take control back when the vision unfolded itself in ways we never thought it would. We simply assumed the music that bloomed from the moments we shared together in studio. In many ways, the album is a sonic witness to the 6 of us sharing musical communions. Alive, imperfect, real, honest, broken at times, focus and out of control… all of this, but nonetheless free. And that is the only thing we cared about, having the courage to “be” and to assume what might come out of it.
As for 2007, it might be naive to say, but we simply wanted to give a few songs to the people who found us on internet and who kept insisting for us to release an album. We didn’t believe much in ourselves, so to think anyone would be interested enough in what we were creating to actually want to buy it was completely unreal for us at the time. We were more into trying to find any kind of emotional make-believes and any illusionary placebos for freedom in order to survive another day. We were pretty far from assuming anything we could have been or what we might have believed in. We were pretty messed up. But still, that humble recording produced out of the love we received from people through the digital world has been defining enough to give birth to an album that would become the start point of everything that came after.
Crazy to say, but even in the midst of our own self-fed nightmares, people’s love truly gave birth to the people we ultimately would allow ourselves to be. That’s the most fabulous gift you can receive. It inspires to give back in hundredfolds. As for the rest of it, it’s an honest sound turned into assumed noise and a redeeming whisper turned into embraced poetry.
On the other side of that, in your seven years as a band, what has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
We don’t have quite a traditional rock n roll cliché type of story. Yes, we do have the universal story of being robbed and lied to by a so-called big shot crooked manager at the beginning of our journey. A big reality bite in our soft inexperienced skin. A bite that led us to realize one very important thing, a lesson that is more profound that the obvious “take care of your business, otherwise your business will be taken care of by someone else” kind of lesson’s learned…
For us, the biggest lesson is about the band itself. About being one. About learning to talk. About learning to listen. About learning to love others like we wanted others to love us. Sounds kinda religiously cultish to say that, but it’s true. We came back from rough backgrounds in which we had to find ways to survive and self-preservation is the easiest way to do so. And when storms, like having all money stolen away from you, come hitting you, they always reveal the nature of your relationships’ foundation, in its every detail. And trust me, storms come fast and are stronger every time they hit back. And it hurts to face your own true nature. As much as it hurts to see your best friends’ true nature as well. And it’s even more hurting to realize how many times you deserted yourself and how much more painful to realize how much more we betrayed our vows. So acknowledging that nature was a huge step in the band’s journey. It changed everything. Once we killed the personal ambitions that bitterly built a wall between us, the inspiring freedom of our vision came back naturally. We never left each other after, never had to look back, and decided to live every single moment as the blessing they truly are.
The second lesson would be the importance of letting go. That one is for our next interview. As well as all the sex, drugs and rock n roll stories we have. Hold on, guys, the current love preaching interview is almost over!
How would you describe a typical Your Favourite Enemies show for someone who has never seen you before?
It’s a moment. If you’re coming for us to play the iPod versions of our songs, well, you might be disappointed a little. All the shows are pretty different from one another. We don’t choreography the usual rock show cliché or micmic the good old rock n roll “live” tricks. It’s imperfect, it’s noisy, it’s sweaty but it’s real. Some nights are on the edge of being a fabulous disaster, some other nights are a magnificent uplifting epiphany. We’re not providing a soundtrack to prevent the silence of exposing the boring corporate computerized nature of what actual music has turned in. It’s human beings embracing the moment. And the connection with the real people attending the concert is the soul of the night. I could jump from a venue’s second floor balcony, as much as I could kneel in all whispers. There’s no ambition, only the vision of living the moment for what the moment is truly about. That’s what music is for us. And our acoustic shows aren’t any different. The band and the people together, we all define the involvement by which we turn entertainment into a singular and defining experience. oh! and don’t forget your earplugs, we tend to be a little excessive on the volume level!
Note to those strictly into entertainment: I never destroyed a drum set with a guitar, but I did throw a mic stand through the window of a venue located on second floor. Does that count as entertainment? Come to the show, I might set my self on fire next time. Who knows, for some it’s only rock n roll!
For a bit of fun, say you get the chance to open for any artist or band in the world, who would they be and why?
Wow, that’s a difficult one, because I know I cannot win by only saying one. So I would say it’s a very small line up of a Soundwave kind of world tour. My headliner would be The Cure, because it’s one of the 3 bands besides The Clash and The Ramones that really influenced the artist and the man that I am today, because I still listen to The Cure every day, and mainly because I would be able to close my eyes while listening their songs live, like I do ever since I discovered them as a teenager.
Kasabian and Placebo would be my second picks as all the band members love them. They both have that rock n roll spirit. They are cocky, pretentious and known no fear of “being”. They’re defying and resolutely earned everything they’ve got today. Well, and because they are amazing bands playing amazing songs. I told you, we’re fans!
And I would complete the line up with my new favorite bands, Savages, Foals and Daughter. Because it would be a blessing to hear them every night from side stage…
I know the rest of the band would have said, Radiohead, Pearl Jam, One Direction or U2. Probably only because they would love to do stadium and arenas, bunch of sell-out type of fans! So I think I would say yes to add only 3 of them on the tour. Sorry Pearl Jam, but they’re all European bands. Maybe next time… or if One Direction’s mothers don’t want them to go on tour! But my special pick would go to U2, as I would love to talk about faith with them. Does it get easier as you’re aging or is faith truly an everlasting inner battle? They should know the answer, right?!?
Note from my conscience: Metallica, Roxette, Poison and Toto would briefly be considered to be added to the tour, so that Sef would feel loved. Remember my answer regarding loving others like you want to be loved. Yes… well, it’s not always easy!
If you could cover one song in your live set that no one would ever expect, what would it be and why?
As much as I dreamed to sing with my musical heroes as a teenager, I now tend to believe that covering the very same songs I would have died to write myself would be some kind of transgression to the inaccessible and unreachable vision I built of these musical heroes.
But I should admit that singing Eddie Vedder’s “Indifference” would be quite special for me. Especially if Eddie and Ben Harper would join me on stage. It would be uniquely uplifting and profoundly empowering for me. I would forever be grateful if they were only humming the melody beside me. It’s such an honest let go and an incredibly sincere song. Eddie and Ben are 2 of the rare artists I admire both as artist and as the person they are, so it would really be a singular communion for me.
Lastly, with 2013 over half done, here’s a chance to gaze into your crystal ball and predict the future. In the next year Your Favourite Enemies will:
1. We will let Sef write all the songs for our new album he would call “Big Dangerous Riffs For Monstrous Post Apocalyptic Time For A World Burning From The Inside Of Earth Turned Metal”. Sef will secretly book us on the “Curly Chest Fur and Spandex Diary – Women Love It, But Only Real Men Wear It” world tour, featuring what Sef considers the dream line-up of the only bands that matter. White Lion, Warrant, Europe, W.A.S.P. and Poison. Your Favorite Enemies will disband before the first sound check, but Sef will decide to assume his honesty and would do the whole tour of 2 empty arenas. The other 724 dates will have to be cancelled for some undisclosed reasons.
2. One second after disbanding, Your Favorite Enemies will announce they reform with a new lead guitar player named John Frusciante…
3. The new reformed band will record and release a new album and finally conquer the world.
4. Sef will sue every member of Your Favorite Enemies for stealing his dream of being a rock star.
5. After losing his trial against the band and having a long conversation with James Dio in a dream he had after eating bad pork chops before going to sleep – James told him about faith and repentance – Sef will call his former band mates to ask for forgiveness…
6. We all will forgive Sef and ask him to cut his hair in a true redemptive act of absolution, ask him to burn all his 80’s metal cassette tapes, to throw away his large Bon Jovi teddy bear collection, to trash his Toto underwear and tear apart his Poison t-shirt collection. We will finally burn the t-shirt as well, just in care the spirit would come back. We all say thanks to John Frusciante for the good time and record another album right after Sef’s come back from his Glam Metal Spandex detox in Uruguay. It’s actually called a lobotomy in that country, but that’s just a matter of translation.
7. Your Favorite Enemies will be happy to be all together again and will take good care of Sef while touring the world with The Cure, Kasabian, Placebo, Savages, Foals, Daughters, U2, Radiohead, One Direction and… Toto. Yes, we will find out that such kind of evil spirit only leaves through fasting and prayers.
Thank you “May The Rock Be With You”. It was a great privilege for me to answers such cool questions. I especially can’t wait for my band mates who told me they were too busy to answer the questions with me only to find out they all went at the beach finally to read it all. Hope your readers will survive the length and tone of the interview without having to get some prescribed pain killers! Hope to see you all guys soon. -Alex
Sounds like: Alternative Rock
Band members: Alex (Lead Singer), Miss Isabel (Keyboards), Jeff (Rhythm Guitar), Sef (Lead Guitar), Ben (Bass), Moose (Drums)
Current release: Between Illness and Migration