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The untold story behind the song Lavender Sky - Part 1

The untold story behind the song Lavender Sky - Part 1

Can you believe we’re now getting ready for the 4th out of 5 lathe cut vinyl vault edition lottery draw already? What an incredible and soulful journey it has been so far for everyone who had the blessing to be a part of it. It’s such an amazing privilege for me to invite you all to discover the insights that gave life to some of Alex’s most poignant songs, but also to guide you through his immersive and one-of-a-kind creative world, like I have been doing for the last 2 months or so.

In fact, every weekend, when it gets a little quieter around the label’s facilities, I take the time to close my office door and think about my own experiences and perspectives regarding the song featured on the vinyl to be drawn next, may it be about the song itself or about the circumstances it may have been written in, so I can have a better idea of what I want to share with you, of what I believe could be an inspiring piece of life for you to look at, and maybe a little something particular to uncover for yourself alone. Therefore, I truly hope you enjoy reading those words as much as I like writing them.

That’s why I always keep the details regarding the new vinyl draw at the very end of my messages, because for Alex and me, it’s imperative that we keep the human aspect and intimate essence of our projects at the very heart of everything we do - interviews, personal letters, or even a live lottery session! It’s probably even more true for that unique song that is Lavender Sky.

I say unique, since I’ve always thought of Lavender Sky as a very distinctive song on “Windows in The Sky”. It feels like it has its own profound voyage within the already deep journey the album is. The difference isn’t only on a musical level, but also resides in the context in which this song came to life.

Again, if you are new to Alex’s creative universe, you need to know that whatever he may be up to, everything always starts with a title. Every album, EP, or special project he has ever released - may it be through our Your Favorite Enemies moniker or his recent solo adventure... There never is anything random about a single thing. He sees something in words that we have never been able to really comprehend, to be very honest. But once he’s got the title, then the song titles follow, the lyrics soon after, and eventually the music will bloom, becoming a soundtrack to what he had in his heart and soul to share with the world through his words and poems. It’s basically as if we were working on a movie, with only the name and a vague idea of the storyline, trusting that Alex will then uses the music to connect it all together… I guess the best way to describe the whole process would be like walking on a wire, blindfolded by the very same person who tells you to follow your instinct to keep going, while he is himself walking not far ahead of you… Trust me, some falls are better than others!

It’s sometimes much harder for us to create the soundtrack of a movie that doesn’t exist in our minds just yet - at least not as it does so clearly for Alex, who has his own way to totally immerse himself into some emotional disposition to feel, to touch, to see, to hear and to taste it all way before we are even able to distinguish where we are at some point. He has the ability to discover “things” that don't require a rational map. He keeps telling us that "it’s only about your willingness to totally abnegate yourself." And as simple as it may seem for him to guide us through it all, we know that it's a very challenging pilgrimage to show us the way without defining or shaping the upcoming experiences he believes we are invited to let go in. It’s not an easy task on his end for sure. We bear the numerous stigmata of a nearby past of relational dysfunctions, and we know better than anyone that we can’t travel together — nor go anywhere at all for that matter — if we’re not willing to even consider the invitation to completely surrender ourselves to whatever awaits us individually. It’s always the key to what could be subsequently shared collectively afterward.

Part of the real challenge is always to keep connected somehow with every new step we take in the necessary faith we need to have in each other rather than follow the very same partners we so easily like to find comfort in, the very same places Alex keeps warning us about, for us to avoid capitulating to our self-preservative illusions like we used to do over and over again during the whole existence of Your Favorite Enemies. This is basically what incited Alex to ask himself if he wanted to keep trying to give life to the invisible after he came back from Tangier and had new sounds and words on his heart to commune with the world. And we all understood why… How can you write about grief, about being damaged, profoundly wounded in your heart, when you constantly have to fight with the very same people who are supposed to be aligned with you? It’s impossible. And this time, we knew that Alex wouldn’t let it slide. He wouldn’t compromise like he used to no more… And it was healthy for me to remain faithful to his vision, to trust his instinct.

I remembered what Alex told us, only a few days after we all arrived in Tangier to visit him:

“I know it’s not easy to face yourself when you are no longer a mystery to the people you have been trying to lie to for so long, but we all have to decide the measure of love we are willing to offer each other. And that measure is the exact same part of honesty we offer ourselves at this very defining moment of our relationship. No one is entitled to do what he doesn’t want to do, but I’m no longer playing a game… So let’s see where that first week together in 2 years will lead us now that you know where I stand... I won’t communicate with you through cans on a string as we did for 10 years.”

As I started sharing with you in my previous missive about “The Hunter”, that statement from Alex marked a real fracture in our collective timeline. That trip to Tangier wouldn’t be some artificial summer fling that would lead us back to where we used to be. The Alex we knew was gone and therefore the ensemble wasn’t anywhere but in our resistance to keep the illusion alive a little longer. And Alex wouldn’t have any part in it. That was disturbing for us. We all suddenly realized that the distance there was between Montreal and Tangier wasn’t only physical. We all wanted to act surprised and confused, but the reality was so much simpler. Except for the usual business call we had to have every month to discuss touring offers and new album release dates, which Alex always pushed back, no one besides Alex and I were really talking together. Trust me, time doesn’t heal. No distance is far enough for anyone to forget, especially when it’s forgiveness that’s needed more than anything else.

I know I’ve been sharing a lot recently about that time in Tangier, about how pivotal it has been for us, and I’m sorry if you feel like you’ve already heard it all before, but I don’t think any of us can fully understand Alex’s songs if I’m not going back to North Africa, where we arrived emotionally empty-handed before being rejuvenated.

So here I am, fast forwarding to the end of our time in Tangier, in March 2018.

Back then, I had always thought of Africa as a very warm place, especially those countries where huge are part of their landscapes, such as Morocco, home to most of the Sahara Desert. Many people in Tangier would tell us to take good care as it gets very cold and deeply humid during the winter season, but being Canadians, we can tell you a whole lot about the winter! There are no palm trees in Canada, and they're everywhere in Tangier, so, what could possibly go wrong?!

The recording studio was also where we lived and shared rooms. We were eight people living in this place, without proper isolation, and it literally felt as we were living outside, in what is now known as the most humid and rainy winter of the last 20 years or so in Tangier! We were freezing, much more than we ever have in Canada, even when it hits -40°C outside...! Just to contextualize, we were then a few months into this very intense collective healing process, which also became one of the hardest and deepest musical journeys we didn’t even know we were embarked on. Everything was intense and felt uneasy, from the terrible weather to the rudimentary gear Alex insisted on working with, up to the challenges that come with being a collective of 8 people constantly together in a freezing place without much intimacy. Add to this the deep worries we had for the partner of one of Alex’s dear friends who was dealing with a ravaging illness for most of our time in Tangier. So let's say that the chances we would leave that place with anything worth sharing with anyone but ourselves were pretty slim, but it was somehow different from anything we had ever experienced together before… as friends.

We were emotionally exhausted… We talked about so many things… Revisited so many situations, the many hurts we inflected others or were inflected with… It was a toxic relationship detox, and we were all discovering what Alex had gone through from one song to another, one piece of lyrics at the time, a fraction of melody and sonic display here and there. It was like being freed from time itself. But when you do, you need to be ready to face the implication of what "being in the now" means. It comes with tension, with potential disruption. We all knew that. You just can’t stand in the furnace pretending no one will get burnt, let alone be incommoded by the smokes or covered with ashes at some point. The contrary would mean you weren’t there at all, not with everyone else. So it was heavy at times, uncomfortable at best on several other occasions, but it was real and necessary.

I remember we were starting to work on a new song, and it was still pouring rain outside, like it had for the last ten days in a row. When it rains in Tangier, the entire city kinda shuts down, everything slows down or literally stops operating. There’s nowhere to go, nothing that could potentially help ease that emotional pressure, if only just a little. And we needed a breather. I needed it. But when it rains, there’s not a taxi to take you anywhere close to a café or a movie theater. You’re kind of stuck where you are. So with that terrible stretch of ongoing rain happening, our relational challenge was even more difficult...

So… There we were… In a room which carpet we know every detail, where the furniture didn't hold any secrets, and where we knew the walls by heart after having spent countless hours trapped in them. The tension was rising by the second… And it suddenly happened. The song we were working on, the one that would later be known as Lavender Sky was slowly blooming without us even realizing it, lightly emerging from all the other platitudes we had been juggling with for hours at that point. We were not even close to realizing that it was there, somewhere… But when you feel stuck, you can’t make the difference between good and bad, heartfelt and generic. You only look at any potential spark to set the place on fire… And what I earlier called the tension between us was now becoming darker than any of the clouds we had learned to curse for the last 10 days of rain.

When this kind of situation used to happen before - and it did a lot in the past, trust me - we sadly all tended to go back in our own personal and selfish grounds, which was exactly what brought a pause button on Your Favorite Enemies, just two years prior that moment. There’s nothing magical and you can’t fake for that long. Alex was looking at me from the corner of the room. He didn’t look preoccupied. I would say he looked more intrigued by how this whole thing would turn. We had been there so many times, but that time wasn’t like any other times, and I knew that if Alex was to say “Ok guys, I told you, I’m tired of that nonsense, let's pack up, you’re going back to Montreal, it’s over”, it would definitely be over that time…

I was stressed, I have to admit it. I thought that moment would be the last he would invite us to Tangier, that he should come back for a week or two instead so we wouldn't bring our toxicity in his new life. But he had insisted, which made me even more nervous at the time because I knew it would be serious. And it was. It was more than I can presently explain. And there we were, Alex looking at me, while the others were involved in a full cold-war operation, our history telling us that it was about to blow up for good at that very exact moment. And we kept on pressing on, exhausted, still digging to reach something we couldn’t even hear at that point. I felt like I was hearing the music that probably played when the titanic sunk, without any of the potential comforting elements it might have brought to any of them...

The rain must have stopped at some point during the storm that was going between us. The sky was incredibly pretty, one of the most beautiful I have ever seen in my entire life. Alex looked somehow peaceful, his eyes closed, slowly breathing in the fresh air of the sea carried by the winds. He turned to me and said: “Ain’t this, right now, the most beautiful sky you could see in the entire world?” I must have blabbed something similar. After about 10 minutes standing there, peaceful and silent, Alex turned to me and said: “You know, brother, that’s why I wanted you all to come here, so we could talk for real. So we could see such a wonderful sky and feel the light touch of the sea winds being blown on your face. We can’t repair what’s broken. And I’m not looking for reparation, Jeff. I just hope we’ll be able to see what we have never wanted to admit before, because if we sincerely do, it will lead us to a renaissance, not some second-hand type of "let’s keep it together for the kids". And if it’s the end, then be it. That band is not what should define us, it should be how willing we are to receive each other tonight.” He smiled. And he went back inside. I have stayed a little longer to look at that lavender sky a little longer…

To be continued…


I will share what happened next on Saturday, November 21, right after Alex’s Facebook live where he will draw the lucky new vinyl owners of Lavender Sky! 

IMPORTANT: The Lavender Sky LP will be available next Monday, November 30, starting at 10am ET for 48 hours! 

In the meantime, I’m inviting you to download the entire EP if you haven’t already done it! 

Thanks for being part of this incredible journey with us! 

Your Host and Friend,

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