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Your Package Is Almost Ready + the Summertime Departures Vinyl - Series 2/5! 🎶

Your Package Is Almost Ready + the Summertime Departures Vinyl - Series 2/5! 🎶

I hope you’re doing well!

I’m once again very happy to write a new cult missive, which is one of my favorite little personal moments of the week. It’s funny because I didn’t know how it would be like, or even what it really meant, when Alex offered me to be “The Club” host. My initial concern was mainly about the “writing” part, as I never wrote that much before. Alex simply answered me with a smile: “There isn't a better person than you to share our stories, not only because you've experienced them all with me, but because you always go all-in with a true heartfelt perspective. So you only need to write with that very same exact engagement.” Simple, right? Well, that’s what I need to remind myself every time I start writing a “missive” to you! :) 

Last week was actually my turn to support Alex through his live phobia when he was getting prepared for his first Facebook Live alone. It might be difficult for some of you to believe, but as far as I can remember, Alex has never been comfortable, for lack of other worlds, to do interviews. From the most popular TV shows to dreamlike mags such as Rolling Stone, Billboard and Spin, or the hottest radio shows, it has always been a real nightmare for him, to the point that I ended up becoming the band’s designated spokesperson every time he was asked to be interviewed. I never really understood why he felt that way... Maybe you should ask him that question for one of his future “From A Stranger to Another” journal! But somehow, for him, it has always been super easy to walk on a stage in front of 60,000 people or to jump from the second floor balcony of a large venue than being on his own, than being in front of a smartphone or a camera for only a few minutes.

So, right before he went live, I simply told him with a smile:

“There isn't a better person than you to do all those lives, not only because it’s your music, your designs and ideas, but because it will be a wonderful moment for you to share with the people you care so much for. So you only need to do the live with the exact same engagement as when you write to them.”. I mean, it’s easy! :) 

I have to say that Alex did a pretty good job for his first out of 5 Facebook Live. I really enjoyed the entire process, even if I was stressfully thrilled by the whole vibe surrounding the draw. I just can imagine how exciting it must have been for you as well. I was also touched that Alex, as the very private and discrete person that he is, insisted to invite you home to witness a little bit of the majestic spectacle of his Virginia Highlands. It felt very intimate, just like we were envisioning the whole thing; simple and casual.

In fact, when we realized that a lot of you would either have to limit your usual activities or go back into some sort of lockdown, we decided we would have those live draws every 2 weeks, so we could add a little joy and fun in an otherwise very challenging reality.

Therefore, the second of the five limited and collector lathe cut vinyl edition series contains three different versions of the song “Summertime Departures” and was initially released on January 17, 2020. It’s strange to say, but I remember just how promising 2020 looked at the time and how enthusiastic we were to start the year with that very special EP & video project.

Like I did for the song “Shadows of Our Evening Tides”, I will have the real pleasure to share insights about “Summertime Departures” with you, especially knowing just how significant the song was for Alex. It’s a reflection of the relationship he had with his late father. It was also very meaningful to us all, as it wasn’t only the lead single for his album “Windows in the Sky”, but the first new original music we were releasing in ages. So it really was a very emotional moment for all of us.

To put you in context, everything changed when Alex decided to come back from Tangier. We could all tell he was a very different person and we all wanted to honor his decision to give it another chance, to give us that opportunity after we took him for granted for so long in a way. It was the early beginning of a new chapter in our collective journey and it was precious for us all. We could feel that it would be one of the most stirring and thrilling times we would ever share together and after such a long winter of labouring in the dark, we're immensely grateful to be able to even envision such a joyful perspective. And we were right.

Everything started around the Montreal International Jazz Festival on July 5, 2019! Everything after feels kinda blurry, even though we played the Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg, Germany. Alex and I went to Ireland to shoot a short film before heading to Tokyo for very important interviews around the release of “Windows in the Sky”, before being right in the middle of a very powerful typhoon that hit Japan delaying our flight for days...!

That's why I see the second half of 2019 as nothing less but a crazy rollercoaster going to the speed of light. After a long stretch going straight, we had to trust each other again when came time to turn left and then right, because at such a high speed, we didn’t have time to even feel a little dizzy nor to doubt ourselves through that intense and speedy ride. You are either all in or all out. You can’t pretend no more.

When we finally came back, in one piece but completely exhausted from what had been an amazing trip to Tokyo, we had to start rehearsing right away because we had a sold-out concert to play on November 30, at the beautiful Astral in Montreal, as an extra date following the only sold-out show of the whole Montreal Jazz Festival's 2-week event. At that point, the word was out that Alex was back on stage and we started receiving several invitations from concert halls, promoters and booking agents who were all wondering if Alex was looking to bring his epic new project on the road, or if he had even considered the idea to do so.

I was hoping Alex could catch a little break during that time at the studio-church, as he had not stopped for a split second since the year had started and also because a few days after that extra date in Montreal, we were all leaving for New York City, where he was scheduled to play three nights in a row at the legendary Pianos, where Arcade Fire started their now legendary journey. All that only to leave for Tangier a few days after the last concert in the Big Apple, where we had important meetings related to an upcoming musical project.

Even though we had been doing this for a long time now, being DIY in every possible way and on every possible level, I know that for Alex, a concert is never just a concert. It's a total abandonment that requires him to completely immerse himself in the deepest parts of his heart and soul. We know just how much it costs him emotionally to get into that state of vulnerability and let go. Once he gets in that state of mind, he has that kind of a sixth sense guiding him towards what the spirit of the concert should be, while allowing that same unique vibe to guide every song into being what they should be at that very particular moment. Those are reasons why the songs are never played the same way, as for him, and the whole band now, music is lived and experienced. It’s not an exercise of duplication. It’s a great sensation, but knowing him, it sometimes gets him seriously ill. If we weren’t paying too much attention to that fact before, we now do, which is the reason why we need to protect him against himself sometimes and why we are always talking about every possible opportunity he receives thoroughly.

So here I am, between 2 rehearsals in late October saying: “Brother, we need to talk. I just received an email from our European booking agent informing me that promotors from pretty much all over the continent would like to book you on festivals and set your own 30-plus-dates headliner tour starting in May 2020!”

He then said: “That’s a very interesting offer, but let’s keep living those songs all together first, I need to make sure I would be able to do this without ruining the songs' free nature by playing them over and over. I know how easy it is to lose that perspective and I won’t risk it if I don’t feel like I’m capable of growing with the songs.”

Before, I needed to add: “Of course you’re right, but we would have to release your album prior to the tour, meaning we might have to figure this out now… like which songs would you like to release, videos, all the visuals and so on! What about doing this before we leave for New York and Morocco otherwise we’ll suddenly realize that damn...! It’s Christmas!”

What I like about Alex is the fact that he is really straightforward, to say the least. There's that and the fact that he profoundly hates any form of commercialization, so words like singles, PR campaigns, promotional visuals and all those other commercial ways of “selling” art aren’t really a good approach with him… reasons why I’ve learned to avoid them all together! Especially during such an unusual situation!

These are the real joys of being self-managed and DIY! We’re probably the only artists for whom amazing news can become sweet and sour in a split second! So I let him be and went back to the rehearsal room, knowing I had to respect his perspective and trust his instinct. At this point in our story, there’s absolutely no need to force a debate or to settle argumentative scores. Let's just say we’ve learned that the hard way!

But both sides of Alex’s brain work in such a phenomenal way, almost as if they were able to manage things without the other side being involved sometimes, which always fascinates me! Oh, he will hate me for saying that. But it’s true! Anyway, back to the story… So Alex came back to me after the rehearsal and goes:

“All right then. Let me get my notes. I knew this was coming, so I’m ready to talk about it! And I know how we will do it! So if it’s cool, great. If not, let’s move on… But please don’t tell the rest of the band now, let’s focus on the moment and we’ll take the proper time to celebrate when we know the details are settled.”

We both sat down exchanging our notes, figuring out the way he wanted to introduce “Windows in the Sky” and how we could define the rest of the details in order to share that very unique journey with our longtime friends as much as our new ones. And we both believed there was no better way to get started than with the song “Summertime Departures” recorded live during our International Montreal Jazz Festival concert.

Everything settled, it was decided that on January 18th 2020, Alex would start the international stage of his musical journey by not only releasing the music video and single for "Summertime Departures", but by crafting a 3-song EP that was to be immortalized on a limited 100-copies collector lathe cut vinyl as an “art statement in the midst of commerce”… That guy!

We finally told the band about it after the last concert we had in New York around a nice scotch Alex had secretly brought over in order to share the great news in a special gesture that would turn the moment into something eternal! It was honestly very touching, the way he announced it. Again, coming back after such a long drift, we all knew that such a new opportunity was a gift and a blessing no one could have believed in only a few months before.

And on December 23, while we were all assembled in Alex’s home in Virginia along with 20 other friends and family members, I took Alex on the side and told him: “Brother we need to talk. I just received an email from our friend Trail of Dead's management team to know if we would like to open for them on 26 dates all over Europe starting in early February… like in 5 weeks… they need to know pretty fast!”

He then said: “That’s a very interesting offer...”

PS: I almost forgot... Right before getting on stage at l’Astral on November 30, 2019, while Alex was truly in his zone, I received a phone call from Paste Magazine, on a Saturday evening, right before the show, just to inform me that since Alex was going to New York the upcoming week, and they had managed to find our American PR in order to get in touch with me so they could invite Alex to perform on the following Monday afternoon, live from their New York studios, broadcasted live on their Facebook & YouTube! I had to ask Alex right away… I mean, I really had to!

He then said: “That’s a very interesting offer…” So we squeezed a 4-concert series in New York City between this extra show and Tangier! #DIY!

THE OLD SCHOOL PACKAGE IS ALMOST READY!

It’s always such an incredible privilege for me to share some of those wonderful and exclusive pictures with you coming straight from Alex’s creative atelier; The Fabrik!

"Since 2020 marks a renaissance of sorts for me, after drifting for quite some time, it’s important for me that our club incarnates that cheerful gratefulness that I experience now in the simplest of all possible ways. I believe we all need to get back to the essence of togetherness as our human nature fundamentally longs for, more so now than ever.

And in all the splendors of our differences, in all the magnificence of what guides us to open up to one another, if only a little and for a brief instant. At least, that’s my engagement towards everyone and my invitation to anyone who wants to join me and to add a new color to the bright lights coming in. I also believe this goes perfectly well with this year’s theme, “As Long as the Heart…”, which is for us all to define…” - Alex

I’ll keep you posted with further details about the shipping date very shortly!!!

Your host and friend,
Jeff

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