A Word From Alex Henry
AS PEACEFUL REBIRTH SLOWLY SETS IN
My dear friends,
I hope you are doing great, that you aren’t letting the distressing and confusing state of our present world corrupt your faith in upcoming better days, especially as it feels like faith is becoming one of the most precious and essential parts of our lives now that everything seems so fragile, impermanent and unpredictable. As I shared with intimate friends after a dear one recently lost his battle against desperation, I’m hardly able to endorse the “new normal” expression. It might as well be a denial of the potential permanent reality we all live in, or a total rejection of what such “new normal” implies for someone who believes in the intimate uplift of human communions. For me, it’s not about conspiracy or delusion, nor about hanging out, even though I miss every aspect of it… It’s a pondering on the idea of a life deprived of real personal connections, from a friendly hug to a loving kiss, as the image of holding hands as an act of defiance doesn’t resonate in my heart and soul. It’s a conflicting reality for me, just like it must be for you all. Hope, like faith, is intangible in so many ways, which is probably why I had to do something concrete and palpable following my friend’s passing. The “ALIVE.” project is something I can not only hold on to but something real and honest that I could share with you all, a way to say “it’s alright to be scared, depressed, worried or even admit that we don’t want to think about any of it, that we just want life to be lived.”. It’s all part of being alive.
EVOLVING THROUGH THE INVISIBLE
In fact, besides the “ALIVE.” project, I wanted to keep on feeding the emancipative stream I have been experiencing ever since I released my album “Windows in the Sky” back in November of 2018. That renewed enthusiasm towards life has been long-time coming for me. I’m slowly admitting to myself - or maybe just realizing it - just how far I had drifted over the years, just how desperately lost I was before I would finally and gratefully crash in Tangier. Those last 5 years were like a slow kind of self-destructive suicide. That’s why it’s now fundamental for me to keep on evolving in that bright light I find myself in and to share its peaceful essence with you. Turning that hopeful perspective into a distinct and manifest incarnation is a perfect answer to the instinctive way I have to isolate myself. And I knew that coming back home after being surrounded by so many uplifting experiences and upbeat motions would be a significant transition for me. So rather than keeping a distance with that affective reality by simply being busy, I decided to fully dwell on that very slow kind of contemplative and reflective life it is for me to be home by looking into things I never took the time to invest myself in, to let those rebirth-like thrilling sensations keep on building on my newly-awakened life foundation.
MY VIEW ABOUT ART & COMMERCE
Therefore, you will see several major changes happening in the upcoming weeks and months, the first one being the new creative hub I created to host my online store, “The Club”, and diverse personal projects. My vision of art and commerce has always been significantly different from that of others. From the moment I released the very first DIY album of my band Your Favorite Enemies back in 2007 for $10, shipping included, all over the world, regardless of all our advisors prompting us not to do so, the same reasons apply for why we kept on declining record deals over the years; not only to be able to do whatever we wanted, but to have all the latitude necessary to honor those taking a chance with our music by always setting a fair-pricing based on our cost price rather than our potential profit margin. That is and has always been our collective ethos.
To this day, I always take great pride in those inclusive and social values. In fact, it’s based on the idea of offering you the best possible quality at the lowest possible price that we became the independent artists and entrepreneurs that we are today. It’s a desire to share something with you that always turns into newly-learned skills, from establishing our own recording studio, to learning how to print and manufacture our own merchandising, up to cutting our own vinyls and having our own multi-media facilities. All of it is based on that urging necessity to make that profound desire to commune with others something tangible. It has always been at the center of our values and the core of our lifestyle.
We all come from very humble family backgrounds, blue-collars at best, so my preoccupation regarding commerce has always been to make sure that anyone looking to support and connect with us would not only be served with the same highly-regarded service offered by the prestigious boutiques I’ve never been able to afford an item from, but also to make sure people will know how thankful I am for them to “invest” their hard-earned money in me, something I always see as a precious and never-to-be-taken-for-granted privilege. And I do wish you feel it whenever you order on my store, exchange messages, or meet me in person, as that’s important for me.
FROM “YFE STORE” TO “HTR STORE”
One of the first changes you will notice, especially if you’ve been used to login on the YFE Store to share any of the projects we have been communing with you since 2007, is the fact that my new store is now be located on Hopeful Tragedy Records websites, which is Jeff’s and my record label.
Such a decision might not seem like a major structural uplift, especially as you’ll be automatically redirected to the new HTR Store when trying to access the old YFE Store, but its implication is more than symbolic. The main reason why I wanted to operate that change was to offer a more comprehensive structure of my store, allowing better navigation through my present “Alex Henry Foster” solo endeavors, but also to offer an easier way for anyone unfamiliar with the music and different projects I crafted over the 10-year span I spent with my band Your Favorite Enemies - and to do so in a more comprehensive manner.
In the same spirit, you’ll be able to discover Sef’s personal music universe (the guitar player in The Long Shadows and Your Favorite Enemies), along with personal friends’ creative outlets I have supported over the years through Hopeful Tragedy Records.
I know that such a transformation may come as quite a “surprise” for the ever-magnificently-faithful YFE friends and fans, but as much as I don’t want you to be sad or troubled by my decision to keep on exploring my recent solo journey and therefore leave the band on hold indefinitely, I can assure you that whatever may come for me in the near or distant future, I will always honor Your Favorite Enemies’ legacy with the same loving passion that I used to completely invest myself in with the band for more than a decade. I’m utterly sensitive to what the band means for everyone who shared its wonderful journey with us.
ONE UNIQUE STORE PLATFORM
As I was looking to improve the whole store experience rather than simply operating an aesthetic makeover, I decided to completely change the store platform and depart from the way we used to serve you for over the last 10 years or so.
By doing so, you will see that there will no longer be 4 stores to choose from like we used to have. Everything is now in one same place. But there’s nothing to worry about, I made sure you would be able to navigate and read the projects’ descriptions in the language of your choice, like you have always have been able to do so. Therefore, language and navigating options in English, Japanese, and French will be available, as it has always been absolutely imperative for me to do so. In addition, German will also be available, thanks to our dear friend Marcel who has translated the whole store content for us to be able to serve our German friends in their own language from now on. Other language additions are foreseen as well.
So, besides having to create yourself a new account on your first purchase, you will pretty easily notice the several benefits of that platform change, may it be the store speed in itself, a personal account featuring all your previous purchase history, following your first purchase on the store, as much as an easier way to navigate through the content and a live chat inquiry service to only mention a few of the new additions. Let’s just say that you’ll greatly benefit from the whole simplification of it all and new overall experience on the store.
THE “SECRET FAMILY CULT CLUB” WILL NOW BE KNOWN AS “THE CLUB” WITH A NEW HUB & A PRIVATE SPACE
After already being in an ongoing transformative motion for a few months now, I wanted to redefine what has been known for almost a decade as the SECRET FAMILY CULT CLUB, by not only changing its name to the shortened appellation “THE CLUB”, but also by reimagining its core nature and its structural functionality. Therefore, I teamed up with Jeff, who is now in charge of “The Club”, to offer an exclusive section where members will be able to log in in order to read his exclusive news posts, to access their free EP downloads, to have exclusive store content, as well as access to pre-sales on limited and collectible items, such as our lathe-cut vinyl collection, and to be part of different contests, get unique coupons and of course the special annual theme membership package (that will shortly be revealed). All that with the same personal connection that untimely led me to create “The Club” in the first place and Jeff’s true dedication to making it a place to share, may it be about poignant subjects or simply to have fun.
Another significant improvement to the store will come through the “Single Music” services implementation, which will greatly simplify the way we offer you projects pre-sales and pre-saves, downloadable content following an album purchase and so on. But what was even more important for me remains the ability to offer you a lossless MP3/FLAC/WAV download quality of my music.
US DOLLAR CURRENCY
One of the most puzzling problems when doing e-commerce based on social values remains the currency in use, as no matter how we tried to look at it, it remained the most challenging aspect of it, especially when we decided to have a unique store rather than the 4 stores like we had before. Since most of you were already paying in US dollars (the price being adjusted to your currency at the end of the transaction), we thought it would be easier to keep that currency for everyone, especially as it is a general and common way to do so, so most of you won’t see any difference.
Those who will see a significant difference are our friends from France who, based on the French regulations at the time we set our former store in 2007, had to be in their local currency which was Euro. By adopting the US dollar currency, you will benefit from the Euro’s higher value instantly. For more than 10 years of having to pay between 5% to 10% more than anyone else, it is now a more-than-fair adjustment.
As for our friends from Quebec and Canada, you were at the center of our preoccupations from the moment we started to envision that major store makeover, as we would no longer have the ability to make you pay in Canadian dollars, which is roughly 25% less than the American dollars. I wasn’t able to accept the fact that you would have to absorb a 25% price raise simply because I wanted to change the store, and since nothing could by-pass the unique currency problem, we have decided to offer a 25% discount code to everyone living in Canada. The store will automatically detect where you are from, and a message with the code will appear if you are eligible. You will however have to add it manually to your cart at checkout. As of now, it is the best way we could think of to compensate for the low value of the Canadian dollar.
Again, I’m very transparent and trust we won’t have to police anyone who tries to use that code despite not living in Canada!
NEW PAYMENT OPTIONS AND CREDIT ALTERNATIVES
Another major improvement you’ll be happy about is related to the integration of new payment options and credit alternatives, as, besides PayPal, you’ll be able to use most major credit cards at checkout from now on.
Besides your several inquiries for us to implement the possibility to use credit cards to place your orders, you were also numerous to ask if we would consider the possibility to add what’s becoming increasingly popular in the ever-expanding e-commerce universe, which is payment in 4 instalments. As you pointed out, major brands are now using that alternative payment method that basically consists of buying today and splitting the amount into 4 equal payments to be paid over a certain period of time without any interest.
To be honest, this option became the subject of a good conversation between us as my concerns about credit options on my store have always been to make sure we weren’t implicitly encouraging anyone to get into debt in order to support us and to commune with us through all the projects we are giving life to. I know it may sound strange to read, especially as we are in fact offering you to share those projects with us via a store, but it’s nonetheless always a concern for me, which is also the reason beneath the very careful way by which I not only set the pricing on items but make sure I’m responsible with my projects’ release frequency. For me, it’s part of honoring our personal relationship, always.
So after debating on the social, moral, economical paradox that is art and commerce, we nonetheless looked into several companies offering that 4 payments option and finally decided to offer you the services of “FOUR”, and this for several reasons. The first one of them being their engagement to protect and never share their clients’ data with any third party, the second one being the impeccable reputation of the company and finally its international support, as most other companies such as “After Pay” are only operating in North America. I’m inviting you to carefully read about how it works before using it, even though it is pretty simple, like I tried it myself before deciding to implement it as a payment alternative on the store. The details are here: https://paywithfour.com
FLAT RATE SHIPPING
*This picture is a dramatization, real couriers are being used... It looked pretty cool, though!
As you know, COVID brought several challenges for everyone not named Amazon or Walmart, especially regarding shipping. It was especially true for us since we share limited and collectible vinyl editions with you. As we used to ship everything from Canada, it implied a 12 to 16-week international delivery delay, no tracking number, and a “good luck” type of look from the clerks every time we shipped in the past - and that was pre-COVID. But we took the decision to use private couriers to avoid the unbelievable delays and to ensure you would have a tracking number as well. Since using those couriers’ services from Canada was financially impossible, if not totally crazier than the idea of using a private courier in itself, we decided to drive to the United States every 2 weeks to use American couriers who were less expensive. So Marjo, from whom you may have received a phone call or an email to make sure everything was fine with your packages, is the one taking care of your packages from our church facilities to the US couriers, enabling us to keep on sharing our projects with you without having you to pay a ridiculous amount of money for shipping. We had included those costs in the price of our items for a certain time.
After several discussions on the matter, I decided that rather than rise the prices of our items, I would add a $10 flat rate shipping fee to help us cover the private couriers’ price, as well as the customs and taxes we also cover for you. It is important for me to be transparent with you. Some places average a little more, while other places are less expensive, so based on our shipping fees during the last couple of months, I thought that $10 was a reasonable amount to ask from you to maintain the present courier shipping services we currently offer you. We’ll see how it goes in the future, but that’s how I presently see it.
And we intend to keep on doing our 14 to 16-day courier shipping practice.
A TIME TO REFLECT, A MOMENT TO CONTEMPLATE
So these are some of the most important changes and transformations that have taken place on the store and “The Club”, but also a little overview of my vision and values regarding art and commerce. It is always important for me to be transparent and to let you know the details behind the decision process, as it’s my way to honor your friendship, your support, and your trust.
I hope that you are as excited and enthusiastic as I am with all those transformative and evolving projects, as regardless of the highly emotional dimension of it all, I’m incredibly grateful to share what is still for me a new creative, human, and emancipative journey… it means a lot to me, really.
As for now, even though it was quite strange for me to be back home after having spent a little more than 6 months on the road and at the studio, basically living in and out of my suitcases, I’m glad to finally be able to get a bit of rest in the middle of the wonderful highlands, their mountains and forests, with my 2 dogs Leonard and MacKaye. It’s time for me to reflect on the last 18 months and take a moment to contemplate what I would like to give life to. I no longer fear the blurry nature of the unknown I tried to avoid most of my life. It’s actually quite galvanizing to explore the invisible and to close my eyes without having to deal with the usual anxiety of what may be next… I guess I’m somehow discovering what it means to be “ALIVE.”, as a peaceful rebirth slowly sets in.
Take care of yourselves, my dear friends, and keep your hopeful spirit in bloom!
Your friend and brother,