“Apple Sanctuary” Songs from 2005-2006

The next Facing Winter compilation is out now!

It’s called “Apple Sanctuary” and contains 11 songs from two of our EP’s:

“Apple EP” recorded in 2005
“The Sanctuary EP” recorded in 2006

We rearranged the original track order and added a touch of remastering. You can hear it here:

In 2005-2006 our world was expanding. Jeff Goluszka, Liam Doyle, and I were practicing, recording, and playing shows nearly every night of the week. We had a shared vision, we were pushing hard, and we were having a lot of fun along the way.

Jeff Goluszka, Justin Birchard, and Liam Doyle in 2005 at Apple Graphics in West Chicago, IL.

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The story of “Apple EP” begins with a small print shop in West Chicago. I worked there, and the place was called “Apple Graphics”.

This wasn’t a “Copy Machine” type of place like Kinko’s or Office Depot. This was a gritty, messy, industrial print shop, with a steampunk vibe:

Everything was analog.

All of our Facing Winter merch was printed at Apple Graphics including album covers, posters, stickers, t-shirts, etc.

The printing process started with developing film in a dark room. After that, we burned the images onto metal plates. The plates would fit around a cylinder on the printing press. This cylinder would “stamp” the image onto each sheet as it fed through the press.

Here is the cover art for “Apple EP” that we printed at Apple Graphics. The hand-drawn artwork is by long-time friend and co-conspirator Jeff Stogis:

Dustin Lapotka drew our poster with black ink. I colored it, and then we printed it at Apple Graphics.

(I’ve still got a stack, DM if you want one!)

At Apple Graphics, we mixed our ink by hand using a scale. There was a specific formula for each color. When the presses and bindery equipment broke-down, we repaired them ourselves. We were fiercely independent. No corporate ties. Just a small team of people working towards a common goal and trying to keep “the ship” afloat.

Between 2004-2006 the shop had five employees: Andrew Birchard (my younger brother), Alberto Ayala, the owner Michael Potts, and I.

I can’t emphasize enough the monumental role that Apple Graphics has played in my life over the past 20+ years. The business has changed a lot, but I still work there, and Chris Shern does too! Liam Doyle and great friend Matt Potts have also been among the ranks.

It was amazing to be able to work with my brother Andrew everyday for several years. We were close as kids (home-schooled!) and we have remained close ever since.

Until he moved out of state, Andrew came to ALL of our Facing Winter shows and has always been one of our biggest supporters.

Felipe Alberto Ayala Morazan (aka Alberto) has also been a big part of my life. A boss and an “uncle”. A friend for many years (and still today). Alberto is a kind man. Always willing to help my brother and I in whatever way he could. After more than 35 years at Apple Graphics, Alberto retired in 2023. I worked with him for more than 20 years!

And finally, Mr. Potts. He was the owner of the print shop. And not only that, he was a father figure for me. He helped me and cared for me in ways that very few adults ever have. He trusted me and I trusted him. He wanted to see me thrive. He enabled me to grow and find myself. He allowed Facing Winter to practice and record in the warehouse whenever we wanted!

Mr. Potts passed away in 2005. It’s hard to believe how long it’s been. I still think of him frequently. For reasons well beyond music, he still has a significant impact on my life today.

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The warehouse at Apple Graphics is where we recorded “Apple EP” in 2004/2005:

We worked hard, but we also spent a lot of time relaxing. During our down time, if we weren’t wandering the streets of West Chicago, we were likely hanging out in the shop, playing cards or various other games.

Our great friends Nicole Schafroth and Matt Potts were almost always there with us:

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In 2006, we got our first private, dedicated rehearsal space! It was in Glendale Heights, IL (not far from Chicago) and we named it “The Sanctuary”.

It felt so good to have our own space that we could control. The building was dilapidated, kinda disgusting, and the neighborhood was sketchy. But we loved it so hard. And we made the most of it. We spent the vast majority of our evenings there in 2006. Rehearsing, recording, and playing cards.

“The Sanctuary EP” was recorded at this location. And it will always have a special place in our hearts.

Here is the hand drawn artwork created by Jeff Stogis:

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In 2005 we were mostly playing in Chicago and the burbs. Frequently with great friends Chris Darby and Them Damn Kids:

In 2006 we did our first out state tour thanks to longtime friend and songwriter Nate Kalish.

By the end of 2006 things were starting to get real. It felt like we were becoming a part of the scene in Chicago, the suburbs, and beyond.

Jeff, Liam, and I were best friends. We were tight musically and personally. A true team. Many more good things were on the way…

Thank you for following along with our story. Can’t wait to share the the next chapters! Lots more music still to come. In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to us anytime: