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In The Studio: You Me At Six

You Me At Six are a band who love making rock music, love playing live, and love connecting with fans. After a lengthy stint away, it’s good to have them back.

Words: Jasleen Dhindsa.

For a year and a bit, You Me At Six went pretty much AWOL – then at the end of summer, they suddenly announced a huge but intimate UK tour, along with a new album, new single and video, and a not-so-secret Reading & Leeds set.

“We had a lot of stuff to say, so we just thought we’d say it,” explains vocalist Josh Franceschi frankly. “Obviously for us, we’d been away for a year or so, and we didn’t want there to be any distractions or any unnecessary noise, which is why we took ourselves away and focused on what we were doing. We wanted to make sure that the fans knew that this is us coming back with a new record, not just a song or a few tour dates. We wanted them to know that everything was happening at the same time, and give them the news they had been waiting for.”

New single and title track ‘Night People’, received a reaction that the band haven’t really experienced since the experimentation with post-hardcore on their third album ‘Sinners Never Sleep’. But that was five years ago now, and the direction they have taken with their new single, retains a pure garage rock sound they’ve never even inched close to before. “When we were making ‘Night People’, we were really being inspired by an older generation of rock music like Led Zeppelin and bands of that ilk, period and sound. If I listed every single band that quite obviously remade the ‘Room To Breathe’ [from 2014’s ‘Cavalier Youth’] video in the last 18 months, I could be here for half an hour. We don’t look at that as other bands ripping us off, we look at is as inspiring bands to do something. We love the pace of the White Stripes video [‘Seven Nation Army’], I’d be lying if I said if that wasn’t one of our reference points when we were coming up with the idea, but ‘Night People’ has a similar sort of pulsing beat throughout the whole song, like the same sort of tempo. We didn’t all want to be in the same shot at the same time, it was a way of bring in and out of focus different band members at different times. We’ve been influenced by bands from the 70s and 80s, and that was the stuff that inspired the effects you see in the music video; a more psychedelic, trippy side to it.”

The band took to Nashville to record ‘Night People’ with thirty-time Grammy award winning producer Jacquie King. “He sort of chose us to be honest. We had spoken to a bunch of different producers, and he was offering us an opportunity to go record in Nashville, and we couldn’t believe it because he’s made some of our favourite records over the years, [recording in Nashville] is something we’ve always talked about potentially doing and working at Blackbird Studio. The opportunity became available so we took it and it was amazing really, I can’t really fault a thing that we did with him, he had a great team around him as well and it was just a nice environment to make a record, very inspiring. Where we were recording was a very famous room, not only in terms of Nashville or even America, but worldwide.”

“It’s kind of difficult to explain because it’s been a very different approach for us,” he says of the initial process. “We were pretty relentless and non-stop for ten years and we just wanted a break and took some time off, and that was good to take stock of where we were, where we are and what we want to continue to grow into and the things we want to achieve. This time it was a different process because we had our own studio, so we built a studio at Dan’s [Flint, drummer] house and a lot of it was just us hanging out and listening to records, and we did that for a few months. I couldn’t tell you what any band has been up to the past eighteen months, I sort of ignored what’s been going on and sort of delved into songwriting, and we must have written a bunch of tracks for the record and we sort of kept on going back and forth really, and the record that we’ve put together is what we believe is a perfect composition and mix and match of where we are as songwriters right now, and themes and the eras and stars we’ve been influenced by and where all that music is now.”

Despite heading out on tour in October, ‘Night People’ isn’t out until January next year, and with the lead single being clearly different from previous material, fans have been chewing the fat as to whether or not the other tracks on the album will follow suit. “It’s one of those classic cases where I’d have to let the listener of the record sort of decide what they make of it as a whole, I mean our only aim on this record, like it’s always been over the duration of our career, is just to make the best record we could at that moment in time, and I feel like we’ve always given quite a broad sort of mixture of sounds on our records. We can do the bigger, riff-rock stuff, and we can also do the slow mid-tempo ballads quite well, so we continued to try and develop and grow as a band, and it would be difficult to say whether ‘Night People’ is indicative of how the rest of the record sounds, but there’s this one pretty obvious theme in the record: it’s just a rock band sounding like a rock band. As sort of blasé as that may sound, that was our intention – to make a great rock record. We’ll see what people will think of it, I’m sure they will be pleasantly surprised.”

Not only has there been talk of what to expect from the rest of the record, the UK tour You Me At Six are embarking on is noticeably different from the arenas they are used to playing now, with seventeen dates all at small venues in places the band have either never been to, or haven’t been to in a while. “For us, it was really about doing something for the fans to be honest. We wanted to play small rock clubs and academy sized venue, just so we could go back and in to playing our songs, and we’re only taking out one band because we want to play for a long-ish set. We’re going to places we’ve never been before, like Folkestone, Swansea, Cambridge… we haven’t been to Inverness in almost ten years, Oxford is again another one we haven’t been to. It’s for the fans that have been waiting around patiently letting us do our thing in our own time, and we thought, well, what better way to come back and be up close and personal in people’s faces? Playing new songs, playing old songs, I’m looking forward to it as well because the last UK tour we did was like five shows. [This time] we really wanted to do as many as possible, reach as many parts of the UK as possible, and I think that’s what we used to enjoy, when we’d go on a tour and it’d be a three week tour around the UK, and that’s why we ended up doing seventeen on this one. I’m sure it’s going to be great to go back to some of these venues we haven’t been to in a long time, like a lot of them we have very special memories and close relationships with, so it’s going to be a good tour.”

Are the smaller shows something the band have missed since they’ve become one of the most well-known rock bands in the world? “The ambition of this band has always been to be the biggest band we can be, I know some bands don’t think it’s very cool to say they want to be massive, it’s a weird cultural thing, and almost like people don’t think it’s cool to say we want to be massive, [that] it’s selling out or whatever. But you know what, trust me, I’ve done it all. I’ve gone from sleeping on people’s floors, and taking public transport around the country in the Mega Bus and getting on trains, or vans that break down in five minutes, and I’ve been on massive tour buses with ten trucks out in arenas. I’ve done the whole spectrum, and I’ll tell you what’s more fun to do, and it’s not sleeping on a kitchen floor, getting three hours sleep and trying to fight for people to watch your band play. The ambition has always been for this band to grow, to pass our expectations and surprise [ourselves], to headline festivals and play stadiums not only here, but around the world, and we genuinely believe that’s completely in our control and in our path to take us there.

“You find out a lot about a band when you take away the glitz and the glamour and the arena spectacle, and it’s just five musicians on stage with their instruments, and there are no tricks and there are no gags, it’s just ‘how tight is this band?’ and ‘how good are these songs?’ That’s sort of the intention with this tour, to go in and remind people why they love You Me At Six in the first place. It’s cool to go to a place like Inverness [because] we’re encouraging other bands to go and travel up there, like every band when they play Scotland they’ll play Glasgow. It’s also to encourage people in young bands, up-and-coming in their local areas that haven’t had a band of our size come and play their local venue that they go and watch shows at. For us, it’s about going in and encouraging young rock fans, like, ‘Look this is where it can take you!’ We’re visiting a lot of places that haven’t seen the band in a long time, and for us that’s what it’s about, playing our music to people that want to hear it.”

“People don’t think it’s cool to say we want to be massive.”

“Some of these new songs that we’re playing on the tour, the way that they should be heard is in a rock club, in a live environment, because that’s how we wrote them with that intention,” Josh continues. “We want to go and play in front of people, and I can’t talk broadly about it because I haven’t really dabbled in it, but I’ve never had as much of an adrenaline rush, or a bigger come down, than playing live music. We took it away from ourselves because we really wanted to know what it’s like to really miss being on stage, and to miss being on tour and just stoke the fire again, not that it had gone out. [It was] just to try and be reminded of how good you have something, and you don’t really have that reality check when you’re not really doing anything actively, so for us to be able to go on tour before the album, it’s something we’ve actually always done if you look at the shows that we do. We always release a few singles or go out as a support band, we’ll be on the road because that’s where we enjoy being, and we love playing live shows; that’s what it’s all about for us. I think, what better way to kick it all off for us? The reason we did Reading & Leeds was because Jon Mac [Talent Buyer for Festival Republic] wanted to have a surprise special guest that they always seem to have. They came to us and said ‘Would you be interested?’ For us, our relationship with Reading is such that we’re not going turn it down, especially with the conversations we’re having with them, and how they’ve been growing our band. This year when they’ve given headline slots to the likes of Foals and Fall Out Boy, and you know last year you had Bring Me The Horizon being the main support for Metallica… they are continuously encouraging bands to take that next step. So for us, to come and do a secret set, I’m sure is an indication of where they’d like to take us in the years to come, hopefully. One of You Me At Six’s strengths is watching us live, and I think as time’s gone on, we’ve gotten better and better as we’ve taken it more and more seriously. The level of prep we do in terms of rehearsing, or just [me] working on my vocals outside of a touring environment or a studio environment, to make sure that when people come and see us, that they get the best possible show they can have from our band. For us, being on tour is where we want to be.”

“We’ve only really just got into rehearsing for [the October tour] and rehearsing songs for it, and rehearsing songs in general,” he continues. “But we haven’t really chosen the set list for it yet, but I think there [are] some really great songs on the new record. In my opinion, all ten of them are great, we’re confident in all of them, we could do something very annoying and play our entire record live on the first tour, but that’s not necessarily as good as a set may be, that’s not what people are spending their money for – they want to hear the songs they know and love already. [When we played] ‘Night People’ at Reading & Leeds, that song only came out a week before, and a lot of people were heading up to the festival, the amount of people that were hearing that song for the first time was crazy. It was cool to see people bopping their heads and discovering the song for the first time, and now people will live with for it a bit longer, ‘Plus One’ [debuted at Reading & Leeds] was another one, it’s in your face, it’s hard. That’s one of the songs where when we were writing the record and sending demos around to our label and to our perspective producers or whatever, that was one of the songs that people seemed quite excited about. I think people like You Me At Six because obviously we’re known for our big radio hits, if you want to call them that, and people will also like us when we’re pissed off and there’s an undercut of rawness and aggression, that’s the sort of song I feel like people will enjoy as well. It’s crazy, we had a lot of [questioning about] whether or not to bring the record out this year or in January, and for us we didn’t want to put a record out towards the end of the year, because I feel like, yes people get to listen to the music sooner, but we didn’t want it to feel like an old record in the new year.”

“You have to go into every record believing you’re making the best record you can possibly make,” Josh concludes. “At the time of ‘Cavalier Youth’, I thought it was our best record, and looking back on it now, I still have a lot of love for it, but there’s lots of things I felt we missed out on, and things that we know that we like about ourselves and that our fans like. Whereas with this record, we didn’t worry about what the expectations would be, or what people wanted to hear, we just made what we wanted to hear because that’s what’s made us most successful in the past. I think it is our best record, we tried to sort of develop and move forward in our sound, and also maintain what people like about our band. There’s some big moments in the record, and I think it’s nice because we did a lot of moving around with people in our team, and we only want to work with people that really love this band as much as we do, who want to take it and understand what we want to try and do with it. It’s going to be nice to be back out there, and as much as we’ve enjoyed the time off, it’s just been nice, we’ve all bought houses and took certain steps in our personal lives we wanted to take, it’s just part of growing up that we wanted to do without the pressures that come with being in a band. Taking time with this record, I can only say contributed to this being one of the best, if not, our best record. Time will tell how it filters through the fanbase.”

Taken from the October issue of Upset, out now – order your copy here. You Me At Six’s album ‘Night People’ will be released on 13th January 2017.