We caught up with You Me At Six ahead of the release of their roaring new album, ‘Night People‘
Over the past ten years, You Me At Six have established themselves as a band at the forefront of modern day rock, a status that they’ve achieved through a handful of critically acclaimed albums, an electrifying stage presence and a super loyal fan base.
After laying low for the past three years, the lads are back and ready to kick off 2017 by dropping their incredible new record ‘Night People’. Featuring a track inspired by Game of Thrones, ‘Night People‘ includes roaring rock vocals set over fierce yet groovy guitar riffs and anthemic drums, while electronic undercurrents ripple under solid basslines, creating an electric wave that carries the album onto a higher level for You Me At Six.
Produced by Jaquire King, the man responsible for major alt-rock anthems including Kings of Leon’s ‘Sex On Fire’ and James Bay’s ‘Hold Back The River’, the album sees the band taking risks. “We released Night People as our first song because it was a curveball. We didn’t just want to come back and be like “oh we’re You Me at Six and here’s the same old thing that we’ve done. We wanted to come back and people to go “What is this?.” It’s a talking point and it gets people talking about what You Me At Six are doing” guitarist Max Heyler tells us.
We spent the morning with front man Josh Franceschi and Guitarist Max Helyer in a rustic studio in London’s Shoreditch where we learnt about thirsty Thursdays, meditation courses and the creative process around the formidable ‘Night People‘.
So, tell us a bit about what your new album is about.
Josh: There isn’t really a recurring theme on the record. I can only really speak from a lyrical point of view in terms of what it’s about. I think I try and give every song its own character, its own sort of perspective. I use You Me At Six as an almost therapeutic sort of means.
So you find sort of song writing as like an outlet?
Josh: Completely, I don’t really write to briefs. I honestly feel as a listener of music, the songs that have resonated with me the most is when I can sort of really understand the joy or the pain of the singer and the songwriter. That’s why my favourite artists are storytellers predominantly. I think that there’s a lot of talk of redemption in the record. I’m like very much happily in love with my fiancé so there’s not really an opportunity for there to be heartache on the record, with regards to love. There’s definitely heartache in the sense of what sort of comes with growing up and falling out of love with music a little bit and feeling detached.
You said you fell out of love with music, is that something you experienced prior to this record?
Josh: Yeah, definitely!
Max: I think that kind of happened before we started writing this record. Even at the start of this record. When you’re meant to write a song and you’ve got no inspiration, there’s no admiration to write a song, its hard to create a piece. You need to have some sort of emotion or something that happened to you that just click starts the fire and then you build the foundations from there.
Josh: Sometimes from my side, there’s a lack of willingness to get into that headspace because I know once I’m in that headspace it can be quite a raw thing. And I think that at the start of the process of making this record I was sort of turning up to rehearsal physically but not mentally. I just wasn’t engaged in the way I know I should be and could be. As the confidence grew, not only within myself but in the song writing, I think the songs started to come through in quite a prominent way. I’ve really just always bounced off the energy of the people around me, so when I see the other lads getting excited about something that in turn gets me excited and I think that works both ways. But on this one, it just took a little bit of time to stoke the fire.
Tell us a bit about the creative process around the new record.
Max: The process kind of started when we finished the album cycle last time. After we did the Isle of Wight festival, we kind just threw ourselves straight into it because [drummer] Dan built a studio in his house. We started in June 2015 writing this record and we knew pretty much that we wanted to take the rest of the year writing and recording it and trying it in [drummer] Dan’s studio. Over the space of 6 to 8 months, we kind of came up to 40 to 50 ideas of songs and we spoke to a guy called Jacquire King who is probably most known for his work with James Bay and Kings of Leon. We wanted to work with Jacquire for a long time, bearing in mind that he is a three times Grammy winning producer, so we set our standards quite high. We spoke to him on the phone and after 20 minutes, instead of us asking him, he turned round to us and said “I really want to make this record with you” so that kind of kicked us into gear. We penciled in all of February to go to Nashville for three weeks and start, and for the first time in our band’s career we’ve done a different kind of recording. We normally go away for 2 to 3 months and make a record in one space, we did it in two sections this time round.
What was it like working with Jacquire King? Was it a fluid collaboration?
Josh: I think Jacquire had a calming influence on our band. I don’t think I’ve ever seen our band as focused and as supportive of one another in the recording situation. I can think back to other periods of times when we have made records and it’s not always been that pleasant and that isn’t a reflection of us as people, it’s a reflection of a very high intense situation and being somewhat inexperienced as to how to approach that. I think we are all men now and we can all calmly and respectfully engage with one another as well as our producers. There’s been times we’ve had screaming matches with some of our producers and that wasn’t really Jacquire’s style. A few weeks before going to record, our manager suggested that we all go to a medication course together so we went and did some work with the David Lynch Foundation and our sort of approach was very much to make sure we didn’t impose any extra stress on our producer or our engineers or even on ourselves. I felt like it was a really healthy environment to be in and I don’t remember many occasions of looking around the room and anybody looking disengaged or uninterested.
Max: I think most importantly if you’re not enjoying the experience it kind of reflects and you can really hear that.
Josh: We had a lot of fun, we had thirsty Thursdays where we just basically got absolutely battered.
Max: It was nice that we could blaze up in the studio, crack open a Whiskey and go into the live room and do some live takes because thats how we write music.
It sounds like a very organic way of making music.
Josh: Ultimately, I would say that Jacquire made a name for himself by being a producer that got behind a mixing desk and mixed live with his bands or his artists. I would call him a genius really, to see what he does and to see him in that moment, the top few of the buttons are getting undone and the sleeves are getting rolled up and he’s got a whiskey.
Your last album “Cavalier Youth” peaked at Number 1, I was wondering if on the back of that you felt any pressure coming back with this new album?
Josh: I think the way that I would try and explain this is that, and it’s not to make everything about football, but if you win the league you go into the next year as the champions right and there’s a level of expectancy from other teams in the league but you can only focus on what you are doing and you can’t live off or reflect too much on the past. I like to pile the pressure on myself unnecessarily, and I felt that having that as an additional pressure was only going to make me crack. I feel like there’s other victories within the process to making this record that we’ve never accomplished before: making a record with someone like Jacquire [and] recording a record for the the most part, predominantly live. There’s not many artists that can be, we keep referring to being ten years into to our career, but I say that because there’s not many other bands that we came through [with] that are still bands and there’s not many bands that we came through [with] that are still the original line-ups, or even friends with their bandmates. I think that is a remarkable thing because for young boys to grow up as men together and actually have more love for each other now than ever, that for me is kind of what its also about.
That is sort of even a bigger achievement than getting a number 1.
Josh: Yeah! I think so! When we started this band I think the main aspiration for it was to be a vehicle for us to travel the world but also not to have to face reality of a job or a lifestyle that we didn’t want, so the fact we’ve been able to pull it off and have like ten years of it is what I like to call the ultimate blag. We’re very ambitious young men and we want to have a number 1 record, but I want this band to headline Reading and Leeds festival, I want to be a Main Stage Glastonbury household name, I want this band to sell out Staples Centre, Madison Square Garden, there’s all these things that we have that we want to achieve but we also have to appreciate that there’s a lot of work to put in before we get there so we’ll see.
You’ve been in parliament talking about issues around the way tickets are sold and bought. Tell us a bit about why you’re interested in this and what you’re hoping to achieve?
Josh: Ultimately, we put on a pretty intimate show at the Dingwalls in London with Doc Martens and the show sold out really quickly and the first thing I noticed was fans tweeting us online saying “Oh, why are the tickets for your shows already online for like £100 and £200.” As I usually do, [I] went to social media before thinking about what it was that I was saying but mostly I was frustrated for our fans and I felt like they’ve given us so much and it really wound me up that somewhere along the line, they’ve been taken advantage of. I got in contact with an MP called Nigel Adams who had already began a petition to get the ball rolling on it and I think the You Me At Six voice kind of acted as a catalyst to draw more media attention towards it. I ended up speaking in parliament to select committee. The ultimate goal is to first and foremost ban the misuse of ticket bots, if not completely eradicate them. I’d like it to be a situation where secondary ticket websites are no more and that fans are only educated to use the primary website.
Max: It’s not just live music, it’s theatre, sports events and any media thing that happens, if you’re a hot ticket and people see that they’re going to put them straight there [on secondary ticket sites].
Josh: I think that the music industry for a long time had it’s ups and down, but it’s at a point now where it could really tipple over the edge in the sense that, how long do you really want to rip someone off until you see a negative impact? How long can you abuse the trust and the love of fans of music or theatre or sport until they go “you know what, I’m just going to turn myself off that because whats the point, I’m getting ripped off left, right and centre?”
Speaking of touring and tickets, you’ve got your tour coming up, what can people expect from that?
Josh: I think You Me At Six over the last 6 to 8 years have really sort of invested our money into putting on shows. Expect a step up from that and something different because we don’t necessarily want to regurgitate the live show. The live experience is a two way thing, it’s something for us but ultimately it’s something for the fans. I think they can expect to see us hopefully at our best as performers, but also we are already working through what we want to do with our show, how we want to present it and I think the way in which technology is moving, the possibilities are endless. We are just trying to figure out what the right show is at the moment but obviously it will be fucking awesome.
Looking back on like 12 years of a career so far, did you ever expect that this would be the sort of thing that you’d achieve? How can you sum up how that feels?
Max: I don’t really think any artists who have longevity start up a band and a music career to be famous and to live the high life. I think it comes down to a deep passion of being an artist and enjoying it and being able to have freedom of speech and creative motion to express yourself. I think that’s one of the reasons that we’re still here as a band 12 years on. I think for us its just about expression and leaving a mark on the world.
Josh: I remember leaving college after the first year and being like “I’m rolling the dice” and sometimes when you completely the roll the dice and you have nothing to fall back onto, it’s like the ultimate kick up the arse and it made us very focused and driven to work hard. The biggest thing for me is that we are still doing it. I’ve got friends who have been the biggest pop stars in the world for like a month, 6 months, 12 months and they find music is the biggest drug. That’s why a lot of people fall down that hole of drugs and alcohol abuse, because they try and replicate that when they’re not in that environment.
Finally, what’s next for You Me at Six?
Josh: Obviously we have got the record coming out in January at the start of the year and then it’s just lots of touring, we have already got dates across mainland Europe and the UK.