“We can’t offer any more to pop-punk, we’ve done that now… ” You Me At Six talk ringing the changes on new album Night People
It’s been three years since You Me At Six topped the UK Album Chart with Cavalier Youth and they’ve packed a lot into the time between. They’ve headlined their first UK arena tour, set up their own studio and built themselves a worldwide presence, but now they want to do things a little differently.
Their new album Night People was recorded in Nashville under the supervision of producer Jacquire King, the man who was at the controls for records like Kings Of Leon’s Only By The Night and James Bay’s Chaos And The Calm. Together they’ve united to make a rambunctious and uncompromising rock record, one that moves away completely from the shiny pop punk of their earlier albums and more into Black Keys and Foo Fighters territory.
We spoke to You Me At Six frontman Josh Franceschi about why they decided on Nashville and King, what inspired the change in dynamics and their plans for a big 2017...
How did you find working in Nashville?
“It was a completely different experience to anything we’ve ever done before. Cavalier Youth and Sinners Never Sleep were both done in Los Angeles so going to America was nothing new, but this was a much more focused process. Everybody played together in a live room and it made us work harder, you always wanted to make sure you didn’t let each other down. We loved working at Blackbird, it was a bucket list moment that I didn’t know I had, the studio was incredible, we never wanted to go home. It was an experience we’ll never have again, even if we go back.”
What’s the city like?
“There’s been a lot of gentrification in Nashville, especially in the East part of the city and that’s where we were. It’s full of young people, artists of all different spectrums, we had some great nights out and everyone was talking about music. Everybody in that town is all about the song, it’s not about the latest beat or sound, just the song, whether that’s a deep love song or just a tune about drinking whisky and eating chicken.”
How did you come to work with Jacquire? He’s not the first name that comes to mind given your back catalogue and his past work?
“Absolutely, he’s not. What excited us about him and what excited him about us was the fact that he hadn’t made a real rock record in a really long time. He’s been on our list for our last two records, mainly because he made Kings Of Leon’s Only By The Night, as soon as we heard that album we knew we wanted to work with him.”
Did you talk to other producers?
“We did, we spoke to producers who you’d more naturally think would make a You Me At Six record, but we wanted a leftfield choice and someone who would really bring out a different side to our band. He told us he wanted to record us all live in a room, he wanted to capture our energy and our attitude and he had the studio to do that. When we got in touch with him we had a chat on Skype and it was about 15 minutes into the chat and he just said “Look, we don’t need to say anymore, we’re making this f***ing record aren’t we?”. We’re sat with a guy who’s won Grammys, sold millions of records and he wants to work with us. Let’s do it.”
A guy like that saying that he was keen to work with you must have perked you right up...
“It was a big boost of confidence and we needed it. At that point the songwriting had got a bit stuck and we hadn’t written anything we were happy with for a while. That week we wrote two new tracks and they’re both on the album. Jacquire telling us that we were worth putting his name on our album really gave us a lift.”
You’ve talked about wanting this album to take the band to a different place, what does that different place mean?
“We’ve done our first 10 years, not many artists get this far, let alone having their ninth year give them a Number One album and a big arena tour. It’s not just about being a massive band at festivals and being in arenas, we want to reach more people, there are songs on this record that don’t belong to any genre or scene. We put out ‘Night People’ as our first single from this album, it’s very different to what we’ve done before and there were plenty of people saying to us that we should pick a safer song to lead the campaign, but we’re not a safe band, this is how we want to present ourselves.”
Aside from being the title track, what was it about ‘Night People’ that made you want it to be the first single?
“That song is the perfect blend of rock'n'roll and hip-hop, the two sounds that we’re in love with. We want to be the biggest and best versions of ourselves and that song shows that off. We’ve been doing this for a long time now, even though we’re only in our mid-20’s. By that time you learn what you want to do and what you don’t want to do. We’ve got so much more to offer, but not to things we’ve done before. We can’t offer any more to pop-punk, we’ve done that now, if we were to try and go back to that we’d be doing ourselves and our fans a disservice. It wouldn’t be genuine.”
Your last campaign saw you headline Slam Dunk Festival and co-headline UK arenas with All Time Low, was that a goodbye to pop-punk?
“To be honest I’d thought we said goodbye to it on Sinners Never Sleep, that was going from pop-punk teen angst to just being a rock band. We did Slam Dunk because we’d not done it for a long time and the organiser was our first ever manager so we did it for him. A few days later we played main support to The Black Keys at Isle Of Wight, there aren’t many f***ing bands who can do that. The All Time Low tour was our tour and then the opportunity came up and we knew that a lot of our fans and their fans would want this tour.”
“We haven’t turned our noses up at that world, we’d never do that, but we have to be honest with ourselves and the ambition we have for this band is something different. We’ve made a record with a guy who wins Grammys for fun, we want to try and see if You Me At Six have a place in different parts of the world, people have been trying to pigeonhole us for ages, but we want to move on. We want to keep our career moving and to be refreshing, we need to position ourselves differently, I don’t want to be in my 30’s playing the same old s**t, no disrespect to people who have found their sound and want to stay there, but I want something else for You Me At Six, we need to evolve.”
You said earlier about how much you love hip-hop, has that fed into how you write lyrics?
“No, I don’t think so. What I love about hip-hop is the stories. I listened to Skepta’s Konnichiwa a lot while we made this, I love getting inside hip-hop albums and living in their world, I did the same with Kendrick Lamar and Drake. I like the crossover of being a storyteller and writing these huge hits.”
What were you all listening to while you made the album?
“We didn’t actually listen to a lot of modern music. For hip-hop it was N.W.A. and Run DMC, but even for rock we were going back to Led Zeppelin, The Police and Black Sabbath, even bands like Jethro Tull and The Who. Listening to bands like that really changed our viewpoint, moving from a band who do well and are happy enough, now it’s more about checking things off a list and moving on. We were told we’d never sell out the London Astoria, never move 2,000 tickets, our managers and agents were all telling us that’d it’d be embarrassing when we asked them to put it on sale, but we did it and we sold out the venue. I believe absolutely that we can be a band who can headline festivals like Reading and we can go to America and play the biggest rooms and festivals. We’ve barely had a swing at America, but we can change that. I’m excited to get back out there and work hard. It only takes one song to change everything.”
Was Night People always the album title?
“It was the first song we wrote and my first lyric was ‘Night People roaming the streets’. From then on it was a case of if we could come up with something better, we never did.”
Finally, how is 2017 looking? Are you pretty booked up?
“It’s going that way. We start touring in March around Europe, UK in April, U.S. in May and then it’s festival season, we’re going heavy with the touring. We’ve been away for a year and we’re excited to do it. We’re going to new places and we want there to be lots of first times on this run, new people, new spots.”