“We didn’t want it to end on Night People…” - hmv.com gets personal with You Me At Six
Last time we spoke to You Me At Six they were freshly back from Nashville with their fifth LP Night People and were talking up the virtues of their new darker sound, inspired by their time in the city with Kings Of Leon/James Bay producer Jacquire King.
On the surface, it all seemed fine, but, behind the scenes, things were not. Over the course of the album campaign, the band would part ways with their management and record label, a torturous and expensive process that the band, for the first time, questioning what future they had.
But they've battled back and have regrouped on new LP VI, an album made with producer Dan Austin and written free of pressure from record label interference. VI sees the band in upbeat mood, committed to loud guitars and jumbo choruses, but with plenty of experimental tinges.
With VI now in store and available online, we spoke to singer Josh Franceschi about overcoming a difficult period in the band’s history, getting over the disappointment of their last LP and why the band were determined to make a positive record...
How did you want to do things differently from the way you did them on Night People? Last time you jetted off to Nashville, this time you stayed a little closer to home…
“We didn’t want to go anywhere with any distractions or take any longer than we needed to with this record. We got into a good flow with our songwriting and we wanted to make this album in England. After that, it just came down to finding the right producer.”
You went with Dan Austin in the end, who has worked with Mallory Knox and Twin Atlantic, why did you decide on him?
“We met with lots of different people and we tested a song with Dan Austin. We didn’t just want someone who we’d go in and they’d just press record. We wanted someone to collaborate with, someone who would embrace the challenges that we set ourselves as a band, someone who was up for exploring and trying new genres.”
Was he keen to experiment?
“We gave him the demo for ‘I O U’ and we said ‘How are you going to help us deliver this song? It’s weird, it’s got this Red Hot Chilli Peppers rocky sort of groove in the verse and then it drops down to the hip-hop, Dr Dre sounding chorus. How can we do that?’. And he said, ‘You’ve got to trust me’. He delivered. He was so articulate and helpful."
"At this point in our career, we’ve done five records, we know how to record so it was more like working with a sixth member. We’d record until the middle of the night, we were just in the flow, it was all-consuming. I think he’ll be someone we go back to, hopefully for the foreseeable future, I think we’ve found great chemistry with him.”
Did trying out new sounds mean you ended up with a lot of material to pick through?
“We got on such a roll. We were going on these residential trips to just focus on writing. Dan (Flint, drummer) has a studio and we’d been doing days there, working there Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, and that wasn’t working. You can’t put a window of time on when you’re going to be creative, you just have to roll with it when it comes. Sometimes you’ll get four or five songs in a day, sometimes you’ll get nothing, but you’re striving for something with meaning. We want people to be reminded of why they love You Me At Six, but we’ve got no interest in delivering a straight down the line rock record.”
“We want people to know what we love and what our passions are. We’ve been on a journey with our fans for a long time now and I feel like there’s an unspoken agreement between fans and a band, an agreement to give them something that is honest and full of what you love, rather than just bashing something out."
"This is our sixth record, that’s a landmark and we’ve always said that if we got to this point, then we wanted to move into a different bracket, trying new things and pushing on. That was our focus, if this all ended tomorrow, would we be proud? We didn’t want it to end on Night People, that’s none of our favourite record. We wanted to deliver a step up. To be the best.”
What’s it about Night People that you’ve gone off?
“With time, comes perspective. You take stock and I know now that I wasn’t ready to make a record. I had nothing in the furnace, no creativity. We were going back and forth with our label and our management at the time, loads of people who between them couldn’t play a single instrument, but keep telling you what kind of songs you should write. We’d just had a Number One album and there was a lot of pressure on them, so they put that pressure on us.”
Did that affect recording?
“It’s the time in our career where I’ve not enjoyed being in the studio. As a writer, you need to be able to trust your gut instincts. The songs that I think really worked on Night People, those were easy and effortless and I felt like that about every single song on this record. It flowed through me, with Night People I was re-writing all the time.”
“When you’re trying to be clever and trying to say something, you often don’t. I don’t think it’s our best record, but we learned a lot. We felt underwhelmed with the album and suddenly we had something to fight for again, some fire in the belly, we had energy again. I can’t blame Nashville or Jacquire King, that’s all secondary, it all comes down to the songs.”
You’ve had a change of team since then…
“The last record was a turbulent time. We fired our management the week the record came out. That’s a big step. For the first time in our career, we had no guidance and we ended up spending more time with our lawyers than we did out on tour. That made it very difficult to want to be part of the band, so much had soured and turned ugly. But that brought us closer together."
"We did the album with no label, no publisher, no nothing. We knew we didn’t need anybody else, we just needed to focus on the music. No playing to anybody else’s tune, our attitude to labels this time were ‘If you like it, great, if you don’t, it’s coming out anyway’. The world doesn’t owe you a favour, you’ve got to go out and do it.”
Has the external trouble brought you closer as a band?
“We’ve become a lot stronger as a group and as a unit. That happens with bands, you either grow apart or closer and we’ve got closer. It was more a case of You Me At Six versus. We’re better than ever.”
Has that siege mentality fed into the lyrics?
“There’s one song on there that gets in that, but the tone is set by the music. I didn’t want this to be a negative record, I wanted this to be life after negativity. The band has gone through a lot, but I’ve had gone through s**t too. It’s been the most challenging time of my life and I’ve had to test my resolve, but I wanted to use that passion within me for a bigger purpose than some sassy lyrics."
"There are some feel-good songs on the album, I want people to get up and have a good time and celebrate. Night People was a dark record and we wanted to move on. Max (Helyer) is massively into this his Pharrell and Justin Timberlake and he wanted that positivity in there. It’s rebuilding a life.”
You’ve got six records now, how’s is going to be picking your live set?
“There are a few in the set that just stay there, we can’t not play them, there are probably eight or 10 which we can’t drop. That makes 45-minute festivals sets a lot harder. You can do more in an hour and a half. It’s a nice problem to have, I’d hate to have one big album and everything else be filler. We’re not the biggest band in the world, but at least two or three songs on every album have connected with our fans. It’s never a nostalgia fest, but we might play a few tracks we haven’t played in a while and not overload the new material. It’ll evolve, we’ll have fun doing that.”
You’re also going to be touring your first album Take Off Your Colours, playing that in full, are you nervous about that? You can’t have played some of those songs for a long time...
“Chris (Miller, guitar) loves a stat and he showed us a stat that said we’d played our cover of Lady Gaga’s ‘Poker Face’ more than ‘Gossip’. I’m looking forward to them. The fans really wanted it and I’d said on stage on our last tour ‘Would anybody want it?’ and the reaction was crazy. As soon as I came offstage the lads said ‘We’re going to have to do that now’ and it’s taken a life of its own.”
“We started off with a few dates, the response was crazy, we knew it would do well, but not this well. So we’ve expanded it and we’re up to 15 shows. It’s an opportunity to give these songs a send-off, we wrote these songs when we were 15 or 16 and we want to be playing songs that feel real to us now. But it’ll be fun to go back and we also know it might bring back a few people who’ve checked out over the years, maybe they’ll come back on board? We’re excited to see…”