There are very few bands who have taken to their genre with such tenacity and gusto than UK outfit You Me At Six. After a lengthy, yet much-needed hiatus, the boys are back with a new sound with their upcoming album Night People.
In anticipation of what is sure to be a triumphant release, Music Feeds caught up with frontman Josh Franceschi, to chat about the record, the process of recording live, falling in love with music again and the importance of the creative process.
Music Feeds: Tell me a little bit about the process behind Night People. Is it something that’s been in the works for a little while now?
John Franceschi: I guess we actually finished making this record in June. There was a lot of conversation about when was really the right time to bring it out, what we faced, particularly from our label and what we copped a lot really, from our label especially, was “why do you guys want to wait to bring it out?”. I think our main thing was that we didn’t want to release it in the back half of 2016, we really wanted it to be a fresh record and have 2017 be YMAS’ year, we didn’t want to bring it out any sooner than that. We really took ourselves off the social media side of things and basically didn’t talk to anybody for the best part of a year about what the band was dong. That was really just so we could have absolute focus on ourselves as a band and writing the record.
I feel like we’ve been a band for ten years now and I’m not sure what the future holds but I don’t think YMAS have really made their mark. Night People is probably as close as we’ve come as a band. We’re all incredibly proud of the record and I’m just eagerly awaiting people to hear it. I just want people to be as excited about it as I am. I’m counting down the days until January 6th.
MF: What was different about the creative process when you were making this particular album. I read that you were literally brainstorming and writing ideas down on whiteboards?
JF: The main difference during this record process as opposed to others in the past is we actually used a purpose-built house studio. What we did, especially during the first chunk of time, we weren’t really writing music with the intent of “we’ve got a timeline, we’ve got to put out a record”. It was a very relaxed pace. We actually started the whole process by writing a list of our accolades on the whiteboard just sort of taking stock. That’s really what the main people around us were saying. Use this time to understand what it is you’ve achieved so far, and also use it to understand what it is you want to see you moving forward and what other milestones you’d like to take on. We really did that.
The greatest thing about having your own studio is you can track ideas and save them on your computer, and maybe not listen to them for a month or two months, and just keep writing. There’s always space, there’s always room for you to think about what it is you’re making. You can make sure it’s of a standard that you’re happy with and that you like.
MF: I know you’ve got a lot of different tracks waiting in the wings, particularly with lots of different ideas being thrown around in such an incredible environment. But, how did you narrow it down to the ten that you’ve got on the album?
JF: To be perfectly honest, it’s a bit much to say they were all completely great finished songs. A lot of them, even almost more than half of them were just sort of initial ideas, or a great verse or a great chorus, but not a body of work. It came down to a lot of listening sessions. We had lots of listening parties with our friends, management and partners. We did a lot of work going back and forth. We started to earmark the songs that could work out to be a heated body of work. Something that people could really enjoy.
MF: Was there anything in particular theme wise, or any sort of creative inspiration that was driving this particular album?
JF: Honestly, it was really just our desire to not at all be focused or care about what other artists or other people were making right now. If we listened to rock music it was predominately music from the past, whether that be the likes of Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath or The Who. We also listened to a lot of hip hop, there is a really big resurgence of grime in the UK at the moment which we all fell in love with at the time. I think our main thing is that we just really focused on ourselves and making songs that we thought were representative of what we like to do. It was quite a liberating thing not knowing or worrying about what anyone else was doing and only focusing on ourselves and our music.
I guess in terms of a theme, it was all about just allowing ourselves to evolve and not worrying about what anyone else was doing. We just wanted to make a really decent record. I mean, we feel like we’ve made good records in the past, particularly songs that we loved, but we’ve been guilty in the past of making records that may not really fit together as an album and as a whole. That was our main focus, how can we really produce a record where there’s no question marks as to whether it’s the same band or the same record. That was a big thing for us. I’m not sure whether it makes too much sense to you but it does to me.
MF: You’ve been making music for such a long time, I guess my question is, do you still love it?
JF: To be perfectly honest, maybe the reason for the slow start is that we didn’t just finish the cycle and jump straight into making a record. I did fall a little bit out of love with the idea of making music and with the industry in which we work with. There were certain moments and certain things that happened which I feel like I don’t need to go into now, but it definitely sort of chipped away at me at the time. There was never a question of “oh, I don’t want to be a musician anymore or I don’t want to play with my friends”. It was never that, it was more a case of “what else do I really have to offer?” and “I’ve given [music] the last ten years of my life, and it’s been completely dictated to and by this band and the requirements” and what that all means. I just think to myself, are there other things in life that I might love or enjoy? We didn’t jump straight back into it.
I always knew the value of YMAS and how much I loved it and how lucky I was to be in the position I am in. But, sometimes I think that you need to take something completely off the table to really understand what it means; thinking about what it is, about the idea of losing it. I didn’t really know what that would really feel like. I’m glad that I took the opportunity to take it away from myself and the band because it really helped to shape the record. It was our determination to make only our best record, or only what we perceive as the best record we’ve made. That was an important part of the process. I wanted to reinvent myself and bring the best out of myself and the other lads in the band.
MF: You recorded this particular record live in Nashville, which is a bit of a change from recording in LA. What did that particular environment bring to the record?
JF: Not recording in Los Angeles, like we have for the last few records, made us even more focused because there’s a lot of distractions. I mean when you live in Griffith Park and you’re a five minute drive from Hollywood and you’ve got loads of friends around there’s loads of parties to go to all the time. There’s the beach and the sun and all that sort of shit that goes with it. Recording live and not recording in LA gave this band a huge amount of focus and we really drew ourselves into living in Nashville… It’s the home of songwriting, I mean, creative minds are drawn to Nashville. It was really incredible to record at Blackbird with all the history that place has. It just felt like an important time in our band’s history.
MF: I really enjoyed the track Heavy Soul. What was the story behind that particular song?
JF: Interestingly enough, it’s not too dissimilar to what I was explaining about falling out of love with music. When I was describing it to people they thought it was about me as a person, but it’s sort of really about me feeling vulnerable whilst being in a band. The line, “Looks a lot like heartache the kind the mic can take”, it’s very much about me looking at myself and trying to engage in an understanding.
I do struggle with the pressures sometimes, of being in a band and the anxiety that comes with that. I kind of wouldn’t have it any other way. Although it’s sometimes not easy, it’s worth the pain. There are bands that have it this way, but being a musician, it’s quite a daunting thing because you’re putting something out there forever and it’s open to criticism and it’s open to praise of course as well, I guess. But it’s quite a vulnerable thing, especially being a lyricist. Sometimes it’s really about putting out your darkest demons and using your band like a vessel. It can sometimes have such a therapeutic effect, but it can be a really intimidating thing. That was really what it was about.
That song will play an important part in the record and the way people view the record. Even from the opening riff, it’s almost like a summary. It’s indie-rock more than it is rock-rock. I feel like YMAS haven’t really looked at that shade of rock yet. There’s lots of different ways that YMAS have looked at rock music on this record and it’s far less generic than the stuff we’ve done in the past. That’s what I’m most excited about hearing.
You Me At Six’s new album Night People comes out Friday, 6th January 2017. Pre-order it here.