It almost feels like You Me At Six only just left Australia after their most recent trip down under, but such is the ferocity of their antipodean fans, that they’re now back playing in the country for the second time in six months.
Last kicking round our neck of the woods at the tail end of last year on a national tour alongside Australia’s own Tonight Alive, You Me At Six will once again be touting their successful 2014 release Cavalier Youth at Groovin the Moo and their own string of headlining dates.
With the same lineup of You Me At Six experiencing the current heights that none of them could have predicted when they first started thrashing out heavy rock music in Surrey ten years ago, we sat down with irrepressible lead singer Josh Franceschi for an in-depth chat about surviving a decade and then some.
Watch: You Me At Six – Room To Breathe
Music Feeds: You Me At Six are back in Australia for Groovin The Moo, which will be your second trip down under in the space of six months. Do you feel a special bond with Australia?
Josh Franceschi: Yes to be honest, I mean, we know that historically it’s not really a thing that bands do and we’ve always been told by managers and booking agents that you go to Australia twice in a cycle. You go once for Soundwave and then you follow that up with a headliner and we were going to follow that kind of a template, but we switched around our agents and the opportunity came up to do Groovin The Moo and we just liked the idea of visiting different parts of Australia that we hadn’t visited before.
I could tell you everything you need to know about Brisbane and how great that is and how beautiful Sydney harbour is, but I like the idea of being able to see other parts of Australia that I’ve never seen before. We like the idea of playing to a completely different crowd as well.
The way we’ve discussed it is that it seems like it’ll be a different crowd to a Soundwave Festival crowd, it seems like a different opportunity for our band to be able to play to a new audience and win over fans and I think that any band should be able to adapt, whether it be to playing a grimy underground club or playing an arena or a massive festival or supporting a metal band or Justin Timberlake, you should be able to hold your own in any environment if you’re any good at what you do.
We really like the idea of embracing that challenge and trying to win new people over to You Me At Six. Obviously there’s no better feeling in the world than walking out and performing for an audience of people who already love your band, and we’ll be doing that on our headline shows, but there’s also something really rewarding about going out and taking people who have no idea who you are or might be on the fence about you and then winning them over with your set, it’s what keeps our job fresh and exciting for us and we really feel like that was the opportunity that was being presented to us with Groovin The Moo.
Watch: You Me At Six – Cold Night
MF: Throughout your career You Me At Six have toured with an incredibly diverse array of bands without ever seeming out of place. What is it about your sound that enables you to fit in on a metal bill as easily as a pop one?
JF: I don’t think it has anything to do with the sound, which may sound strange, but I really believe it is more about the attitude of the band. We’ve done some shows with a band like Bring Me The Horizon in front of die-hard fans and we’ve managed to win them over by the end of the set with our performance, and we’ve played a massive pop-music festival in the UK and directly before us is N Dubz, (they’re a pretty shitty R&B kinda band), and then directly after us is Jason DeRulo and we’ve done that and we’ve managed to make it work.
We try to never play the same show twice, so if we’re playing a heavier crowd, we’ll play the rockier material, but we’ll never try and be something that we’re not. We’ll just play as the best version of ourselves for that audience, and we’ll do the inverse for the poppier crowds. It’s a good quality to have but I think in a way it’s given people a mismatched conception of what You Me At Six is as a band and has in a funny way kind of worked against us.
So while it’s good to have that versatility and it enables us to always be working and always be being presented with new experiences, it also means that we’re not viewed as the kings of the metal scene or of the pop-punk scene and to be honest, I’m not sure we want to really be heavily associated with either. We’ve never really wanted to associate ourselves completely with anything and now that we’ve reached our mid 20’s our vision for the band has completely changed.
I remember we used to sit around and plot out how we could get to play the mainstage of the Warped Tour, and that is a great festival, but now it’s like fuck let’s not just think about that, lets think about headlining amphitheaters ourselves, and if that’s not realistic, how we can make that realistic.
I’ve spoken to friends in heavier bands who have gone out on tour as support for a bit of a poppier band and it’s not really worked out all that well and vice versa, but for some reason that’s not been the case as much with us.
Trust me, we’ve done some horrific shows like that in the past though, but even in those times where the fans don’t want to know anything about us, there’s been a moment where about half way through the set you can feel a shift in the audiences reactions to what you’re doing and half of them may have just switched off entirely but the other half that are engaged are starting to really warm to you, and that moment is the real challenge of live music, to really be able to take that half that are showing interest and give them your all and convert them into fans and we really love that challenge.
Watch: You Me At Six – Forgive & Forget (Lyric Video)
MF: You Me At Six have been a band for over a decade now and BBC Radio 1 have made a one-hour documentary covering your career progression, what was that experience like for you as a band and have you had a chance to listen to it?
JF: I’ve listened to it and of course I was heavily involved in the project, because there’s an unwritten rule that by being the singer of a band, you have signed up to do 85% of the media commitments associated with that band, without your consent.
It was such a great experience, because I got to sit there and work closely with a group of people that I genuinely respect and admire at Radio 1. Radio 1 is the institution that has taken our band from where we were when we started, to where we are now. They’ve been playing our music pretty much daily since our first single and they’ve really contributed to our growth as a band.
We’ve had 13 A-list singles in a row, which the only other act in the world to have had more than that is Rihanna and she’s had 14. So I wasn’t surprised that they wanted to do something with the band for the 10 year anniversary, but I was surprised at the depth that they went into.
There was a really cool angle where they took two of our fans and told the story of our journey, but also the story of their journey and why they like our band and how their fandom has evolved throughout our career. They had them come and see us play shows in a small independent venue, the rehearsals for our arena tour or seeing us at the 02 arena and give their thoughts and reactions to that, and it was honestly really cool to have that perspective, a fans perspective of our career.
It was also just a cool moment to sit there with Zane Lowe and the other members of our band and look through old photos and tell old stories and relive the positive memories they brought up. It gave us a chance to think about how far we really have come as a band. To sit there and think that when we first started the band in high school it was with the sole intention to have something to do on the weekend and cover Drive Thru records bands and do Blink 182 and Taking Back Sunday covers in my mates garage and then look at how it’s evolved from there.
Obviously it’s given us an amazing life and enabled us to do so many things we never envisioned we’d be able to do, but it’s also in a way allowed us to not have to see what our lives would have been like had the band not worked out, because to be honest I think some of us may have struggled.
We were talking about this the other day and we realised that none of us have any other skills, outside of what we do in this band, so honestly I’d have been a bit worried for the prospects of some of the members of You Me At Six if we hadn’t succeeded as a band. I think they may have just wallowed away into obscurity with a bottle of cider next to them. So basically, thank fuck for the band.
Watch: You Me At Six – Reckless
MF: A career in music can be a stressful and exhausting one and bands often tend to lose members in the process, but you’ve managed to maintain the same line-up since your debut, how have you managed this and do you think it has helped you attain success?
JF: It’s a good point and it is rare. I think it is difficult to keep shit in line, and a lot of our mates’ bands have had instances where one of their members has got married or had a child or has had to go off and look after a family member or a family business to ensure they can survive, so there can be “life” reasons that can cause lineup changes or lead to the end of a band, but then of course there is also the other instances where bands fall out of love with music or with each other as members and that tension inevitably leads to the end of the band.
You Me At Six make no attempt to dumb down the fact that we’ve had and do have difficulties, it’s not just being in a band and playing music, it’s being in business with these people as well. There’s four other peoples lives that inadvertently became my responsibility when the band started to have some success, because every decision you make regarding the band or every performance you give as an impact on them, not just personally, but financially as well, and by extension has an impact on their wife or their girlfriend or their family.
We’ve always tried to keep it really simple when we have hassles and we’ve let them rest and see if it really is worth going to battle for, potentially at the expense of You Me At Six and send us backwards. We’ve always instinctively looked forward as a band. When we came off stage after headlining the O2 Arena the other night we immediately looked at each other and said right, we need to work out how we can come back and sell the place out two nights in a row and take it to the next level.
I’m not going to say who, but there’s always been one or two of us who have really driven that growth and sometimes they’ve driven it too hard and ended up having to be dragged across the line by the other members, and I think that’s a strength of our band is that no one is perfect and no one has all the answers, but collectively we are able to come together and contribute our ideas and our energies and passions and do the best thing we can to benefit the band.
I think that’s a really special place to be, because I know a lot of friends bands who hate each other and they are still out on the road and they barely speak to each other except for at gigs. With us it’s just always been a five way even split, no matter who has done what, and once you take money out of the equation, life becomes much simpler. You either make lots of money together, equally or you all struggle together, equally.
Watch: You Me At Six – Bite My Tongue
MF: You’ve always had a massive fan base in the UK, Australia and Europe, but the US seems to have responded particularly strongly to Cavalier Youth. Is expanding your reach in the US a priority for you at this point?
JF: What happened with us on the Cavalier Youth cycle is that we made a concerted effort to concentrate on the US market, because this may be hard for people to believe, but we had never had a proper release of any of our LPs in the US, which was just insane.
That’s what happens when you have three shit labels back to back though. The most disappointing thing in our career is that when we signed with Epitaph records for our first LP Take Off Your Colours, we were so excited because we’d signed with a label that signs bands from all over the world and builds them up to a point where they are able to play mainstage at Warped Tour and tour internationally and that was part of the reason we signed with them was that we knew, they knew how to navigate that market and give their bands the best chance for success.
The reality for us however was that we never really saw any of that, they practically did nothing for us, fucking nothing whatsoever, in fact I don’t think I ever met Brett [Gurrewitz, label owner and Bad Religion guitarist] or spoke to him more than once, so that’s all I have to say about Epitaph records.
We moved to Virgin/EMI in the UK for Hold Me Down and Sinners Never Sleep and they picked up the option for the US, and again, we never met fucking anyone from the label, or received any support at all, except for from one guy named Jason who did everything he possibly could for us, to the point of having to personally send us out stock to have to sell on tour, because the label had not even thought make sure of that, which obviously made no sense whatsoever.
So finally when we signed for Cavalier Youth, I was upfront and told them that I didn’t want to hear any fucking excuses, you have to make sure that we start making some grounds at radio in America, because it is obscene that we can have the number one selling rock single in Australia and in the UK and then not even have that song played on radio in America. We finally found label staff willing to do that and we focussed our attention on the US and it paid dividends.
Watch: You Me At Six – Underdog
MF: The Neal Avron produced Cavalier Youth was a huge success for you as you’ve indicated, so is that the direction we can expect from the next You Me At Six album?
JF: Short answer, no. Long answer is I’m not sure. One of the advantages of having five strong, interesting and diverse personalities in the band is that everyone has a different direction and a different strength that they want to focus on creatively, and that means that writing a record is always a matter of finding a balance between all of those visions and ideas that works for everyone.
Max for example is an incredibly talented musician and songwriter and if it was up to him we’d get into a time machine and go back to Led Zeppelin days and write songs that go for seven minutes and parts are just us stamping our feet on stage and that is a great element to have in the band because he’s vision is almost infinite and opens up so many possibilities sonically for us as a band.
Then me personally, I’d like to write more songs that have a more hip/hop, groove based kind of feel and if you combined those two visions then you might get something kind of cool, but then you’ve got Chris and Matt who are like yeah that’s cool, but what about the fans that already like us?
You look at some bands and they come out and start speaking about their new record with such enthusiasm and they spend all of their time saying that it’s a progression and they’ve pushed themselves creatively and then you get really excited as a fan to hear that evolution and then you press play and it’s just the same thing they’ve done previously. And you find yourself wondering how they managed to sound so excited about that record, when it is the same old thing they put out last time, and for me, I think a bands sound should always be evolving and growing, as the members are evolving and growing.
I’m not saying that You Me At Six are going to come out and release a record that’s going to change the world or influence the course of modern music forever unto eternity, that’s not really the plan. The plan is to at least change our world, and test ourselves and take our band somewhere we have not been before. Some of the producers we are talking to are a different caliber to what we’ve worked with before and if that means they tear our band apart piece by piece and pushing us to breaking point by saying I can’t sing and then making us work on rebuilding our approach and give our all, then I’m willing to go through that if the end result is that it makes us a better band, then it’ll all have been worth it.
Because I’m not trying to being funny, mate, but we could write Underdog 12 more times in our sleep, it’s not really a difficult song to write. It may sound like sheer genius, and obviously it is, but in reality it’s four chords and you mix them around and then the middle eight it’s the same four chords but you play them in a different order, and the verse is just some little twangy thing on a telecaster and that’s it, you know what I mean.
MF: Have you written any new songs that we might hear a first airing of at Groovin The Moo?
JF: No, unfortunately we’ve written basically nothing yet! Nothing that looks even remotely close to a song.
You Me At Six continue on the Groovin The Moo tour this weekend and kick off their own headlining dates this week. Deets below!
Photos: You Me At Six – Sydney, UNSW Roundhouse 06/09/14. Photos by Ashley Mar
Thursday, 28th April 2015
Capitol Theatre, Perth
Thursday, 30th April 2015
The Hi-Fi, Melbourne
Tickets: The Hi-Fi
Wednesday, 6th May 2015
The Metro, Sydney
Thursday, 7th May 2015
Evans Theatre, Penrith