What's It Like: Backstage With You Me At Six

What's It Like: Backstage With You Me At Six

"The world right now is in a lot of trouble..."

Having just headlined a major sold-out headline show at Gunnersbury Park in West London at the weekend, You Me At Six also delivered two massive main stage shows at this year’s Reading and Leeds Festivals - two UK festivals they love and return to year after year.

Constantly on the lookout for a challenge in need of further exploration, the genre-bending, non-conformist alternative rock band continue to push themselves in the quest to land on fresh creative soil.

They have just dropped ‘What’s It Like’, the first single release since their UK Top Ten album ‘VI’. It is a blistering track that expands the genre kaleidoscope and represents a fascinating encounter between electronic rock, hip-hop and dance music.

Clash caught the eclectic rock band’s frontman Josh Franceschi and guitarist Matt Helyer at Reading Festival to get the latest on the Weybridge outfit, who insist that they make music for themselves but also spoke about the increased importance of music in times of political and cultural turmoil.

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What has your return to Reading Festival been like so far?

Matt: It’s like a hometown festival for us. My first festival was coming here in 2005 and I have been coming quite a lot ever since playing and as a punter as well, Reading and Leeds always mark the end of summer though, I find.

The end of festival season is here and luckily we’ve got really nice weather for it. it’s good to not be in the rain because then we would be saying things like ‘oh not rain!’, we’re here and everybody is moaning about how hot it is. We have a good slot. It’s a nice time in the day where people will be merry.

Josh: We are lucky that Festival Republic were always good to us. You are not allowed to do back to back years, so it’s never been that way but we always get the invite to come, so we are very lucky that we have got that level of support. We are very grateful to them.

How did the song ‘What’s It Like’ come about?

Josh: It wasn’t going to be a You Me At Six song to begin with. It was just an idea of having fun and messing about. But then when we heard it we were like why can’t it be a You Me At Six song? We like to live dangerously - as Austin Powers said - and we also like to play dangerously. It just had an energy and a vibe that resonated with what we listened to and what we enjoy and what’s the point of having barriers of music!?

We developed and formed the idea and recorded it last November before our UK tour. It is just a song that we have been excited by for a very long time and we knew it was going to have split opinions from people. It’s a marmite song.

Seriously, do you really mean that?

Josh: Yes it’s because everybody likes to have an opinion especially with something they can’t really understand, it gives them some sort of high ground. If you like You Me At Six and in particular some of our older stuff you will like this.

There are loads of bands where I love the first records but I don’t really like the newer stuff. Or I flip it and go ‘I wasn’t really into Arctic Monkeys’ until I fell in love with ‘AM’. It’s not to sound narcissistic, but I don’t make music for anybody other than the band. We have been lucky enough to have fans of our music and when they celebrate with us it is obviously incredible.

There is nothing more rewarding but that is not my salvation and not the reason why I make music. I make music for our friends, for our personal enjoyment and to express myself.

‘What’s It Like’ is about wanting a song that we can dance to but fight to at the same time.

‘What’s It Like’ definitely manages that. It is a complex affair!

Matt: Yes a lot of people say ‘why do rock bands suffer these days?’ It’s because they don’t push themselves and don’t do things in exciting ways, but this song shows what we are into right now. It shows our urban and dance side of what we listen to and it incorporates new tricks into our music.

It shows that we are living in 2019, and 2020 soon to be. We don’t just sit and play all our instruments, we are now behind the desk, we are producing, we are cutting up songs. We are making our own sounds, and I think that is what is interesting right now.

If you are into a You Me At Six type of band you may not have heard us in this habit before but we touched on it on our last record, and we are going head in now!

Josh: Look at the bill at this festival, it is probably the most split it has ever been. It’s the first time that all the weekend and all the day tickets have sold out in fifteen years because you are giving the consumer and the general public what their taste palette is like right now.

Music is meant to be that varied, it’s meant to be subjective, and I think that when we are in a time and in a world where everything sounds and feels the same, then we are in a lot of trouble. It is an interesting response to our challenging times. 

Josh: We are in trouble, and the world right now is in a lot of trouble. I think that is why we wanted to make songs full of angst for our new record, but also full of hope. I say that because I have a feeling of where people’s heads are at right now. In the moments of true despair, there’s always moments of true opportunity.

When can fans expect the new album to come out?

Josh: If it was already finished we would put it out already, but we have got to finish it off. I am hoping for an early 2020.

Nick: But there might be new music before the end of the year.

You Me At Six seem intent on releasing new music as often as possible.

Josh: You can put out a record and not release anything for eighteen or twenty-four months, what’s the point in that? We only put out our record last October and that’s the way it should be. We recorded ‘What’s It Like’ in November last year, we could have had it out in December but we wanted to let people live with the record we made.

You collaborated with producer Dan Austin. What did you take from his style and ways of working?

Josh: He is just amazing. Everything is going to be with Dan Austin from now on for as long as we can convince him to stay around.

Matt: He slots in with our palette, what we are about, and he meets us with energy as well. He is almost like a sixth member that has the same ambition, the same hunger in terms of how we want to achieve our music and coproducing it with him. He steps up and meets us there, and he works super-hard. It is a great collaborative effort. He is not afraid if we turn around and go ‘oh we are not sure of that’, he then goes ‘well scrap that, we’ll start again’.

It’s pretty exciting to be in a position where you are only going for top tier. We want it to be the best of our capability, it’s great when we all sit in the room and look at each other and go ‘we have nailed that!’.

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Words: Susan Hansen // @SusanHansen3

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