“It’s stadiums or bust,” says Josh Francheschi, chief night person of You Me At Six, and his ambition is well-earned. Over the past ten years YMAS have scaled to arenas, hit Number One with 2014’s fourth album ‘Cavalier Youth’ and helped lead the charge of modern rock into the nation’s EDM-blitzed consciousness. With a long-awaited, more adult fifth album ‘Night People’ due in January, we talked to him about flying screens, shirt-flinging fans and setting their sights on the Emirates.
You’ve announced a 2017 tour culminating at Alexandra Palace, what can we expect?
“We’ve generated a bit of a reputation in England for our live shows over the last ten years or so and the shows getting bigger and bigger has been a reflection that we’ve managed to put together live shows that people have enjoyed so the next time they’ve come along they’ve brought a friend or several. The main thing people can expect as part of this new era of You Me At Six is our interpretation of where we’re at right now, sonically and visually. We know we want to do something grander than we’ve done before. We’re trying to bring a festival headline slot into the venues we’re playing, take it up a few levels. While we’ve been away there have been some great bands, some of which are our friends, coming to prominence and they’re putting on great shows all around the world so it’s our turn to come back with a bang. We’ve continuously tried to get more and more on it as a live band. I spent a lot of time working with vocal coaches and rehearsing, trying to continue to evolve. There’s a real determination in our band to take this to a level above what we’ve done before. We’re trying to replicate the sound of the record with us five doing it ourselves and we’re also taking older songs and giving them a fresher feel, revamping them and making them feel more current as to where we’re at right now as a band. On the most recent run we took one of our songs ‘Too Young’, that’s a few years old, and stripped it right back to how it was written, which was just me and Max and a guitar. It was a real highlight of the set. We’re working on how we can create more of those moments.”
Will you be upping the production?
“We’re looking at hopefully having screens that come out from different angles and moving screens that can move up in the air and across the stage. Even in the space of the last two years, the things you can do production wise have completely changed. You can take it to a whole new level if you want to spend the money. We’ve always been one of those bands where as soon as we got to the Brixton Academy level we were already spending all of our money from the guarantees on making the tour as worth the money as possible. We’re constantly trying to up the ante.”
Have your fans developed any live traditions yet?
“We play a song called ‘Reckless’ and we did it back in 2012 at Reading & Leeds and I asked the whole audience to take their shirt off and fling it around their heads. 40,000 people all jumping up and down flinging their shirts above their heads, the people who were there have remembered it and its become a cult thing. Without fail, anywhere in the world, people do it. The people who come to our shows really love music and they see it as an opportunity to completely leave all of the shit of the outside world, whether it be work, family, friends, whatever’s going on in their life, they leave those issues at the door. For the most part our fanbase come with a very positive agenda. You go and see some bands and fights can kick off or people can be nasty to each other, but it’s always an interesting view to have onstage where you see a group of strangers in harmony enjoying themselves.”
Your fifth album ‘Night People’ has an edgier nocturnal feel, will that come across in the live show?
“There’s definitely a new mood, a new vibe onstage. I don’t envision us doing the whole jumping up and down on the spot in unison sort of thing that we’ve done before, mainly because it’s not what we want to do anymore. There’s a new vibe and, dare I say, swagger. Not swagger as in popping champagne but a moodier thing going on. We decided to play ‘Night People’ last on the last tour, just because we wanted to set the tone for how we end it. We were all surprised at the way that song went down – a lot of our existing fans like us when our songs are more angsty and rocky and I’m not sure ‘Night People’ was necessarily the song people were expecting us to come back with but I’ve been blown away by how ‘Night People’ and ‘Plus One’ have been going down on the last tour.”
Was it your intention to make a more adult rock album this time?
“Our main intention for this record was to make the best You Me At Six record, as we often try to. We’d completely detached ourselves from music for almost the last twelve to fifteen months. We took ourselves off social media, took the band off social media, essentially only used our phones to email or contact our partners or family. If we listened to music, we didn’t listen to any current day rock records. When we were making this record the UK grime scene exploded into the mainstream and that was soundtracking a lot of drives to and from the studio, or it was stuff like Sabbath or Led Zeppelin or The Who or NWA, a lot of old school hip-hop. We didn’t sit down and have a conversation about it but that really helped us have a clear head as to what it was we were trying to do We wanted to make something groovy that people could dance to and enjoy and sing along to, but also have this undertone layer of angst. In some ways it’s a redemption record.”
There’s certainly a fair bit of lust and loneliness and a dark tone particularly to ‘Spell It Out’.
“I fell out of love with music in a way that I didn’t think I’d ever fall out with it – I didn’t pick up the guitar for maybe two years between 2013 and 2015. I’d sort of had enough and that’s part of the reason why we took longer than we were going to originally making this record. There was a bit of soul-searching to be done, so I did that and figured out the missing pieces. I do believe that not worrying so much about the success of our peers helped me focus on what it was I wanted to say and that was a very exciting period of the band’s career, realising that as far as we were concerned no-one was doing what we are with this record right now. I’m sure there will be comparisons drawn because that’s music, but for us it feels like a new shade of You Me At Six.”
Does the album represent the band shooting for the big time?
“Definitely. It’s stadiums or bust for us, and that’s not from an arrogant place, it’s from an ambitious place. We’ve always been the underdogs really. We’ve never been the band propped up by major labels, pulling in favours to do the Brit Awards, and that’s fine, every band has their own path and their own journey. But we look at it and where music is right now and in the next two or three years there’s got to be the young crop of rock bands that have been bubbling for a while, some of those bands have got to turn into festival headliners or outdoor headliners, and that’s where we want to take it. Every day we’ve been getting up going ‘we’re gonna headline Milton Keynes Bowl’ or ‘We’re gonna headline the Emirates’ because someone’s got to do it and we definitely want to have a crack at it. You look at bands like Foals co-headlining Reading, Catfish going into Wembley Arena, Bring Me doing the O2, Blossoms have had a great year, there’s a lot of bands that are coming through. It’s one thing to be a part of that movement but it’s another to be at the very top of it.”
What are your festival plans?
“We’re currently in conversation with a lot of festival promoters about where we fit into their plans for the summer and whether it works for us and we’re talking to a couple of bands we’re friends with about going outdoors this summer.”
You started an online campaign against secondary ticketing, how’s it going?
“We’re trying to change the legislation to make it illegal for secondary ticket companies to buy, for some shows, thirty per cent of the capacity of the venue and reselling them at a hiked up price. There’s been a growth in that part of the industry of over one billion pounds last year. It is illegal to tout tickets outside a venue but there don’t seem to be many people trying to give it a voice. Last week we had Mumford & Sons get behind us on it, Alt-J, One Direction, all these people were showing their love and support online about it. We managed to get the petition up to 80,000 signatures, so albeit we didn’t get the 100,000 which on paper you need for it to be discussed in parliament, we had some very positive talks last week and I met the Minister For Culture & Performing Arts and they’re behind it. I’ve made a big thing about this tour, I’ve sat down with our promoters and management and told them all the companies that are no longer allowed to sell tickets for You Me At Six. This is about fans of live music and enough’s enough, man, there’s got to be somebody out there representing those people. Hopefully there’s some changes made.”
3rd – Newcastle, O2 Academy
5th – Plymouth, Pavilions
6th – Blackburn, King George’s Hall
7th – Doncaster, The Dome
10th – Birmingham, O2 Academy
11th – Bournemouth, Solent Hall
13th – Glasgow, SECC
14th – Cardiff, Motorpoint Arena
15th – London, Alexandra Palace