The last show You Me At Six played before the world went upside down was a headline slot at Gunnersville Festival. Running through every single they’d ever released, from the pop-punk snarl of 2009’s ‘Save It For The Bedroom’ to the electro rebellion of ‘What’s It Like’, the show was a celebration of everything the Surrey five-piece had achieved to date. Weeks later, they travelled to Thailand to record seventh album ‘SUCKAPUNCH’.
On the first day in the studio, vocalist Josh Franceschi approached long-term producer Dan Austin and told him that this was the last You Me At Six album he was ever going to make. Three of the band had recently come out of long-term relationships, so they were well aware that nothing lasts forever. “I wanted to make sure that if this record was a swan song, then it was going to be one fucking hell of a swan song,” Josh tells NME over the phone. Fear not though, the band aren’t going anywhere and they’ve spent lockdown in the studio working on new material. Rather than being the album that broke You Me At Six, ‘SUCKAPUNCH’ sees the band at their most ambitious as they blend the familiar with the unknown.
“This record will definitely raise some eyebrows,” says Josh. We gave him a call to find out why.
Hello Josh. Tell us what ‘Beautiful Way’ is all about?
Josh: “It’s about the relationship we have with ourselves. As you get older, you start to love yourself and accept yourself for who you are, imperfections and all. It’s about the good, the bad and the ugly. People have such a weird affiliation with happiness, like it’s something to chase and obtain. The reality is that it’s equally fine to be fucking confused and unhappy because those moments of happiness are fleeting anyway.
Sonically, is it a good example of where ‘SUCKAPUNCH’ goes?
“It takes the traditional You Me At Six sound and gives it a fresh feel which is what we wanted for this album. On our last album ‘VI’, it felt like we were sparring with the idea of the next step for the band. With ‘SUCKAPUNCH’ it feels like we’re there. We now understand how to implement our interests in hip-hop and R&B without it feeling forced or contrived. I don’t think anybody has heard our band do what we are doing right now.”
So it feels like a new era for the band?
“We knew this had to be an important record for us. We knew that we had to make music that said something, otherwise you get into the territory of making stuff that’s just self-servicing. You don’t want to be throwing out an album just so you can tour. We’ve done some pretty remarkable things, considering where we started and how long we thought we’d be around for. I was treating this record as my last You Me At Six record so I gave it everything I had left with the agenda that I wouldn’t be making another one. Things have changed and moved on from there though. We’ve already done a lot, and there’s so much that we believe we can still do and say but it’s about only doing so if we’re ready to present it in an interesting way. With ‘SUCKAPUNCH’, we’ve done that.”
The world is on fire, most of the band had just come out of long-term relationships, you thought it might be your last album. How bleak is this record?
“I decided that if a song was going to touch on something that was negative, there had to be a resolving factor at the end that made it feel good. ‘Glasgow’ is coming from a place of pain where you lose somebody that you loved, but it’s about accepting that making sure there’s no bad blood while ‘Finish What I Started’ is the most honest insight into the way I’ve struggled with my mental health. I’ve never really spoken about it before, mainly because I’m still trying to figure out what my trigger points are. I’ve had to go to therapy and be involved in situations where it’s uncomfortable just because you’re really putting a magnifying glass to things like codependency, alcoholism or the wear and tear of being a human being. That song is a war cry though. It’s a call to arms about finishing what we started, which is life. Let’s not give up on that. I feel like we’ve done what we set out to do, which is write music that has a purpose.”
So you want ‘SUCKAPUNCH to offer some positivity?
“When you find yourself in a negative headspace, you need something to latch onto. Music is a vehicle for escapism when it comes to that shit. I try and touch on shit that’s real and as a writer, I’m able to find a good space in bad situations. This record’s been done since November and I still listen to it on a weekly basis. It’s my therapy whenever I’m having a bad time, so I hope it can have that same effect on others. If our mission statement was to go and make something that mattered, we know we’ve done that for ourselves and for other people.”
Standalone single ‘Our House (The Mess We Made)’ deals with the climate crisis and ‘MAKEMEFEELALIVE’ talks about a “lost generation”. How are you feeling about the state of the world right now?
“‘MAKEMEFEELALIVE’ stems from the absolute disdain and frustration about what’s going on in the world, but you’ve got teenagers like Greta Thunberg making more sense than the majority of politicians. It’s the same with the Black Lives Matter marches. I went to the one around Hyde Park and Parliament Square and it felt like I was witnessing something profound. You’ve got this incredibly informed, passionate generation that’s had enough of everything. Things are going to change because this generation won’t allow it not to. If these conversations don’t bother you then you’re on the fence, which is not a good place to be.”
You’re one of the last Brit-Rock bands left standing from when you started. Do you feel like you have to prove you’re still relevant?
“I feel like we’re here for a reason and until we’re no longer allowed in the party, we’re gonna stick around and keep drinking. Us, Bring Me The Horizon and Enter Shikari are the only British bands that came up through Myspace that are still here. I take immense pride in that. Then you’ve got bands like The 1975, Catfish & The Bottlemen and IDLES that are important and moving things in the right way. In some ways, I do believe that You Me At Six are in the same bracket but we only really judge ourselves on what we’re doing. We wouldn’t be here without so many bands but I believe there are so many bands that wouldn’t be here without bands like us. That’s the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll: we’re stronger together. I feel like You Me At Six are just as important in 2020 as we ever were.
Seven albums in, how ambitious do you still feel?
“I’m proud of all our albums and they’ve all been right in that moment of time but ‘SUCKAPUNCH’ is the closest thing to a You Me At Six masterpiece. It’s the record that we always wanted to make. I see my friends in The 1975 and Bring Me The Horizon go off and headline festivals and I believe if they can do it, so can we. I’ve said from day dot that I want You Me At Six to headline Reading Festival. I still feel like we can. It’s my daily motivation and I’d much rather have that as an ambition and it not come to fruition, then have no ambition at all. We want to be up there with the big boys and girls.”
You Me At Six release new album ‘SUCKAPUNCH’ on January 15. Check out the tracklist and upcoming tour dates below.
1. ‘Nice To Me’
3. ‘Beautiful Way’
6. ‘Kill The Mood’
10. ‘Finish What I Started’
11. ‘What’s It Like’
Tickets to their May 2021 UK headline tour are on sale from October 2, with a pre-sale from September 30. Visit here for tickets and more information.