According to guitarist Max Helyer, life before You Me At Six was quite boring. “It was full of college, education, teenage life, going out partying, having fun with friends, just the usual really. And playing music.”
“Life has changed a lot,” vocalist Josh Franceschi tells us. “Before, when we were in the band, before we started doing a lot of touring we had a structure and now when you come off tour and you have three weeks before the next one it’s like ‘what do you do?’ kind of thing. It’s a bit scary, a bit intimidating at times.”
The young band formed in 2005 while still in education. In fact, Max and guitarist Chris Miller are both still doing a course at college. They tell Black Velvet that the band is their number one priority now though. When not on tour they practice weekly, occasionally going for a ‘block practice’ of three or four sessions in one week.
“A lot of us also practice a lot at home,” drummer and newest member Dan Flint says. “I’d been playing seven years before I even joined the band, so we’re quite practiced on our instruments.”
“We’ve all studied music courses at college,” bassist Matt Barnes reveals. “Josh didn’t study music at college but us four studied a B Tec national diploma in music.”
Josh adds, “Everyone is really passionate about their instrument. When I go and practice my singing, I want to go and get better constantly, and I think it’s the same for all of us.
“We push ourselves,” reiterates Max. “We’ll go out and learn a new song. It may be a bit hard at first but you push yourselves to learn it and then you get it done and play it and you’re advanced enough to play it. You can challenge yourself almost.”
The band have so far managed to impress many, with Carina Berthet at Chuff Media loving the band so much she has become their publicist, and Mark Ngui signed up as their agent.
“Carina was just somebody who wanted to help us out,” Max tells us. “We got on with her so well, she’s a lovely person.”
“We can’t thank her enough really,” adds Dan.
“They’ve both done so much for us. We’ve gone further with them. She’d helped us get our video on the TV, Mark’s helped us get on the tours we really needed to get on,” acknowledges Max.
The band’s infectious single, ‘Save It For The Bedroom’, was recorded at Stake Out Studios, a local studio near where the band live.
“They know what they’re doing,” Dan says about the Stake Out folk. Stake Out Studios have worked with Fightstar, Ghost Of A Thousand, Reuben and others. “They did the B-side for ‘We Apologise For Nothing’,” Matt informs us. When asked how the band fund recording work, due to being unsigned, Josh tells us that selling merchandise helps a lot.
“You’ll see us go to the merch table to try and haggle people as they walk out. It’s just so literally we can stay alive.”
“We’re not bad people really,” laughs Max. “We just like selling our merch!”
The band have started making plans for their debut full-length album. “The writing process is well underway,” Josh tells us. “We’re not sure whether we want to rush it, or whether we feel we need to get it out as soon as possible to keep people interested. I think the thing is with our band is that we always seem to be chasing a pace that someone’s set for us.”
The band so far have seven or eight songs that should hopefully make it onto the album. “We feel quite happy with the songs we’ve written at the moment, we’ve just got to carry on writing till the time comes when we need to go and record the album, so we get the best songs out of us,” says Max.
“We’re using the touring period as a trial for the new songs,” continues Josh. “You can tell a lot by playing a new song. Before we recorded ‘Save It For The Bedroom’ we played it a few times live and we could tell we all really liked it, so we thought, ‘this song is potentially quite popular’ – and it’s done alright. So we’re going to keep on trying that.”
“It’s the You Me At Six method,” declares Max.
“We’ve got a few titles for it,” Josh reveals when Black Velvet pries for more info on the album. “So lyrically I’m working around that. We’re definitely pushing ourselves musically in a sense of a lot more complicated riffs and structures.
“And just breaking out of the box a bit more,” Chris interjects. “Still playing what we’ve always played but adding a bit more of our own twist to it and making it sound as good as we possibly can.”
The band are defiant that they don’t want to sound like another band and so hope to further push themselves towards their own sound, to advance both themselves and music in general, coming up with hooks and such that haven’t been used before.
“The one thing I’ve noticed, especially from American bands, is that everyone’s always going to love a good pop song. Like Paramore for example or The Academy Is… and Fueled By Ramen bands. They write songs which have more parts but it has a simple structure and people like things they’ve familiar with so… I guess it’s a trick we’re using.”
Talking of Paramore, Josh tells us that the band’s parents have been very supportive, letting them take risks, helping them and backing them as they go after their dreams. “We played with Paramore a week before my ‘A’ levels and I thought that was pretty good of my parents to let me go all the way to Leeds to play a festival and come back to Surrey.”
When asked if their parents go to many of their shows, Max replies, “My parents have only been to one but they enjoyed it so much, they said it was like nothing they’d seen before – and they’ve been going to gigs for 30 years – so I’ve got quite cool parents to say that.”
“My dad was pretty surprised the first time he came to a show,” says Dan. “He didn’t think we’d be as good as we are. I’m not saying that we’re really good but he didn’t think we’d be at that level.”
Out of all the bands they’ve supported - Fightstar, Paramore, Enter Shikari, Saosin, Reel Big Fish, Elliot Minor and more, The Sleeping is the band You Me At Six learned the most from. “I learned that you shouldn’t be writing music for other people, you should only be writing it for yourself,” says Josh. “Their singer Doug, I learned a lot from him on a personal level. There were a few nights I got a bit down about stuff. It was one of our first big tours of big venues and he was explaining that everything’s not always going to be easy and a lot of times when people are going to be standing there with their arms folded hating it and you’ve still gotta get in their face and you’ve still got to give it everything. Since then I don’t think I’ve done a show where I haven’t put 100%. They’ve got really good attitudes.”
“They only care about the music, they don’t care about what anyone else thinks,” adds Max.
“I think they’ve inspired us to be better individually but also better as a band.”
Did you used to get affected when people stood watching and not doing anything? Black Velvet asks.
Matt answers, “It would put you in a down mood after you come off a show and played to a crowd who just looked at you like you were a bit of dirt. It’s like ‘right, I don’t know how to feel now’ because whether they liked it or not, they just stood there like lemons.”
When faced with a life of touring, there always seems to be the odd show where something goes wrong or not quite to plan. You Me At Six are almost convinced that they are jinxed when it comes to playing London. On the Elliot Minor tour, guitarist Chris was so ill that he ended up not being able to get onstage – although not wanting to miss the show, ended up playing guitar off at the side of the stage out of view.
“I thought it was one of the hardest shows,” Josh says when thinking back to the night. “It sucked,” is Max’s view. “I don’t think it sucked,” says Dan. “It was amazing because we got to play the Mean Fiddler to a packed out crowd and people seemed to know the songs but it did feel really weird.”
Max explains, “It didn’t feel the same not having him on because me and Matt normally stand together when we play and for that show me and Matt were on different sides and I felt like I had such a big space to myself to fill up.”
“I liked the pressure,” adds Josh. “I felt really shitty that Chris wasn’t playing but at the same time I thought ‘this gives me even more reason to go out because I’ve got to do that show for Chris’, so it got me going a bit more. I swear, every big London show we have, something goes wrong!”
“The time we played the Mean Fiddler before we turned up five minutes before we had to go on.”
“Because we had mental traffic jams. And the last time was a stage invasion. Everything goes wrong for us!”
“London doesn’t like us. The Queen looks at us and goes ‘Not for you. Not for You Me At Six’.”
But obstacles make you stronger… it’s a well known fact. The things that are brought to try us can help push us on to greater things. Josh agrees, concluding, “As a band we’ve been through some highs but we’ve been through some real lows as well. I can definitely tell the difference between the band we were at the beginning of our Summer tour and the band we are now. And there’s a big, big difference. Hopefully that will keep going… And who knows – maybe we’ll be on your front cover! Fingers crossed one day... Black Velvet!”
Sounds like a plan.
For more info on You Me At Six, visit www.myspace.com/youmeatsix.
You Me At Six are also interviewed in issue 64 of Black Velvet and grace the front page...
To order copies, go to www.blackvelvetmagazine.com/backissues.htm