It seems like everyday it becomes harder to find any traces of the pop-punk and "emo" culture that once seemed so prevalent. Unless you were to stumble into a Hot Topic or maybe even a date on Warped Tour, you won't see any My Chemical Romance t-shirts, arms stacked full of jelly bracelets, or "Rawrr means I love you in Dinosaur XDD" written all over every available surface. Those kids have grown up; the Manic Panic hair dye faded and is now collecting dust on a shelf at the back of linen closets in childhood homes, the black and pink Myspace pages have been deleted or abandoned. And the bands that once dominated that Warped Tour circuit are shedding the pop-punk sound that got them booked there in the first place.
We caught up with English pop-punk turned alt-rock band You Me at Six to talk all about growing up, and finding their sound while finding themselves as adults. Formed in Surrey in 2004, You Me At Six released their debut album, Take Off Your Colours, in 2008. From there, the band toured with all the pop-punk heavyweights including Fall Out Boy and All Time Low, and made quite a name for themselves with devoted fans (affectionately called "Sixers") all over the world.
Vocalist/lyricist Josh Franceschi and lead guitarist Max Heyler told us all about their songwriting process (or lack there of), their newest album Night People, and their strive for a sound with "more edge and groove." For them, this album is the first one that really is entirely You Me At Six, and they disclose all the nitty gritty that went into finding their sound and taking risks to write music that was representative of them as a band, and not caring if people prefer the older sound, because this is who they are now. The boys also treated us with some stripped down versions of their songs "Take On The World" and "Night People."
This year, Josh Franceschi spent his birthday in Los Angeles. His girlfriend, his best friend and his sister had all flown out to help him celebrate and they had a big day out planned. First, though, Josh had to stop by the studio for what he thought would be a quick meeting. He and his band mates in You Me At Six had been holed up in producer Neal Avrons home studio near Sunset Strip, making 'Cavalier Youth: their fourth album, soon-to-be defining statement and follow-up to 2011s gold-selling 'Sinners Never Sleep.
Things had been going well, so Josh was a little surprised to find Neal, guitarists Max Helyer and Chris Miller, bassist Matt Barnes and drummer Dan Flints birthday surprise for him was to suggest that his contribution to 'Wild Ones the epic closing song on one of the most anticipated rock records of 2014 wasnt quite up to scratch.
If on 'Sinners Never Sleep, theyd have said, 'Josh, why dont you rewrite this?, Id have been like, 'Why dont you go fuck yourself? laughs Josh. But when they said, 'Musically, this is such a massive song, do you really want to be the one that lets it down?, I was like, 'I really dont. So Josh spent his birthday holed up in Neals garden with his laptop, rewriting the lyrics and vocal melody until they matched the scale and scope of the music. When he emerged triumphant like a kid at Christmas, according to Max with the revamped song, Josh knew it was a defining moment for the band.
Such incidents show the ambition and renewed appetite at large in the You Me At Six camp. The band has been a model of musical development from 2008 debut 'Take Off Your Colours through 2010s 'Hold Me Down and on to 'Sinners Never Sleep, but now nothing less than brilliant will do. This is an all the more remarkable state of affairs considering the staggering achievements around that last album. 'Sinners Never Sleep debuted at No. 3 in the UK album chart. The band were hailed as leaders of Britains new rock scene by everyone from Radio 1 to Q magazine and The Times. Their song The Swarm became the theme tune for Thorpe Parks blockbuster rollercoaster of the same name. And having stormed stages at Download, Reading & Leeds and all over the world the campaign finished with a sold-out show at Londons 12,500-capacity Wembley Arena in December 2012.
That show documented on 2013s 'The Final Night Of Sin DVD was the culmination of eight years hard work, since the band formed as teenage pop-punks in Weybridge, Surrey, in 2004. It also in Joshs words established them alongside the big boys of British rock. But while many bands would view such an occasion as the peak of their career, You Me At Six see it as base camp. After Wembley, change was inevitable: the band had switched management company and split with their old label, eventually finding a happy home with BMGs new recorded music arm.
But things had changed within the band as well. 'Sinners Never Sleep, for all its triumphs, had not been the smoothest recording process while the squabbles with their old label which Josh had to battle to get to release 'Reckless as a single, only for it to become their most played radio song ever had taken its toll. If somebody had asked us 'Whats next? after Wembley, the answerwouldve been, 'We really dont know, says Josh. We had no label, no management, no idea really.
That they rediscovered their verve in such spectacular fashion on Cavalier Youth is testament to the studio environment created by Neal Avron (Linkin Park, Fall Out Boy, Weezer), who worked them harder than theyd ever worked before, but also encouraged them to broaden and stretch their musical horizons. But its also due to the giant strides made by the band itself. Hence the next-level musicianship displayed on the album. Max Helyers riffs are catchier than most peoples choruses. Dan Flints drums are more colossal than Godzillas big brother. And, where 'Sinners Never Sleep successfully tried its hand at a picknmix selection of different genres, 'Cavalier Youth displays a consistency born of confidence.
Theres still plenty of variety of course, with songs ranging from the all-out rock attack of 'Room To Breathe and 'Win Some, Lose Some to the acoustic, Best-Coast-and-Joy-Division-namechecking 'Be Who You Are. 'Lived A Lie has already become the bands (and BMGs) biggest-ever hit single, charting at No. 11, its inspired marching band-style middle eight showing off their current willingness to push their musical boundaries. Meanwhile, the crossover alt-rock anthem 'Forgive And Forget boasts a chant so infectious, 2014s festival crowds are probably singing it already.
Lyrically, too, Josh is fizzing with fresh optimism, exemplified by the pulsating positivity of 'Fresh Start Fever, its Dream a little bigger! chorus surely destined to soundtrack a million New Years resolutions as well as spur the band on to new heights. Because, more than anything, this is the first You Me At Six album to establish a big, beefy rock sound that belongs entirely to, well, You Me At Six. For the first time, theres a real cohesiveness in our sound, says Josh. We wanted to write a record that in five or ten years time would still be relevant and make sense. Weve got bigger ambitions than just staying in our world and scene, states Max. We want to be a band thats listened to by everybody.
So they enthuse not just about their dreams of appearing high up the bill at Reading & Leeds, but also to play Glastonbury for the first time. They enthuse over the strength-in-depth of 'Cavalier Youth, an album they hope will spin off at least six singles. And they make no bones about their desire to graduate to arenas, not just as a London one-off, but as a regular occurrence all over the world. Theyre already making headway in Australia and America where YMAS recently completed their first headlining tour after years of groundwork on package tours and in support slots and are primed to become the UKs next enduring international rock success story. Thats the ambition for this album, says Josh. Wed be lying if we said breaking America isnt something we want to achieve. And they certainly have the ambition, the ability and, in Cavalier Youth, the album to accomplish such aims. I dont think our bands ever sounded this good, says Max proudly. If theres ever a time for You Me At Six, its right now.
Hes right too. Thats why 'Wild Ones, the song Josh so successfully tweaked back in that LA garden on his birthday, finds the frontman posing the question, Are we going to live forever? with the confidence of a man who already knows the answer. Josh might not have had much of a birthday bash this year. But 'Cavalier Youth marks the happiest of returns for You Me At Six -- and now the whole world gets to celebrate.