We had the opportunity to meet You Me At Six’s singer, Josh Franceschi, during a promotional day in Paris last month. Around an ice cold beer, we had a nice talk about YMAS’ new album, new sound and Josh’s state of mind.
It’s been a while, how does it feel to be back?
Josh Franceschi (vocals): It feels good, I mean, for us, it feels like it’s been non stop because we finished the “Night People” touring, and we were writing the record anyway, then we went as soon as possible to the studio. So yeah, it’s nice having new music out and I think moving forward, the plan is to sort of change the way we’ve been putting out music. We’ll keep trying to have music out as often as possible.
People are really excited about this new era, for a lot of reasons. One of them is the fact that “VI” is pretty special, you release it through your own label. Can you tell us more about it?
Josh: First, putting it out under our own record is a cool thing to do but that’s also down to AWAL for trusting us. They worked so hard for us and with us. The whole thing has been so easy. Maybe there’s like a weird thing going on, like it was fate that we would put our 6th record out 10 years after our first, up to the day. We’re all very excited in the band, we all feel good and everyone feels excited about what we’re doing.
You also co-produced it, how was this experience for you?
Josh: Really easy because Dan Austin made it easy. It was probably the most fun I’ve had in the studio since we made our first few records with John Mitchel, because again they felt like an extension of our band. And Dan very much embodied that. He’s just a really wonderful man to be around, incredible energy, incredible love for music of all kinds. Work, I think, is beyond anything I’ve ever seen before; first on in, last one out in the morning depending on how late we’d go. He really just sort of allowed us to dictate the pace of it and how we would do things. And when we put something in front of him which could be a challenge, it wasn’t met by a negative response. It was like: “OK so you wanna put out an R’n’B song with guitars, how are you gonna do that? “.
It was like we just studied the sub-genres and the genres of music that we love and found a way of integrating, whether be urban, or hip hop, or R’n’B, or dance or just straight out pop music in with guitar music, and I think “I O U” is a great example of all of those things happening in one song. I think the verse is quite a rocky verse and then the pre-chorus is, instrumentally, quite a dance based moment, and then of course you have the chorus which is straight up hip hop, Dr. Dre vibe.
So yeah, it was a very easy process, being in the studio was a pleasure. For my parts in the record, the lyrics were written in a way that I haven’t written lyrics before. Lots of the stuff, I did almost freestyle or would literally take the music from the studio to the residential house and sing on top of them, and record until something clicked and felt right, and then sort of mumble jumble some lyrics together. I just left things fly out of me and it was quite therapeutic. There was a lot of stuff on my mind that needed to get off.
Did you have any doubt on the direction that You Me At Six is taking?
Josh: No, because we’re making music for ourselves. Actually, in our most successful records, we haven’t thought about it too much we’ve just done it. “Sinners Never Sleep” is a great example: just sort of one song having Oli [Sykes] from BMTH on one song, and then the next song being a ballad with strings. We did what we wanted to do, we wrote great songs in between that but I think we didn’t have that spirit to sort of like: “Fuck it, they will work themselves out” and the DNA of this record is just: “do what you want”. At least that way you can seat back and know that you’ve made an album that you can stand behind and that you love. Because that has to be the first and most important thing.
Is there a track on “VI” that you’re particularly proud of and why?
Josh: On paper, you’re proud of all of them I guess, but the song that I just had the most fun with was “I O U”, just because I felt good about doing it. “Predictable”, I really enjoyed singing on top of. But they all offered different things. I didn’t feel like I was working on any of them, where there’s been times before, creatively and then performance wise in the studio, where I was banging my head against a wall and really fighting to make something work. All of these songs just came together. I won’t say effortlessly because that sounds quite nonchalant. But it wasn’t a difficult record.
What inspired this new sound?
Josh: Collectively, we’re all sponges. Dan is our sponge for dance music, me and Max for hip-hop/r’n’b, Matt and Chris for rock/punk/metal. We have 5 songwriters, it’s not one person’s vision. And that’s where You Me At Six is at its strongest, when we’re all mentally and creatively strong. We all push each other to see it from one another’s point of view and to grow.
There were talks at the beginning of making this record where we thought “Night People” wasn’t exactly what we wanted to be. We’ve been a band for 10 years, the moment we stop pushing ourselves, we stop wanting to learn or to discover new things abut ourselves as songwriters and as performers then we might as well stop. Because, when it’s easy then you really shouldn’t bother because if you’re not challenging yourself, there’s no way you’re challenging a listener. And what I’m most proud of on this record is what we accomplished in terms of: “we wanna do this for this song”, we did it and we didn’t hold back, we didn’t try to mold it to a certain You Me At Six’ style. We did it the way that felt natural with the mindset that if nobody else likes it but you really love it, then it doesn’t really matter what the overall outcome is. But if you’re pretending and you don’t yourself love it, when everything else is gone, what you’re left with is little to nothing. So if you can stand behind your work that you’re really proud of, and you really feel you’ve achieve something personally. Obviously, you’re always gonna be most enthusiastic and most proud of what you’ve done recently. Because that’s kind of a human condition.
With social medias, everything and everyone can be criticized. How do you deal with criticism about your music?
Josh: I don’t read reviews anymore, not because I don’t respect it or not because I’m not interested to see how great you are as a journalist or how great you are as a photographer. I’m quite comfortable with who I am, quite comfortable with who You Me At Six are. We’ve achieved a lot, we’ve done a lot, we’ve far exceed our expectations of what we wanted to achieve. I would have been really proud just to even put one album out, to put two albums out, to tour the world once would have been enough.
Everyone’s got an opinion and I think it’s perfectly acceptable and absolutely integral for progression to be able to handle criticism. But also not to search for insults. You never rely on positive feedbacks for your own good will and at the same time you should never desire or search for negativity for a balance. I think the internet is a beautiful place in terms of the way it can connect people, the way that you can learn and teach each other with certain things. But at the same time as you get older, you’re sort of understanding what is important and what isn’t important becomes more and more clear. I don’t really care if the people that liked another record preferred that to this one.
The point I’m trying to make is that the healthy balance of the good and the bad reviews, they both serve a purpose. But because putting out music is a very personal thing, it’s sometimes difficult to detach yourself from being the Josh of You Me At Six from being the Josh Franceschi. It’s difficult, when you draw the line, at what point do you allow that to sort of dictate and direct your emotions and your feelings. I’m more open to face to face conversations, especially if it’s a difference of opinion because I think you can only really convey by sides, equally, face to face. The problem of the internet is that it has eliminated the human aspect and you can hide behind your comments.
What’s the most exciting thing about being back on tour?
Josh: For me, the most exciting thing is just, you hide away for a few months, you put some music together. You know you can look at stats, you can look at Spotify’s plays or interactions on social medias, but it’s all surface level. Being on tour is an environment in which you can see and the audience can’t all collectively fake a response. They are there, they’re into what you’re doing and you as an artist, or they’re not. And that’s the most honest feedback you’ll ever get as performers about where you’re at with your songs. When you’re there and see people react, when they react well, you’re like: “well, that’s not shit” and when they react badly you’re like: “well, we need to be better.” For me, I like the live environment ’cause I see it as a challenge even when days aren’t going well, I’m like: “yeah they’re going crazy, but how can I get them to go crazier?”. But honestly I just enjoy traveling, I enjoy meeting people both out in the crowd or out with the bands of local towns, or meeting other artists. I like being here with the boys, they’re my best mates and we have a lot of fun together. Of course, there are days when people wake up and you can tell they’d rather be anywhere but there. Usually, that’s because there’s problems in their personal life or they’re just not in the mood for it. But when the 5 of us are on stage, regardless of what the background noise might be in our individual or our collective lives, when you’re on stage it’s just a platform to enjoy yourself, it’s a very rare thing to be able to perform and to play live music. So if you’re lucky enough to do it, you have to give it all, regardless of the show, regardless of the size, like it is the last one.
You’re coming back to Paris next year, can you tell us more about what you’re planning for your french fans on February 6th at La Maroquinerie ?
Josh: It’ll be us giving, everything that we’ve got, playing our songs, hopefully in time and in tune. If you’ve seen You Me At Six before then you know what kind of live band we are. We like to have fun, we like to interact with the audience, we like to create an environment in which people can feel safe and I like to think of us as a convenient distraction to the shit that people have to go through in their life. It can be challenging in good and bad ways, but I like to think that You Me At Six is an opportunity for people to come out, to enjoy themselves, have fun, put a smile on their face, hopefully create memories for them and their friends. Also, the thing about live music is that for the most part it’s just a room full of strangers and yet everyone’s there for that hour and a half of whatever that is. There’s a common strand within the group, you’re all there because you all love or feel a certain way about a group of songs. It’s a rare connection to have, being on stage and having a room full of people who enjoy what you’re doing. It’s something we don’t take lightly.
Last question: we are “RockUrLife” so what rocks your life, Josh?
Josh: My dog, my family, my friends. And just feeling like I’m doing something that when I’m old and grey, and I wonder if I lived, I’ll be able to say that: “yeah, I gave it a good go” whether it will be different to other people. We all do different things that’s what makes life and people interesting. Life is very short and I wanna be able to look back and go: “you’ve seen the world the most of it as you can, you’ve made some great relationships with friends, lovers and people in general” and I think that’s what we’re kinda here to do, just trying to do something that when you have time to reflect with my family I can be like: “this is something I’ve done”.