You Me At Six
There aren’t many bands who reach their third album while still only aged between 21 and 22. Fewer still have headlined Brixton Academy, staged two sold out nights at Hammersmith Apollo, or have played to a total of 65,000 people on just two of their many UK tours. That You Me At Six are also the 2011 Kerrang! Award winners for Best British Band is yet another accomplishment.
Since the release of You Me At Six’s 2008 debut album Take Off Your Colours, they have been at the forefront of British rock music. From that album’s riotous pop-punk, via the explosive thrills of their 2010 Top 5 album Hold Me Down, the Surrey-based band have dealt in party anthems, relationship dramas as they’ve sound-tracked the summer with their buoyant melodies and crackling riffs.
But the release of You Me At Six’s third album, Sinners Never Sleep, marks a shift. Older, wiser, and with more to say, this is a band who have enjoyed their youth but who are moving into new pastures.
“I truly believe this is the best album we’ve made. It’s going to get people talking,” says the band’s singer and lyricist Josh Franceschi. “What we aimed to do was something different, we wanted to reinvent ourselves.”
“I don’t want to hear a band release the same album three times, I want to hear them do something new and push some boundaries,” adds Max Helyer, the band’s guitarist and chief songwriter. “We’ve taken it to the next step.”
You Me At Six recorded Sinners Never Sleep in Los Angeles with the influential producer Garth Richardson (Biffy Clyro, Gallows, Rage Against The Machine) and there, they set about building the bridges to take them from their pop-punk past to their rock future.
“The last thing we wanted to do,” says drummer Dan Flint, “was to write a pop-punk album about going on the Warped Tour and getting fucked up, or about girls dumping you.”
“A lot of those throwaway US pop punk bands have just written the same album over and over again,” says Josh of the band’s mindset. “What is the point of writing a record that sounds the same as your last record? People wanted us to play it safe. So the first two songs we worked on were When We Were Younger and Bite My Tongue. We wanted people to understand we were going somewhere else.”
Those two tracks, in an instant, make it clear You Me At Six have developed. When We Were Younger, the album’s closer, is a building, brooding and experimental six minute epic about Josh’s relationship with his parents. Bite My Tongue, featuring a guest vocal from Bring Me The Horizon singer Oli Sykes, is as heavy and furious a track as You Me At Six have ever written. Its lyrics are a departure too as, with fierce honesty, Josh details the often complex bonds that form between band members on the road.
“There’s stuff on this album I’ve never addressed – writing about my parents, writing about the band,” says the singer. “This band is my therapy and I have to use it to get rid of my shit. So what’s the point in writing thoughtless, soulless, radio-friendly bullshit? What is the point? Maybe fans would rather hear something honest. And maybe people are bored of hearing the whole boy-girl bullshit.”
It is why Sinners Never Sleep is – both lyrically and musically – a far deeper and more intricate affair than before. From the heartfelt Little Bit Of Truth – addressing the relationship between fans and band – to the heavy Time Is Money (which features a contribution from Parkway Drive singer Winston Smith), it is clear that this is a band who, as they have travelled the world in recent years, have done so with their eyes open to new insights. And Sinners Never Sleep is a candid appraisal of what they’ve seen.
“Some people think being in a band is all fun while you’re travelling all over the world,” says Max. “But with the good comes the bad. This CD reflects that, it’s honest. It’s not just fun and games because this hasn’t been the easiest ride.”
One of those hard times is the inspiration for the standout track Little Death. On the eve of Hold Me Down’s release in 2010, Dan’s father died. As the band rallied round, it was something Josh felt he should address. “I went from celebrating a top five record to not caring about it at all,” says Dan thoughtfully. “Josh wrote about it in a very good way. My dad would be stoked.”
It was a moment, conversely, that helped bring the band even closer together. “When something big like that happens and it puts everything into perspective,” says bassist Matt Barnes. “Now we’re all closer than we’ve ever been.”
“The fact that our lives are on the album means there are actual stories there,” says guitarist Chris Miller. “It gives this depth.”
Not only that, but it gives You Me At Six a future. This is an ambitious band who, with their third album, are looking ahead. Older, wiser and brimming with confidence, Sinners Never Sleep is the first step towards the rest of their lives and, as the maturity, intensity and quality of the record prove, there is much to be excited about.
“A lot’s happened to our band in the last two years that has made us grow up fast,” says Josh. “The main point about this album is that we have grown up and that’s reflected in our music. Whatever comes of that will come – whether it’s negative or positive. But I’d rather look back with no regrets and be proud of our songs, than be thinking, ‘We should really have tried to do something a little different’.”
“This album gives is a massive opportunity,” says Max, finally. “We have the songs now. If we want it, there’s nothing to stop us smashing it everywhere.”