“I remember the first time we did a headline show in Sydney,” frontman Josh Franceschi says from his living room in London. “It was in the middle of the afternoon and there were 500 or 600 people… I thought people would come out of curiosity, not because they were big You Me At Six fans.”
That captures the feeling of Australia being the vocalist’s second home, as the English rockers prepare to hit our shores this week. Despite the band grappling with the music industry’s tough side and a lack of self-reflection for years since forming in 2004, the release of fifth album Night People in January marks a healthy dynamic.
Ahead of their run, Franceschi reflected on tour supports Hellions, feeling like he no longer wanted to be a musician, and stopping to appreciate the world around him.
It’s great that you’re featured on the Hellions track ‘24’. Where does your friendship stem from?
“I’ve grown up in the music industry in England with Ben Patashnik, who works at UNIFIED. I’ve also known Chris Moretti (Hellions bassist) for many years because he’s been on tour with Tonight Alive a bunch of times. I’m always trying to find the next thing I should be getting my ear around, regardless of genre or location.
“They were definitely a band that impressed me a lot, and the conversation came up for me to sing on ‘24’. I rate them highly, and they’re all really cool dudes. I actually felt a bit of pressure singing on that song, because it’s their thoughts and feelings. But it was a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to having them on the road with us. The same with Columbus as well.”
You took an important break after you finished touring for fourth album Cavalier Youth (2014), and you’ve talked about needing to slow down. What have you taken the granted the most?
“It’s not so much taken for granted, but the understanding that everything’s on fast forward mode, and you think it’s going to be that way non-stop. It really did feel like we were this band in England and doing well, and then suddenly we’re playing the night slots of major festivals and headlining arenas in a few years.
“It’s daunting because you really don’t know where it stops, like at what point am I Josh from You Me At Six and when am I just Josh? I wanted to keep myself out of the limelight, and spend the time nurturing the roots of what we had back home. Both Max (Helyer, rhythm guitar) and I bought houses, and we wanted to be part of that process properly, not just buying a house and rushing off back on tour. I don’t think you properly know what you have until someone takes it off the table, and taking the band away as individuals allowed us to really understand the worth of what we were doing.
“We didn’t want to rush Night People, but in hindsight we didn’t have anyone on our team that was trying to move it forward at any particular pace. That can be dangerous. If I was to look at the record now, there are things that I would change or other songs I would have put on there.
“But I definitely wouldn’t have gotten into this strange cycle of not writing music at all for two or three years. We’re all prominent songwriters, but I completely fell off the radar in terms of what I was contributing, other than my lyrics and vocals. Now we’re this healthy group where we’re constantly writing, because we simply can’t have a three-year gap between records again. Our aspiration is that our next one will be out next summer, and that we can push on and keep rolling.”
Reflecting on ‘Heavy Soul’ (from Night People), was there ever a point where you actually felt like you didn’t want to be a musician anymore?
“I think every musician at some point goes, ‘I want to turn off the tap’. You Me At Six have had a pretty shit time in terms of how we’ve been treated in the industry. There’s only so many times you can put in everything you have, and that’s not to say that the appreciation of the fans isn’t what it’s about. But when everything else involved in that is a daily struggle… It takes away the beauty of what this should all be about.
“I’ve managed to find a way of turning off from that, and it’s taken me the better part of 11 years. We’re planning on putting out the next record ourselves and starting up our own label. But I think ‘Heavy Soul’ is all about putting on a front… People are now more accustomed to opening up about battling demons, but it hasn’t always been that way. There’s that opinion that if you’re in a band, you have to be the perfect version of yourself at all times. Otherwise you’re short-changing your fans when they need you.
“The amount of times I’ve been talked off the ledge, whether it be from my parents, sister, partner… Even the guys in the band. It must be hard for them when one of their best mates turns around and goes, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’. I’ve always felt guilty, because it’s got nothing to do with them… I go through phases where I’m extremely worn out, and then somebody says something about the band that whips me back into shape.
“Music has gotten me through a lot of dark shit, but it has also inadvertently been the catalyst for feeling low. But having any sort of positive impact on even just a handful of people… That’s a good enough reason to want to keep doing it.”
Finally, Paramore really helped you find your feet on tour. How would you reflect on the life lessons you took from them?
“I’d see Hayley (Williams, Paramore vocalist) warm up and taking her body seriously, and I was like, ‘Well shit if she’s doing it, I’ve got to be’. Then you listen to their new record (After Laughter), and for me there’s a lot of pain on that album. The way that she’s managed to write stuff beautifully and articulated so well… It’s indicative of what she’s always been about.
“Hayley for many years has been a soundboard. I can’t remember a record we made where she hasn’t been one of five musicians that I’ve sent it to asking for feedback before we put it out. It’s interesting that songs she’s pointed out have been fan favourites, most notably on Night People with ‘Heavy Soul’, ‘Take on the World’ and ‘Give’. That sort of nurturing is invaluable.
“When we were younger, they were also around that sort of age, and that’s why our bands grew together as a unit. We toured everywhere in the world minus America. Jeremy (Davis, ex-bassist) has been a close friend for many years, and I was very sad that things materialised in the manner they had. They definitely influenced our lives and careers, but they also gave us a reference point. The amount of people who have been like, ‘Oh you’re tour buddies of Paramore!’… It was an entry point for people to discuss the band, because this other massive one have put their name on what we were doing.
“I don’t think there’s any way to repay that. I look back on the experiences I’ve had with them very fondly.”
Interview by Genevieve Gao
You Me At Six are slated to continue their upward momentum on their Aussie tour, kicking off on September 22 in Brisbane – tickets available here.