Interview #753: You Me At Six
Surrey boys You Me At Six started their inexorable rise to the top in 2008 when their debut album Take Off Your Colours went into the UK Top Forty and earned them a support slot with Fall Out Boy. Honing their sound from poppy punk to the leaner - and sometimes meaner - alternative rock band that now appears on their third album Sinners Never Sleep, the boys have established themselves as one of Britain's finest guitar-wielding exports.
I Like Music spoke to guitarist Max Helyer down a crackly line to Australia, where the band have been a part of the touring festival Soundwave, to chat about advice for anyone looking to form a band, You Me At Six festival plans, news on their exclusive track for new Thorpe Park rollercoaster The Swarm, plus a (very!) lengthy list of music that Max has been listening to recently.
“I Like Music because... it makes the world go around. Everybody in this world listens to music, and it’s a therapeutic way of relaxing yourself, being out with friends or listening to it on your own. It means a lot to everybody, so you have to embrace it and enjoy it.” Max, You Me At Six
ILM: How are you?
Max: I’m very well thank you! Currently in the nice warm weather of Perth, Australia.
ILM: You’re at Soundwave right?
Max: Yeah, it’s our last day today! We're ending a great day, we've all sunk a few lagers and we're having a good time so far. Going to go watch a bit of Slipknot and System Of A Down, then celebrate my birthday when it hits 12 o'clock tonight at the after party! It's going to be a right good laugh.
ILM: How have the crowds been out there?
Max: It’s been amazing. This is probably our fifth time in Australia, and it just keeps getting better and better and better each time. And it’s great to be part of Soundwave; this year it’s the biggest touring festival ever to happen.
ILM: Have you been over there for long?
Max: We’ve been away since January, in America and Indonesia, and then here, and we’re going home next to do some more stuff for Thorpe Park for The Swarm and then we do a UK tour.
ILM: So you’re really busy at the moment!
Max: We don’t ever stop, we don’t! Work hard and play hard.
ILM: The video for No One Does It Better came out today, could you tell us a bit more about that track? It’s quite gentle in comparison to your others...
Max: Our ambition on this record was to really explore new territories of what we were into and what we wanted to write. I think No One Does It Better really nails that on the head. It's still got that significant You Me At Six sound but it shows those other directions that we can go in as a band, what we can produce and write ourselves, you know? We're really happy with the song being a single, we're really happy with the video too. We worked with a guy called Tim Mattia who has done all our videos and also our documentary on this album cycle and it's come out amazing. We're just all really stoked. Hopefully all our fans will dig it...
ILM: You worked with Garth Richardson for the first time on this record; what was that like? What did you learn from him?
Max: Garth is an absolutely amazing person and we had a great time recording with him. Matt O’Grady also came with us to America and worked on the vocals, and John Mitchell mixed the album for us as well, so we didn’t lose any of the unique qualities that we had on the two previous records. We only gained from having Garth as an engineer on the record. We learnt a lot from him, like different ways to record sounds; I spent about three weeks doing guitars and got to play through loads of new guitar amps and, like, four heads at once. Just doing crazy stuff. And Dan recorded all of his drums on analogue tape, which is the old school way of recording and gives it a different sound. It’s warmer and has more of a texture. So yeah, we’re really pleased how Sinners Never Sleep came out, it’s our favourite of our records. And not just because it’s the new one, but song-wise it’s really pushed our boundaries in terms of writing songs and us taking our band to a new level.
ILM: How do you push yourselves to evolve as a band?
Max: We’re still quite a young band. We’re still growing up a lot, and we listen to a lot of different styles of music. We’re not tied down to one direction; we don’t just listen to rock music. We listen to pop, hip hop, reggae, whatever. If it’s good music then we’ll take influence from it. That and the experiences we have as a touring band travelling the world. We put that all together and try to write a song! When you’re growing up and trying to write new songs then it obviously helps to gain new ideas and learn from other people.
ILM: Have you been writing any new material recently?
Max: We wrote a song for Thorpe Park called The Swarm, which is going to go with their ride that’s also called The Swarm. That’s the newest thing that we’ve written, and it comes out on the 18th March, with the ride opening on the 15th. Basically, we got to sit down with Thorpe Park, who chose us as the first band in the world ever to write a song for a theme park! We were really stoked for that. The ride has a 127 ft drop at the start and is Europe’s tallest winged rollercoaster. The ride is about close encounters and near misses, so we wanted to make a song that was epic and eerie... Other than that we’ve started getting some new ideas, but we’re not going to be writing anything that soon. For me personally I want to be prepared for when we start writing again next year after our touring cycle, so there’s stuff already there and we’re not rushed at all.
ILM: Speaking of touring, what can fans expect from you on the upcoming UK tour?
Max: It’s our biggest tour to date, so we’re going to try and make it our biggest show to date as well. We’re going to do a mixture of new and old You Me And Six stuff, but we really want to try and play a bit more from Sinners Never Sleep, because on our last tour we made people wait for it a bit more. It’s going to be big and epic. We’re really looking forward to coming back to the UK. We haven’t played there since October, so we’re really excited about coming back to do the big headline tour.
ILM: You’re playing Download as well this year, have you got any other festivals lined up?
Max: We’re going to America to do a month with the Vans Warped Tour from June to July. There are other festivals that we’ve got lined up, but we can’t announce them at the moment. They are pretty big though... We’re very happy!
ILM: What have you guys been listening to recently?
Max: What’s been rocking my stereo recently...? A range really. I’ve been listening to Drake’s new record: Take Care. I’ve been listening to J. Cole’s Friday Night Lights, and Every Time I Die’s new record Ex Lives. That’s phenomenal. I’ve also been listening to some old school stuff like Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin. Loads of stuff... Jack Johnson, Fatboy Slim, Foo Fighters, John Mayer, the list goes on and on! I’ve been really into a band called This Will Destroy You recently. They’re an alternative rock instrumental band, which is nice and easy to listen to while I go to sleep.
ILM: What would be your advice to people who look up to you and want to try and pursue a career in the music industry?
Max: Work hard and play hard! You’ve got to put a lot of hard work in, but then you also want to go out and meet people and let people know about your band, which is where the playing hard comes in. And just persevere. It’s not the easiest job to be in at all. People think it’s all glam, and sometimes it is, but sometimes it isn’t. You need a lot of dedication to make you a better musician and to get yourself noticed.
ILM: One of your fans – Kerry – got in touch with us via the I Like Music Facebook page with a question for the band. She wanted to know...why does Josh hate your song Gossip so much?
Max: Well, Gossip is probably one of the first songs we ever wrote as a band and it's just like, you know, I think you can tell the difference between Gossip, one of our first ever songs, and the sound on our current record, you know? There's been a lot of change. It was when we were younger as well. Josh, lyrically wise was writing about going out partying and getting wasted with friends and all that. Which still kind of happens you know, but not as much. We're all kind of growing up. I think for us, Gossip is a bit old and we wanna try and keep it updated.