SIXTH TIME’S THE CHARM

WITH THE EX­PER­I­MEN­TAL (AND APTLY TI­TLED) VI, BRI­TISH POP-ROCK TRAIL­BLAZ­ERS YOU ME AT SIX HAVE REACHED THEIR STRONG­EST POINT IN 14 YEARS. MATT DO­RIA GETS TO THE BOT­TOM OF HOW THEY MAN­AGED TO DO IT WITH LEAD GUI­TARIST CHRIS MILLER.

Australian Guitar - - Reviews -

Re­views are a fickle lit­tle de­mon in the rock scene. De­fend­ers of them will ar­gue that crit­ics help mu­sic lovers de­cide what new records are worth their time, while naysay­ers are adamant that what’s printed in a mag­a­zine is point­less, be­cause ul­ti­mately, what mat­ters is what the fans think about the mu­sic. But re­gard­less of your stance, the re­views for You Me At Six’s 2017 ef­fort, Night Peo­ple, were un­doubt­edly blind­ing. A dar­ing leap into a more the­matic and ra­dio-friendly realm for the poster boys of the UK’s pop-punk revo­lu­tion, cyn­ics of the record largely found it tacky, life­less and over­pro­duced.

“I think with Night Peo­ple, we just tried a lit­tle too hard to be a rock band,” ad­mits lead gui­tarist Chris Miller. “Af­ter re­leas­ing four al­bums pre­vi­ous to that, I think we started to no­tice where peo­ple were putting us and what peo­ple thought of us, and how peo­ple wanted us to sound. And I think we just thought way too much into that. I have no re­grets what­so­ever – I love all the songs on that al­bum – I just think we might have got­ten a bit lost along the way there.”

With al­bum #6 (fit­ting ti­tled VI), You Me At Six found a stur­dier balance with their in­ten­tions and am­bi­tions – iron­i­cally enough, by loos­en­ing up. “We’ve sort of just writ­ten what­ever we wanted to,” Miller quips. “It didn’t mat­ter what genre a song was, or whether one song went with the other song. On our first two al­bums, we weren’t re­ally pay­ing at­ten­tion to whether it worked as a whole piece of work – it was just about get­ting 12 or 13 songs that we thought were great in their own right and shov­ing them to­gether into an al­bum. With VI, I feel like we had that same sort of ap­proach.”

Though that raw, reck­less au­then­tic­ity cour­ses through VI at ev­ery turn – a suave crooner will twist into a synth-laden dance­floor an­them, be­fore twinges of hard, boom­ing gui­tars burst through the mix – the LP is im­pres­sively co­he­sive. It presents an in­car­na­tion of You Me At Six that is unan­i­mously com­fort­able with it­self and where it stands in the mu­sic in­dus­try. The band have earned this dis­tinct lack of in­hi­bi­tion, where af­ter five al­bums of vary­ing suc­cess and lev­els of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, they just don’t give a f*** any­more – and that’s why, although it’s all so risky, ev­ery­thing on VI works so damn well.

“I think as we’ve got­ten older and grown as song­writ­ers, we’ve gained a bit of clar­ity,” Miller says. “On the first few al­bums, you can hear there’s a lot of gain and a lot of play­ing re­ally, re­ally fast, whereas now, Max [He­lyer, rhythm gui­tar] and I are into cre­at­ing these sort of at­mos­pheres, and a spe­cific feel­ing in a song. Take some­thing like ‘Pre­dictable’ – that’s a song driven by bass and drums, and we used the gui­tars to cre­ate this at­mos­phere, whether it’s far away or close to you, us­ing de­lays and trems and re­verbs.

“We pick our mo­ments a lot more care­fully now. Cer­tain sec­tions or cer­tain cho­rus lines will in­clude a big, gain-y riff, whereas pre­vi­ously, it would just be riff, riff, riff, riff, heavy, heavy heavy. But now we’re think­ing more about the big­ger pic­ture and al­low­ing Josh [Franceschi, vo­cals] to re­ally shine with his lyrics, and Dan [Flint, drums and synth] and Max have more of a chance to sort of groove along.” While their gui­tars are some­what re­stricted on VI, Miller and He­lyer are far from un­der-utilised. Where prior records would see the blokes tear their fret­boards to ab­so­lute shreds, VI has them work­ing more dy­nam­i­cally. Miller is un­afraid to dive head­first into a moun­tain of ef­fects, be­cause to him, the gui­tar isn’t this sa­cred tool of rigid crafts­man­ship where his le­git­i­macy as a player is de­fined by how un­scathed his track­ing is. The gui­tar is an in­stru­ment, and in 2018, in­stru­ments de­mand ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. “Back in the Hold Me Down or Sin­ners Never Sleep eras, there’d be a whole chat about whether some­one was go­ing to put a phaser on their gui­tar or some­thing,” Miller chuck­les, “Whereas now, it’s like… We can’t even be­lieve the amount of ef­fects we man­aged to slip in with­out peo­ple say­ing any­thing! If you lis­ten to the verse of ‘3AM’, there’s about four dif­fer­ent gui­tar parts on there, and they’re all just com­pletely f***ed up sounds that you’d never even think would be a riff. But when you put them all to­gether, it ac­tu­ally works re­ally well be­cause you’re just tak­ing four dif­fer­ent oc­taves of the same riff, f***ing them up and putting dif­fer­ent sounds in each one.

“I feel like we’re sort of at the age and of the ex­pe­ri­ence with song­writ­ing now that ev­ery­one doesn’t im­me­di­ately dis­count any­thing straight away. We’ll try any idea some­one has, and if it isn’t work­ing af­ter 20 min­utes of play­ing around with it, then maybe it’s not the right thing to do. But for us, this is the age of just throw­ing shit at the wall – if some­thing sticks, it sticks!”

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