THE ROAD AHEAD
JOSH REVEALSWHATYOU ME AT SIX HAVE IN STORE FOR 2018…
“I promise we’ll have new music ahead of playing Download in June,” says Josh.“the song we’re coming back with is one of our best ever.we’ll be in the studio every day for the next two months, and our priority now is making sure the songs are perfect. If the music is right, everything else will fall into place.” At present, there are just three live dates on the band’s docket for 2018: their Download appearance, a July 1 show at the Community Festival in London, and one German festival booking. Rest assured, further dates are pending.
“We have tours on hold in the UK and Europe this year,” Josh reveals. “The album will be out this year, and we’ll reveal more on that in time. My only regret is that we didn’t feed our fanbase more new music between Cavalier Youth and Night People. There’ll be lots to get fans excited, I promise.”
Rewind further to November 30, 2016 andyou Me At Six are in a London bar to conduct a ‘comeback’ interview and photo session for Kerrang! to promote Night People, then still two months shy of its release. The band are in high spirits, eager for fans to hear their first album in three years; a stylish, slick, big budget affair recorded in Nashville with Grammy-winning producer Jacquire King (Kings Of Leon, James Bay), and their lead singer is understandably bullish about their prospects.
“I want this band to be as big as it can be,” Josh told this writer.“i want to headlinewembley Stadium, I want to headline Emirates Stadium, I want to headline Reading Festival.you have to believe that what you’ve done is good enough to fulfil those aspirations.”
Back in East London in February 2018, sitting in a busy coffee shop, Josh will re-iterate these ambitions, sincerely and without embarrassment. This is to be expected: if the singer didn’t wholeheartedly believe his own words, there surely would be no point in him continuing to dedicate his life to the band he, guitarists Max Helyer and Chris Miller and bassist Matt Barnes formed in 2004 (with drummer Dan Flint joining in 2007).What’s beyond dispute or debate, though, is that Night People didn’t propelyou Me At Six into the strata to which they still aspire. Exactly why this was the case is open to conjecture, and today Josh insists that,“night People was a record we had to make”, that the album “opened the door for us to try new things moving forward”.this being said, he’ll also concede that the past 12 months have seen the band part company both with their record label Infectious/bmg and with their former managers, and that today he has been issued, by his new managers, a list of topics relating to their future that are not to be discussed.what he can say, however, is that 2017 was “an interesting year”, a period during which “a lot of learning was done.”
In the second week of January 2017, Dan Flint invited You Me At Six’s families and closest friends to a party at his house, on the Friday evening on which the Official Charts Company were due to reveal Night People’s first week chart placing. During the previous week, Josh had come off a conference call with You Me At Six’s former management and told Dan,“either this situation stops or I’m out.” What exactly this situation was, the singer is expressly forbidden to say.“i can’t go into specifics because I don’t fancy getting a call from our lawyer,” he confesses – but he will use words such as “ugly” and “bullshit” when tentatively skirting around the details and its aftermath. Such business wrangles had dampened the band’s spirits ahead of their own celebratory gathering, and when it was announced that Night People had entered the UK album charts at Number Three, slipping from its mid-week position as the country’s best-selling album, the five young musicians found it hard to hide their disappointment. A year on, Josh will confess to being “gutted”.
“All anyone spoke about at the label and management was,‘let’s get another Number One record’,” he says.“cavalieryouth topped the chart in 2014, so that was the minimum expectation.that was insane pressure.and so that was a big disappointment. All our friends were like,‘lads, you’ve got an album at Number Three, take a step back, and think about how many bands can do that.’ But for us, it was a blow.”
As the Night People campaign continued, there would be further disappointments.the release had been positioned as a more ‘grown-up’ record for the band, a collection which would transcend the group’s pop-punk base, and situate them alongside the likes of The Killers, Kings Of Leon, Foo Fighters and QOTSA, where they might anticipate broadsheet coverage, prime TV slots on Later… With Jools Holland and The Graham Norton Show, and Radio 2 airplay. Courting this new demographic however, would be more difficult than perhaps their record label and management envisaged, with the industry ‘gate-keepers’ seemingly impervious to their charms.
“There were loads of things that were meant to happen, to take us to X,Y and Z, and those simply didn’t happen,” Josh concedes. For an example of the coverage the band actually attracted, one might consider the sneeringly elitist, wholly begrudging Guardian review of their sold-out show at London’s 10,000-capacity Alexandra Palace in April.“to You Me At Six’s dubious credit, they have made an impressively efficient fist of being an utterly generic, entirely unremarkable arena rock band,” wrote a 50-something music writer.“like many bands of their ilk, they crave depth and profundity while being definitively empty and devoid of significance. They must be faking it: how could anybody’s interior monologue truly be this trite and banal?”
“That review made me think,‘i don’t give a fuck about any of this [media] shit anymore,’” Josh admits. “It read like it was written by someone who was pissed off that they were stuck at a You Me At Six gig on Easter Saturday. I realised pretty quickly into the album cycle that we were not going to have that part of the media salivating over us – those 50-year-old white dudes who pretend to relate to grime now that they’ve caught up with Stormzy and Skepta five years too late. I haven’t read a single review or interview with us since, to be honest. It doesn’t do you much good as a person to see people tearing you down.”
Beneath this understandable hurt, though, it’s possible to glimpse a more complex truth. For when Josh, by his own admission a highly sensitive, self-critical artist, talks about Night People now, there’s obviously a part of him that feels the album missed the target, artistically as well as commercially. More difficult than pointing the fingers at the failings of others, is the painful self-realisation, that maybe he himself didn’t step up as he might have.with brutal honesty, this afternoon the singer will confess that there’s “maybe only four songs on Night People that I’m happy with.” Dig deeper, and there’s a gnawing sense that the singer let the suggestions of others dislocate him somewhat from the essential core of his art, that in trying to assume the sound and swagger and personality of an arena rock frontman he lost something of himself.
“Everyone is in your ear telling you what they think,” he admits,“and I maybe took more notice of that than I should have. It wasn’t like we were making a record and thinking,‘is this fanbase-appropriate?’ because five of the biggest You Me At Six fans in the world play inyou Meat Six.so we always make records that we want to hear. But maybe it was the first record that was more… pre-meditated. People have a good radar for what’s authentic and genuine.what’s always been important to me is that our audience believe in what I’m saying.and maybe they didn’t get that from Night People. At the time it felt right, but listening back, there are parts on that record that aren’t 100 per cent me.that won’t happen again.”
If 2017 taughtyou Meat Six anything, it was to trust their own instincts.and to that end, the band are currently shutting out the white noise in Dan Flint’s home studio, making what they fervently believe to be the most honest, heartfelt and meaningful music of their career.“we’ve played demos to family and friends and they agree that it’s some of the best music we’ve ever done,” says Josh. “As a group of friends, we just get closer and stronger. I have no regrets about the decisions we’ve made.you have to roll the dice.”
In a moment of candour, Josh will admit that there have been times when the events of the past 12 months have threatened to drag him under; brought on by frustrating hours talking to lawyers about matters he’d really rather not get into, where the singer has fantasised about selling his house, hopping on a plane and leaving the music industry behind. But in those fleeting moments, he’s sought solace and comfort in art, in his four closest friends, and in the promise of dreams yet unfulfilled. He recalls a conversation with Dan, the pair exhausted from business wrangles, where he asked,‘mate, is this worth it?’ The drummer assured him that everything will work out, that there is still everything to play for.
“He said,‘look, one day you’ll quit music, because nothing lasts forever. But wouldn’t you prefer to go out having made the best fucking record you can, feeling good about it all again?’ I was like,‘(sigh) I hate it when you’re right!’ It would haunt me for the rest of my life.
“We’ve had an upwards trajectory for the last decade and this is our first speed bump.when that happens you don’t torch the car and walk away.there are five determined, ambitious guys in this band, and this journey is only going to get more exciting…”
“I HAVE NO REGRETS ABOUT THE DECISIONS WE MADE” JOSH FRANCESCHI
Heartburn always hit Josh at the worst times