Tell me a bit about the inspiration for Night People (coming out 13th Jan) and how the song-writing process came about.
We started writing the record last year at the end of the Cavalier Youth cycle but we knew we wanted to take a bit of time off and wanted to take our time with writing the record. We had about six months before going into the studio so we discussed what we wanted to achieve. One of the main goals for us was to achieve something natural that had a lot of groove behind it because sometimes our music sounded a bit rigid and on the grid. We looked at artists that really replicated that like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The White Stripes, Black Sabbath, The Killers, even hip-hop artists like Drake and 90s hip-hop like A Tribe Called Quest. They sound mental when you mash them all together and ask how are they the inspiration for this record? That’s because they were the kind of music that all five of us were listening to at that time. Even if your idol is Led Zeppelin your sound might not sound like that. You Me At Six is us five individuals digesting it and putting it into our own context. It’s a widespread record but I think it’s cohesive. I mean, take into account that we didn’t want to make loads of mish-mashed songs that didn’t work together. We found a way to blend all our influences into what we do as a band.
Definitely. Give is such a strong song – is there a story behind that particular one?
When we wrote Give it was a bit of a journey. The first time we heard that chorus and we heard Josh’s melody, “I’m wasting all my time, trying to keep you off my mind,” instantly we all knew it was a real good hook and it stuck with us. We knew it was a key song on the record that was a middle ground from the rock side and also a bit more chilled out. The verses are very clean and groove-y with the drumbeat with a long distant guitar sound and then the chorus is almost like a big rock song out of nowhere with a big strong vocal melody that draws you in. It came about in September/October last year, starting off with the opening guitar riff and evolving from that. We worked on it all together and elaborated parts and dug into the lyrical content, directing each other on where the song needed to go as a unit.
I can see what you mean. I first discovered You Me At Six back in 2009 when I saw Paramore and you guys were supporting. You’ve come a long way since then, what do you think is the secret to sticking together through it all?
In our band there are five very strong, opinionated men. We all have great ideas and wild ambitions. We see things in different ways but I think the way we make that work is communication and talking everything through and making sure that when one person has an idea that we all hear that person out and where he sees that vision going. We let everyone have their say and what they think is right and what isn’t right and we try to make a happy medium level, a compromised middle ground. If we can’t get to that then we draw a majority vote. Also, I think having fun and enjoying yourself is important. When we started this band we wanted a long career but we also wanted it to be a joyful job. When you need some time away from music, it’s important to actually have that time away. When we made this record we took ourselves offline and out of the public eye because we wanted to just go away and be us and rekindle the spark for music again. I don’t want to say I got lost along the way but having that time away for this record was an eye-opener because it pushed us musically and song-writing wise harder than ever before to create something that really excited us as musicians. We have to be our own favourite band and if we don’t enjoy what we doing and what we create then how are we going to make other people believe that? That’s why we took some time away for this record – without people knowing we wrote like 50 songs and condensed that down to recording 12. Then we only put 10 on the record because the other two didn’t sit as well. They made it less of a journey and split it up a little bit. For us, it was an enjoyable two years out of the limelight and rekindling what we like musically and what we wanted to achieve.
And you’re still on your musical journey. When you put Lived A Lie on the FIFA soundtrack I think that gained you a whole new audience. What do you think about gaming as a platform for music?
I’m personally a gamer myself. I sit at home and play FIFA or Call Of Duty or a driving game and sometimes when you play those games you get to hear music you’ve never listened to before and it makes you go and check out artists and then they become as ingrained in your brain as much as your favourite band. I think music and gaming go hand in hand and generally speaking I think any media outlet works for everything so gaming can work online and music on games. Dare I say a computer person playing a game at home who would never listen to anything apart from radio and Top 40 would discover music that way and it would lead them into a new world to rock music or hip-hop or indie. It opens up the spectrum of music to you and can push your tastes into new directions.
Today (15th November) Josh is in the House of Commons to talk about a potential amendment to the Digital Economy Bill around secondary ticketing websites. What does this issue mean to the band?
Not just for us as a band but for any artist and any fan of any media outlet, if it’s music, sport, theatre, I think it’s something that needs to be addressed right now and taken seriously. For the normal ticket companies that we work with the price is what we expect people to pay for our tickets because of costs to rent out the venue, the crew etc. but also we make it a reasonable price for fans to come and see us without feeling ripped off. When you set a price and then a ticket company buys your tickets and upmarket them for tenfold it’s unfair on the fans because why should they pay that? It’s ripping off the fans and in the last five years it’s really increased but no one had the balls to say anything. Josh and our band had really had enough of it and then Josh went out talking an MP called Nigel Adams, a music-lover who got behind it. In this day and age I think music is one of the biggest exports the UK has to offer and if the government don’t look after it you see all these venues that have been lost. That does not give artists to grow and develop in this country so it’s about taking charge right now and making sure this doesn’t get to a place that’s unrecoverable. We’ve got people from Mumford And Sons, Alt J, One Direction, Frank Turner and so many musicians talking about it so it’s obvious now for MPs to stand up for the people – not just for the people who put on the show, but for the fans especially because that’s someone’s way of expressing themselves and having fun on a night out. Nigel gets what we want to do and he wants what is right for an everyday person.
Another issue that a lot of people are talking about at the moment is some of the contracts in the music industry, tying artists in for a number of albums then withholding the release of their music indefinitely. Do you think it’s old-fashioned now to sign for a large number of albums and what do you think is in the future for the music industry?
The only thing I can do right now is give advice to people. If you’re an aspiring musician who wants to have a long career – don’t jump into the first thing that comes along, you’ve got time to sit down and wait and appreciate writing music and decide how you want your business to be ran. Sometimes you don’t need to have a record label, you can self-release your own records now, especially with the power tools of Spotify and Apple Music. You also have to remember that there’s a reason why record labels still exist in the music industry, there are the connections with people in the music industry and what doors they can open for you. There are record deals going on where you can get roped in for six or seven albums – I have some friends in bands that have gone through that and I have some friends who’ve signed with major record labels but then had their record shut down and never released. I think that’s hard and unfair but you’ve got to stay positive about things and drive yourself through the sludge.
I’ve heard a few artists saying that they think streaming services will become the new labels and one day an artist will sign to a company like Spotify. Do you see that happening?
Well I think it’s already started to happen with artists like Drake and Taylor Swift combining with Apple Music. There is an element that things will move that way but then I do believe that every major label does have a slice of Spotify so Spotify could become the next record label where everyone just lives under one building and you’re either a Spotify user or an Apple Music user. It could go down that way but the music industry is changing so fast so it’s hard to say right now. But right now there are 2.4 billion listeners on Spotify and by 2020 they’re predicting 12.3 billion and that’s paid accounts. If you’re paying for your Spotify or Apple Music account, that’s only going to revert to how back in the 70s, 80s and 90s, when people were buying music.
Bringing it back to Night People, what are you hoping listeners will get from listening to record and going to see the tour?
It’s about change, taking your opinion about what You Me At Six used to be into a new light. Imagine you’re listening to this band for the first time ever and you didn’t have an opinion about what we are. That’s why we released Night People as our first song, we wanted to make people on edge and unsure about where our sound was going. It’s always going to sound like You Me At Six because it’s the same five members making the music but we thought about how we look as individuals and how we wanted our music to come across and I think that’s why we took a long time out from social media, not being in anyone’s face. We wanted to bring back the mystery behind You Me At Six and behind music in general because it used to be that you didn’t know what artists were doing. It’s because music is an art form – you don’t see someone’s painting half way through, you see it when it’s done. You can look at someone like Banksy for that, he’s one of the biggest street artists in the world and people don’t really know what he looks like but they can tell it’s him from what he does.
You Me At Six’s fifth album Night People will be released 13th January 2017 followed by a Spring UK tour.