The singer talks about crying to the Parkway Drive episode of Australian Story and reflects on 18 years of making music with his friends - including the times when he wasn't a good mate at all.
(Pic by Freddie Stisted)
You Me At Six have grown up. You can say that about their musical evolution, tracking them from Weybridge, Surrey, pop-punk upstarts on their 2008 debut album, Take Off Your Colours, to where they are now. The band members are a far more mature, skilled group of musicians writing songs they couldn't fathom creating 14 years ago. Vocalist Josh Franceschi has grown more than we could believe; he isn't that jealous, petulant person anymore.
“Teenage Josh wouldn’t be surprised that I was doing something with my life, but I think he'd be surprised and pretty proud that we were doing this,” he says from London. “In the creative industry, I'm sure you understand, from your perspective as a journalist and a writer, that there is a life expectancy for a band or an artist. The lifespan, musically speaking, is not endless.”
Which is why Franceschi is elated by the band’s longevity. Starting You Me At Six at just 14 years old, alongside guitarists Chris Miller and Max Helyer, bassist Matt Barnes and drummer Joe Phillips, the group released the We Know What It Means To Be Alone EP in 2006, after which Phillips departed, Dan Flint joined the band. Take Off Your Colours came out in October 2008 on Slam Dunk Records; the band supported Fall Out Boy on tour just a few months later.
Hold Me Down, their breakthrough second album was released in January 2010 on Virgin Records and debuted at #5 on the UK Albums Chart. By late 2010, the band was playing Soundwave festival and opening for Paramore in Australia. Their third album, 2011’s Sinners Never Sleep, peaked at #3 on the UK Albums Chart and saw them play their largest headline show to date, selling out Wembley Arena.
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The band’s fourth record, Cavalier Youth, released in 2014, saw You Me At Six achieve their first UK #1 album and a co-headlining tour with Tonight Alive in Australia.
Night People followed in January 2017 and was an album that received mixed reviews from critics, fans, and the band alike, who disowned the record by August of that year. VI came in October 2018 to a much warmer reception. In response to the 2019-20 Australian bushfires, the band unveiled the dance track Our House (The Mess We Made) for the WIRES foundation. Their heavier seventh album, Suckapunch, was released in January 2021 and became the band’s second UK #1 record.
The eighth You Me At Six album, Truth Decay, will be released on 27 January 2023. The band has shared four brilliant, rocking, personal singles: Deep Cuts, Mixed Emotions (I Didn’t Know How To Tell You What I Was Going Through), heartLESS and No Future? Yeah, Right, featuring Enter Shikari's Rou Reynolds. You Me At Six have returned to their emo and pop-punk beginnings, minus the toxic masculinity that plagued them for many years of their career.
Working with Reynolds is like the best of both worlds, Franceschi reveals. “We’ve known the lads in Enter Shikari since the MySpace days. I met them when I was 15,” he starts. You Me At Six played at a youth centre in Guildford, west Surrey; they’d never encountered a band as wild as Enter Shikari at the time. "When piecing that song together, I felt like Rou could elevate the track with his ferocity and no-bullshit vibe." Even better still, there’s a great cross-pollination between fans of both bands.
On the funky Deep Cuts, the band sound like classic You Me At Six, but with a 2022 spin. “Truthfully, it's probably the most You Me At Six record that we've done, maybe since Cavalier Youth, or even maybe Hold Me Down,” Franceschi shares. The group recorded Night People in Nashville, and the band deliberately tried to escape a kind of “Nashville sound.” “We were in the pursuit of having our own Kings Of Leon record. VI was us trying new things, like a bit more pop on Back Again and 3 AM. That didn't feel like us.
“Even Suckapunch, which is such a colourful record – there’s a lot of different textures to it, like a punk song in Makemefeelalive, an R&B song, a fucking dance song – there’s so much going on. Whereas [Truth Decay] is a very concise album,” he says.
Truth Decay found the band asking themselves, what are we trying to say? Who are we trying to talk to? “It ended up being a very easy and fun record to make. It’s a celebration of our collective interests and passions. All five of us are very individualistic and have the things that resonate with us and are important to us, but there are bands and sounds that we all comprehensively agree on. To implement that into our music this time around was very natural.” He laughs, “I don't want to say it was effortless because it could be considered arrogant, I guess.”
You Me At Six found catharsis in Mixed Emotions, in the sense that Franceschi was ultimately addressing a taboo conversation for the band and amongst his peers. “I'm taking accountability for the shit we didn’t deal with when we were coming up and growing up,” he says. “We didn't communicate that stuff. And I wonder how often we alienated one another or isolated a group member.
“I just felt like [Mixed Emotions] could act as a catalyst for one friend reaching out to another, or somebody reaching out to their dad or brother or shift the conversation from what men should be. There's a stereotype of what a man should be. But then that man is also often criticised for being the way society has allowed them to become,” he explains further. The band members aim to be better husbands, better partners, better brothers, better colleagues, and better members of society.
In 2022, Josh Franceschi refuses to be the stoic, stiff-upper-lip British male, a stereotype that has pervaded England since Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister.
"We've been told to be quiet. Don't show emotion, don't show vulnerability. Don't show compassion, don't show empathy, all these things. Over the last few years, it's become quite suffocating, actually,” Franceschi tells. You Me At Six are writing songs like this now after hearing some very concerning statistics. “I was talking to one of my friends that works at a mental health charity. They told me that there were over 5000 male suicides in just the first six months of 2020, under the age of 40, and that's enough to fill Brixton Academy.
“That's what truly inspired the song, and it was also about me being like, ‘Damn, I'm accountable. I'm sorry for not being a better brother, partner, or friend,’” he explains. Franceschi wants to be part of the positive change. “I'd like to be part of moving forward a conversation where we're looking after each other and verbalising our feelings because it is a generational thing, maybe, but it has been bled into my age group as well.”
Speaking of men’s mental health in music, Franceschi has watched the Australian Story episode featuring Parkway Drive three times. “I know those boys. I grew up with them. Winston [McCall] is on [Sinners Never Sleep]. Me and Luke [Kilpatrick] were talking when they had just cancelled their US tour, and they were starting to go through therapy, and me and him would talk every other day about this sort of shit. I knew it would be very difficult when he told me what was about to go down.
“I was there at Reading Festival when Jia [O’Connor] got the phone call about his partner passing away,” he says. "The night before, I was literally jumping around watching Rage Against The Machine with him and Jeff [Ling]. I cried watching that ABC thing because it's everything that this fucking song is about. They're gonna be a work in progress in the same way that fucking Sam and Tom down the pub are a work in progress.
“It's important moments where men are vulnerable with one another and can say, 'I hear you, I see you. And I want to make this better for you,' versus, 'oh, fuck off, mate, stop being such a little bitch and have another beer or let's fucking do this line of coke.' The most masculine thing you can do is be there for your brother, your best friend's dad, whoever,” Franceschi explains. That’s the kind of man he wants to be and see more of in society.
“I think that Mixed Emotions is a song about being exhausted not only with yourself but with others and wanting to try and make things easy for one another,” he confirms. But he insists with a laugh: “let's move on before your whole article is just Josh blabbering.”
So, moving on, will You Me At Six return to Australia soon? “We were talking about coming back to Australia the other day, and there are a few things on the table," Franceschi smiles. “We're definitely coming back in 2023. It's just whether we're coming back in May or if we're coming back in your summer, sort of December time. If it were up to me, I would do both because one is a festival, and the other is headlining. I'd headline and then come back for the festival, but I don't really know how that logistically works. So, I'm just being a good boy.”
Truth Decay is out on Friday, 27 January 2023. Pre-order the album here.