"There’s no win or lose scenario here, and there’s no bigger picture - this is just us trying to do our part, and raise some money in whatever capacity we can" - Josh Franceschi.
Yesterday You Me At Six emerged from the break they'd taken at the tail-end of last year, where they'd been writing and recording new material - and they returned with a political new single 'Our House (The Mess We Made)'.
The single itself is taking aim at the broad global inaction towards climate change, and the band are donating all proceeds to benefit the Australian bushfire relief - specifically the charity WIRES which is working to rehabilitate and rehome the wildlife that have been injured and displaced in the crisis.
We caught up with frontman Josh Franceschi about what's driven them to write such a politically-charged single, whether this is a taster of what we're in for with their next album, and what the future has in store.
At what point did you realise you were writing a political single?
Says Josh: "I didn’t necessarily sit down and think ‘okay, well this is what we’re going to do’... Sometimes you don’t know that a song is being written until it’s been written if that makes sense - sometimes the song just happens. I was so taken by these young people just taking to the streets because they wanted their voices to be heard and they wanted to be recognised, and they were saying ‘this is our future, and you’re jeopardising it’. I just thought that was such a powerful thing, and I hadn’t really felt like I’d seen that before to be perfectly honest. And I just thought that I want to write a song about these young people, and the frustration they’re feeling - but also the hope, and the spirit that’s just sort of being displayed by these young passionate people. It makes you think that the future is, and ultimately can be, in good hands if those people that have control of it right now take better care of it - and I know we aren’t treating the planet the way that it should be treated.
"Honestly, I didn’t think it was a song that was ever going to surface. It was one of those songs that Dan [Flint, drums] and I wrote when we were pretty fucked up at like 3 o’clock in the morning having drunk a whole bottle of tequila. I think sometimes the way my brain works, I need to understand an issue. Historically it’s been prolifically about me, my life and my relationships with partners or about family or friends or life or death - whatever. And the reason I write about that is to help me to understand my own feelings about said issue... Even when we were recording it we were saying ‘look, I don’t think this will go on the record’, and we were all aware that it wasn’t in line with everything else that was going on the record. Then in the new year after seeing all the footage out of Australia, I just kept on going back and going back to this song whilst I was listening to some of the other stuff that we’d recorded - I was thinking that there’s something in this, where we could use our platform to do something positive, and ultimately present You Me At Six as something that can help change the mentality of even one of our fans.
"It’s always the things that happen organically that just seem to feel right, and that you end up rolling with. There’s no win or lose scenario here, and there’s no bigger picture - this is just us trying to do our part, and raise some money in whatever capacity we can. If we help one endangered animal out in Australia from this, then it was all worth it."
Sonically it’s quite a departure from pretty much all previous works - what was the writing and creative process for the track like?
"So here’s the problem - I can’t remember it because I was so inebriated. I was talking to Dan earlier today saying ‘I’ve got to do some interviews later about the song and how it came about - do you remember?’, and he was like ‘mate, we were fucking smashed’. I went to my room and started fooling around on my laptop, and we started listening to weird music, which I couldn’t even tell you what it was - everything from 90s hip hop to really weird trance beats. It was all this weird shit that would usually not spike an interest for any of us to be creative around, but we were so engrossed in this conversation that we just got into making this beat and making this mix with the subs. I don’t really know. The one thing we both remember talking about is how we wanted it to have a drop before the chorus. Just bass and vocals."
Would you say this is a hint at where You Me At Six is heading musically?
"Absolutely not, which is why it’s a stand alone song and it’s not going on the album. It was a song that we loved, and we felt really good about it. We felt really strongly about it, but I think we were all in the same boat where we said that we don’t think this can go on the aggy, punk-rock record that we’re making, because people will be like ‘what the fuck is going on?’. I think that’s where we’re at though with music, that music can just be released like this. You can put out one song, and the world will tell you if they like it or not. There’s not a big plan behind it - the only incentive and agenda that we have behind this is to raise money for a charity that we feel passionately about."
Do you think that more bands should be using their platform to draw attention to political issues?
"I would never stand here and say ‘I think everyone should do more-‘ because I’m not in their shoes, and it’s kind of none of my business what they want to do. But I think with “power” comes responsibility, and you’ve got to decide which side of the line you want to be on - and if you want to coast and take care of yourself that’s cool, that’s not anybody else’s business. But ultimately if you want to take things that mean something to you and put that into your music or the message and the way that you interact with your fans, I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way of doing anything, because we’re all human. I think we’re all just trying to sort our own shit out on a daily basis. So I would say that I would just encourage, for what it’s worth, any person with any platform to do what they believe is right. That comes in lots of different forms. There are things that my peers aren’t doing that I am doing, and vice-versa. We can’t all be doing the same shit, because it’s got to be authentic to the message that you’re spreading and it has to be one that you really believe in, whether that be political, environmental, cultural. I think anyone with any sort of influence or power has a responsibility to a degree, it’s just what you want to do with that and how you want to project yourself.
"I don’t like to write about things that I don’t really really care about, and there have been things that I do really care about that I’ve spoken about. Like when I went up to the Houses of Parliament and the select committee to talk about ticket touting - I really cared about it, and I knew I’d put my neck on the line to do that. And similarly, I want to put my neck on the line to do this because I think everybody should want to fucking look after our planet, and all I’m basically trying to get across in the message of my song is the message of these passionate and free-spirited youths that have inspired me to even want to write about them. I think that’s a pretty powerful thing when you break it down - I enjoy the fact that something outside of happiness or pain in my personal life has moved me enough to want to write about it."
What was that writing session in Thailand like?
"I think we all really needed it - we were talking about being in London or Surrey, or environments that we’re used to being creative in, and I think we were all individually in situations in our lives where we needed something to look forward to and get out of England. So that’s exactly what we did. I think four out of five of us grew stupid beards, and went swimming every day and on long walks - and actually just being around the accommodation at the studio really put us at ease. For us we’ve realised more and more that we can’t do our best work between 9 and 5 - we need to be able to go into the studio at three in the morning and start cutting a track then if we want to - that’s just the way we work."
What’s on the horizon in terms of new music being released?
"Honestly, all bullshit aside, I couldn’t even tell you because it’s just not finished. I don’t want to overly tease our fans by saying ‘we’ve got new music coming this year and it’ll be out at some point’ - I just don’t want to do that. I’m hoping that everything will come together in the way that we want it to for either the end of this year, or very very very early next year - it just depends on how it all comes together. But we haven’t even got any touring plans, really. Which is a strange start to the year for us, just sort of piecing it together - we might do a bunch of festivals or we might not. We’re just trying to piece together this album carefully, because we’ve literally been working on it since the week we released ‘VI’ - it’s already been quite a work in progress for the best part of almost two years, so we just want to really focus on getting it right. We’re close, but we’re not there yet."
When we spoke to you at 2000 Trees Festival, you mentioned that the music you were working on was sounding "emo AF" - is that still the case?
"My lyric writing is always going to be a bit emo, because that’s just my mood basically. I would feel confident in saying that the stuff we have finished definitely embodies the spirit of You Me At Six the most probably since ‘Sinners [Never Sleep]’, which stands out to me as an album where we really got everything on the record that felt right. I think that’s probably where we’re at. I think we’ll be able to discuss it more when we understand it better as an entire body of work, but I’m looking forward to us having this conversation when it’s done, because I have a lot to tell you."
Looking towards the next decade, what excites you? Where do you hope you are in 2030?
"To be brutally honest, I’m surprised that I’m still in this band and that this band is still a thing in 2020. It’s the most beautiful surprise ever. I would love to think that in a decade’s time we would be approaching 40, but we’d still be making music under this umbrella, and having this crazy conversation about how we’ve been a band for 25 years - that would be pretty fucking sick. But you know, again it’s one of those things where the world will tell you if they need you or not. When the world stops caring about what we’re doing is when we’ll stop."
'Our House (The Mess We Made)' is out now, and you can listen to it below: