Nine Songs: You Me At Six
When Josh Franceschi sat down with the rest of You Me At Six to write their latest album, SUCKAPUNCH, he had planned it to be their last.
“It's an interesting time to be alive right now,” he says, making conversation and singlehandedly echoing all of our sentiments for a year that drew to a close much quicker than any of us would have expected. For Franceschi, the last few weeks of 2020 have been mellow, “a lot of walking, a lot of hanging out with my dog”, and a strange, nervous excitement for You Me At Six’s impending record gnaws at the air. “We actually finished the record last November (2019), so we've been sitting on it for a year. We always get questions about ‘Could the record have come out in the summer of 2020?’, but that's never really felt like a viable option. We definitely wouldn't have been able to have done it - stuff like photoshoots and music videos - in the way that we wanted to. I think it was the right thing to do, to have it out in January.”
And it made perfect sense. With the nightmare that 2020 had been, and whether it was fair to place that pressure onto the new year or not, the foresight of 2021 signified new beginnings. To some extent, it didn’t matter whether 2021 brought new hope or simply more of the same, it still felt like a small light at the end of the tunnel to finally be out of the year where, for so many people, everything had fallen apart. Releasing the album in January made sense Me You At Six too, as it signified a realigning for the band, a sort of quietus to the storm that had knocked everything out of focus.
In interviews Franceschi has been open about feeling uncertain with where his life would next take him, be it remaining a part of the band with which he had traversed the world with since he was 15, or laying it mutually to rest to explore a life away from music, an option that had become increasingly more attractive with each album release. “Lockdown refocused us a little bit. We were now living in a space in which we knew we weren't going to be gigging. It made us more creative in that sense. We've been in the studio a lot. It’s sharpened our minds and forced us to stay on top of stuff outside of a live environment.”
As a band with a thematic focus on angst, frustrated desire, gloomy overtones, and a years-long struggle with feeling satisfied with their album releases, You Me At Six’s fourteen-year existence has been anything but a boring one. Their debut, Take Off Your Colours, saw them at the helm of a new wave of pop-punk that transcended continents, and solidified the band into a household name for alt-rockers everywhere. And with Franceschi going into the recording of SUCKAPUNCH believing that it would be their last album, he had a change of heart.
Of course, thinking something is going to be your last gives you the idea to go out with a bang - a suckerpunch, if you will - knowing that it will be your last blaze of glory as the lights fade to black and your stage is enveloped in permanent darkness. And you can certainly hear it on the album; what followed this crisis of career is a lovely change of pace, with growled, in-your-face vocals, wild lyrics, and searing guitar solos, they’re suddenly a band not afraid to push boundaries, to take risks.
With this in mind, it's no wonder that almost all of his Nine Songs selections are from artists that are not afraid to push the boundaries and knock a few stereotypes on their heads. The idea of carefreeness looms large over his choices, something that Franceschi and his band have definitely taken to heart. A musician for more than half of his life, Franceschi, who grew up in Surrey but spent a few of his formative years in Cyprus for his dad’s work, has with his band had an impressive run in British punk rock. What has been recorded thus far is both an intuitive and necessary display of trial and error that has brought us here, in a new decade, to their latest album. The lesson here is to ignore the nagging voice in your head and to disregard the filters. It's the only way you'll even start to come to grips with it all.
“My parents would have friends over, and a big part of my mum and dad raising my sister and I was listening to music all the time. Music was always on in the house. My mum and dad had this massive CD collection, I remember going through it endlessly with my sister, and one time I came across this Marvin Gaye record.
“I remember hearing the song and just being mesmerised by these two voices working alongside one another. And then when I was a similar age, there was a film that came out that my sister put on. I think it was called Stepmom or something like that, which sounds like a strange thing to bring up, but this song was in that, and it soundtracks this beautiful scene where this woman is dying of cancer, and her and her ex-husband's partner and the kids have bonded over the song, and were dancing around and singing, and I thought it was a beautiful thing.
“I remember singing this song a lot when I was growing up with my family, and always feeling good. It's one of those songs that embodies that spirit of togetherness and fearlessness alongside your loved ones. It definitely hypnotised me. I've got quite an old soul anyway. During lockdown, actually, it came on a few times on shuffle. And it's a reminiscent song, it instantly transports me back to that time and that place, and that memory. It’s an important song.”
“I spent about four years of my life growing up in Cyprus for my dad’s work. After school, my dad would always take my sister and I to the beach, and this was a song that we would always stick on in the car.
“It could have been any Eagles song, but this song stood out. It's one that I remember what tone the guitarist starts and is in, and it's one of those songs where I can instantly familiarise myself with a place and a feeling. Whenever I hear it, I go back to those times where I would really enjoy being out with my dad and sister, going along and listening to Eagles or Jethro Tull or The Police. It really could have been any song by the Eagles or the Police, but this song is almost visceral. It really brings me back to that time and place.”
“I was probably about nine when the song came out, and it's the first lesson of rejection that I have - like real, true rejection. I worry about this generation that's coming through, in the sense that if you slide into someone's DMs now, more often than not, people can turn ugly if they don't get the answer they want, if they don't get the positive response they want. It can go from someone desiring something to being rude to them.
“This was a big song in England when I was a young 9/10 year old kid. It was being played at my school disco, and I went up to this girl that I liked, maybe not even that way, but I just liked being around her. I asked her if she wanted to dance with me, and she said no. And this was the song that was playing.
“So I have this memory of shuffling around at the school disco listening to this song. It's a really valuable lesson, to be able to take rejection on head-on, and also have fun with it. Now, as a 30-year-old man, whenever stuff doesn't actually materialise in the way that I want it to, I look back at this image of me shuffling about on the dance floor as a nine-year-old kid, and it reminds me to not take life too seriously."
"I was walking around secondary school and one of my mates' older sisters came up to me, and she had a Drive Thru Records goody bag. She put my hand in the bag and was like, ‘Take whatever you want out of it. I'm street-teaming for this record label from America.’ I got some Finch pins - like a badge - and that weekend I was ‘What is Finch? What do they sound like?’ So I went to my local record store where I lived, where I grew up, and said, ‘Have you got any music by a band called Finch?’ This guy gave me that CD, What It Is to Burn, and I sat and listened to it in the record store and became obsessed instantly with this band.
“Then I was like, ‘Have you got anything else that sounds like this? Because this is crazy, I can't get over this band!’ So the guy in the record store put me on to all these Drive Thru Records bands like The Starting Line, The Early November, Home Grown, Allister, New Found Glory and all sorts of shit, and I knew pretty early on that I had found something that was going to be important. So I started learning the guitar. When I was going into my lessons, I was like, ‘I don't want to learn how to play Guns N' Roses, or fucking Metallica or stuff like that. I want to learn how to write songs like these bands.’ My guitar tutor was just teaching me basically Finch songs and Drive Thru Records songs from these bands.
“The first band I played in, we covered this song. For me, there's a real connection between my adolescence and my early development as a dude who wanted to play in a band. Then things just went super full circle, when a few years ago we headlined this Festival in England called Slam Dunk, and Finch were on the line-up. Their guitar tech came up to me and said ‘I know you’re a massive Finch fan. They're big fans of You Me At Six, and they were wondering if you wanted to come and sing a song with them?’ And I was like ‘This is crazy.’ So obviously I went over and introduced myself, and said ‘I'm a big fan and I want to sing "What It Is To Burn" if you guys are playing it, because I used to cover it when I was in school.’
“It was the weirdest thing being onstage with them doing this song, because if I had known when I was 13/14 years of age that years later I'd be headlining a festival, that Finch would be playing it, and they would be asking me to sing on stage with them, I don't think I would have really believed that. It's a reminder that something that means a lot to you may not be the biggest thing in the world to others, but to me it was like everything becoming real - being in a band and doing it full time. And for that to happen was a really ‘Shit, I made it’ moment for me. That song and that band, I have a lot of love for them.
“[What drew me to it ] I think is just the fact that at the time, I've never heard people do it before. I'd heard Linkin Park, and System of a Down, and I started getting into what was basically being played on the radio or was in the charts that was guitar music, but I think Finch were the first band - one of the first, but for me the most important - that I got into. It felt like nobody else knew about them, except for my mate's older sister who was repping them in high school. But me and my friends all discovered them for the first time and I felt like I was part of something very few people were part of.
“I saw them play a venue called The Astoria, and I thought, ‘Oh wait, there's two thousand people here, so I'm not the only person in England that knows about Finch, but wow, isn't it cool that I'm part of something like this?’ Like yes, two thousand people is a lot of people, but it's not fucking Metallica or Linkin Park or whatever, it's kind of our band. I think that's what makes music special to people as they're growing up. They attach themselves to artists or movements. Things that feel profound to them, but maybe not to your average Joe.
“I mentioned Drive Thru Records and then obviously came Fueled by Ramen and labels like that, and the records that that label was putting out and the bands on that, but it shaped some of the best years of my life. At the time I was like, ‘Fucking hell, school sucks’, but the same time I was going to mates' houses, getting drunk off a bottle of cider, playing phone pranks, listening to Finch really loudly and just being dickheads.
“They soundtracked a massive portion of my life. It's very rare that you go through that as a kid and then you end up finally meeting these people and being respected enough on a level that they invite you on stage with them. So there's this whole thing around it which I associate with a victory, in the purest sense. It's the kind of victory that money can't buy. I think the relationship I have with that is something that means more to me than some other, some would say, ‘bigger’ achievements in my life. For me that's everything I could have wanted in one screenshot of an achievement.”
“That song has never failed to make me smile and want to jam. It's just one of those songs that's so feelgood. And it's effortless in the way that it makes you feel good. I have some fond memories of being out, or at parties, or even just hanging out on the bus and listening to MGMT, and it's definitely one of those songs that always makes you feel really good about life.
“When we were putting VI together, “Electric Feel” was a song that we took as inspiration on one of our songs called "3AM". I just wanted that song to make people dance, and for me there's no better song provoking that emotion and that behaviour than MGMT’s "Electric Feel". It's not necessarily a life-defining song, or a life-defining moment, but it never fails to make me feel good when I hear it, and I think sometimes that's all a song has got to do. It's got to make you feel good. There doesn't need to be any rhyme or reason as to why it does that, it just does it.
“I love how music can be so simple in that way. In a time and space where things can otherwise be quite complicated - life and music, and sometimes our relationship with it - this song is a really chill example of one of those things that just feels completely right. "Back Again" and "3AM" were singles from the album, so it was quite important that they went well and that they had a good vibe to them. I wanted to feel the same way that I can see our fans in the audience feel when we play those songs. I wanted to get that vibe from them that I get from this song. It’s just a great pop song.”
“That song just makes me just go. It's just one of those songs. I love the song also because it feels like separate songs within one. I've always found that really interesting. It's one of my shower songs, especially during lockdown. It just gets me going.
“Drake is probably one of my, if not my all-time, favourites. Which surprises a lot of people when I say that, but I've been on him for a long time. It was on Thank Me Later that I got into him. I've just always been really intrigued by him. Take Care is probably one of the best records of all time for me, just in terms of back-to-back playback.
“This song is actually how I discovered Travis Scott, and I then was like, ‘Astroworld, whoa, what?!’ I hit a completely new level of adoration for him when I heard the whole record in full. There's a fearlessness in Travis Scott's music, and I try and take that no-fear element into what I do now. And working with Mike Dean as well is like bucket-list sort of shit.”
“I feel like Frank Ocean has probably influenced a generation. He seems to be a lot of artists' favourite artist. I listen to Frank Ocean when I just want to go somewhere else, and that song in particular allows me to do that. The whole of Blonde allows me to do that. He's a great storyteller, and I think his versatility and his performance and his voice and what he's saying are all really strong, and he's knocked a few stereotypes on their heads as well. He's a really important artist.
“The world needs artists like Frank Ocean, where it's just really good fucking music, with proper feels. "Self Control" is one of those, I almost meditate to it. Blonde has been on my quarantine playlist, I think he's a superstar.”
“It could have been this, or it could have been Kendrick Lamar, or it could have been A$AP Rocky. When we were recording our record Cavalier Youth, which we made in Los Angeles for three months over a summer, this song was on our pool playlist, which we'd have on pretty much every day, especially on Sundays that we'd take off. And as soon as I heard the opening notes of that song, from the jump, I would always be instantly in a really good frame of mind.
“That song soundtracked so many great memories of that summer. We were literally living in a mansion for three months in Griffith Park, having party, after party, after party, five nights a week, and the house was just full of people, complete strangers I didn't even know. And LA's definitely one of those places where you can make friends really fast, especially if you've got a mansion with a pool. And if you're in a band from England, it's not difficult to make friends.
“So this song was on a lot, and I've got a lot of fun memories. A lot of ‘I don't give a fuck’ memories. Just completely living in the here and now. This was the soundtrack.”
“I was still in high school when I first heard Fall Out Boy. Everyone knows Fall Out Boy from From Under the Cork Tree, but I was into them on Take This to Your Grave. It was that sort of sound. And obviously there’s loads of other bands, like Taking Back Sunday, The Audition - who we then became boys with, and love, and all that - but the reason I put Fall Out Boy on this list is that on our debut record, we actually ended up supporting them on their tour for 'The Take Over, The Breaks Over'.
“At first we did a show with them in Paris, which was really random, but they were on a European tour. Our agent was their agent, they took us out for that gig, and I thought that was it, but a few weeks later we get a phone call that was like, ‘Fall Out Boy want to take you on their arena tour in England.’ And at this point, we've never played a venue bigger than 2,000 people. We actually had a tour scheduled anyway, but we moved it around so that we could go and play fucking Wembley Arena with Fall Out Boy.
“And I just remember a very simple moment, but it's really stuck, this is what, 2008, 2009? I remember the first day we were playing in Birmingham with them, and we were so fucking excited. We were walking around this arena being like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re playing with Fall Out Boy, and we're playing this arena.’ We were waiting to load off stuff on to the stage to do a quick soundcheck before they opened the doors, and Patrick Stump came off the stage and he walked right over to us. He was like, ‘Hey guys, really sorry that our soundcheck is taking so long. We just want to get everything perfect for this gig. We're really nervous, but we want to be amazing. We're sorry you won't get a lot of time [for your soundcheck], but our crew are going to help you get all your stuff on stage, and just, sorry.’
“What probably seemed like a throwaway comment to him really set the standard for me moving forward. Whenever we play with a band, it's not a rat race. We've got to look out for them as much as they do for us. If Patrick Stump is taking the time to come up to me in an arena and say ‘We're going to do everything to to help your show go smoothly, and thanks joining us on the tour’, and Pete Wentz coming in when we played Wembley to wish us good luck, and just giving us some advice about the music industry, just little things like that and I thought, ’Wow, this is a band who have already achieved so much, and are taking the time to pass on some pearls of wisdom.’
"At that moment in time, I'm so glad it was them, because we've toured with other bands since, in arenas, and one band - I won't say their name - they were just the biggest piles of shit that you can imagine. And I'm so glad it was them, because I was still 18 when we did that tour, and I thought ‘Well what a beautiful moment, to take these few kids and instil a belief.’ That's why I included that song in this list. They were the perfect band for us to have shared that experience with. It was a pretty fucking wild thing to have been part of.
"That's the other thing; when a band is one of your favourite bands and they also turn out to be legends. We had the same experience with Paramore. We did a lot of touring with them. I was on Paramore pretty early, in high school, and then to go and share all this touring with them all around the world, Europe, the UK, and Australia, and be friends with them still to this day. It's so nice to be around people that are successful and that you look up to, and they'd be good people, it's a nice surprise, because not everyone's nice. There are a lot dickheads out there, especially the music industry.”