British rock band You Me At Six has built up quite a following since releasing their debut album, Take Off Your Colours, in 2008. A massive success in England, the group has headlined Wembley Arena and been named “Best British Band” at the Kerrang! Awards. Now, the quintet seems focused on conquering America.
The band hunkered down in a Los Angeles studio this past summer with noted producer Neal Avron (Everclear, Yellowcard, Fall Out Boy) to complete Cavalier Youth, their fourth record, scheduled for release in January 2014. This fall, the group embarks on its first U.S. headlining tour. Prior to leaving for America, lead guitarist Chris Miller took a break from packing his suitcase to phone me from England. In our interview, Miller discussed the latest record and why the band loves being on the road.
What are some of the things that you enjoy about touring in America? Do you have any favorite cities to visit?
My favorite thing about touring in America is probably the diversity. It’s such a big country, it takes a while to get around it. It’s cool to see lots of different cities and different types of weather and experiences. Some of my favorite places to play are the towns that are a little more out of the way, because the fact that people will even come see you is amazing. It’s a really humbling experience. And I also love New York and L.A. because there’s so much to do.
How much new material will you be performing on this tour?
We’re definitely going to be playing the new single, “Lived A Lie.” But at the moment, we’re a little unsure of how much other new stuff to do. Throughout our career, we’ve always shied away from playing stuff live that people haven’t really heard yet, because when you’re in the crowd it’s sometimes hard to get into an unfamiliar song. We usually like when fans have had the chance to hear songs on an album first and had time to digest it.
Let’s talk about the upcoming record, Cavalier Youth. What was it like working with producer Neal Avron, and what do you think he brought out of you as a band?
It was really, really cool working with Neal. We put together a wish list of producers—both big-name producers and maybe some smaller producers whose sound we loved—and we met with a few people. Neal immediately stood out from everyone that we met with because he really seemed to understand our band. Neal was very straightforward, and understood what we wanted to do. Everything was really positive and he knew how he could use his expertise to help us out and, as they say, push us to the next level.
In the studio, we learned lots of stuff from Neal. On the last few albums, we’ve always been a big overdub band. With guitars, we’ve always tried to layer everything and make it sound as huge as possible. This time we took a more laid-back approach, and tried to understand that sometimes, less is more. And Neal always gets a really good drum sound, which is something we’ve sort of struggled with in the past. Our drummer Max [Helyer] and the rest of the band are really happy with the sound he got.
You mentioned that on past records you did a lot of overdubs. Does that mean that for this one, you recorded more live, and did fewer takes?
I think we were less clinical on this one. Other times, especially when recording guitars, we felt things had to be as perfect as possible. This time, we were more stripped down and you can notice little nuances in our playing and even little mistakes sometimes, which gives a more human element to it. It’s a bit more real and a bit more honest.
In addition to the more laid-back approach you took to making this record, is there any other way you think this upcoming release differs from your past albums?
I’d say it’s not drastically different, but it’s a nice stepping stone for us in terms of where we want to go in our career. In the past, I think we’ve tried to mash some genres together, where this album is more of a unified sound, so I think we’re all happy with that. It’s slightly different, but nothing too intense that our fans will get scared off by it. We want to show what we’re capable of in the future, but not throw our listeners off the deep end.
The band spends a lot of time on the road; you guys play a ton of shows! Is that how You Me At Six would like to be identified, as primarily a live act? Is that what you feel defines you?
Yeah. We started together at the age of about 15, 16. Now we’re all 23, 24, 25 years old. When we started, we were so young and wanted to do anything to just travel and play shows.
So I think we set ourselves up right from the start as a band that tours all the time. We’ve had a good break in the last few months and we’re ready to get back on it now. We’ve been trying to do as much touring as possible before the album even comes out just to get back on the scene. We love being a live band. I think it’s one of the best things about writing music—you want to go out and play it for people.
Touring so much can be an exhausting experience. How do you guys stay sane on the road?
We’ve been doing it so long now. You kind of grow to understand your bandmates, even their little habits that can annoy you a little bit (laughs). It’s for the benefit of all that everyone gets along, so you learn to deal with it. We always call it “tour mode,” where you get into this sort of “Groundhog Day” routine. You wake up, you go to the venue, do soundcheck, have some food, chill, play the show, get drunk, and go to bed. It’s kind of like a really fun day, for like two months in a row. At the end of the day, you’re doing what you love for your job.
From what I understand, two of the band members have their own clothing line. Are image and style very important to You Me At Six?
I think for those guys [bassist Matt Barnes and frontman Josh Franceschi], the clothing lines are just another creative outlet for them. In the past, we were never really a style-conscious band, because we all had different interests and tastes. Now as we’re getting older, we’re starting to appreciate how we can look more like a unit. I think image is very important these days. You have to represent what you and your band are about in the clothes you wear.
The group is huge in your native England. In America, You Me At Six obviously have a cult following, but are you looking to take that next step in terms of your exposure and success level here?
Yeah. I think the mission for any band is to get as many people to listen to your music as possible. The way we started in the UK is the same way we’ve wanted to handle the States. I think for a band like us, you’ve got to start out small and tour as much as possible. We’re kind of old fashioned that way. A lot of bands get a major record deal and things blow up for them very fast. With us, we think the proper way is to build slowly. I think as a band, you’ve got to do those tours where you’re playing to five people in the audience. I think that’s important to build you up as people and musicians. This will be our first headlining tour in the United States now, but we’ve been to the States probably nine or 10 times in our career. I think it helps to get that cult following. The fans that love your band when you’re nobodies will be the fans that will always be there for you.
You Me At Six perform at The Gramercy Theatre in New York City on Oct. 18 and the Theatre Of Living Arts in Philadelphia on Oct. 20. For more details, visit youmeatsix.co.uk.