Three years ago when You Me at Six burst onto the Emo meets Pop Rock scene off the back of their debut album Take Off Your Colours, you would be forgiven for thinking this was just another side fringe-led, Topman promoting boy band. You would, however, be wrong. The Surrey hailing five-piece have since completed three sell-out headline tours, released their second album Hold Me Down and been nominated at the Kerrang! Awards “Best British Band” in both 2008 and 2009. So Noize caught up with guitarist Max Helyer ahead of their busy Summer schedule to talk Arsenal, Marvin Gaye and volcanic ash.
Hi Max, how are you? Where in the world are you now?
Max: Im good. Recently I’ve just been taking the weekend’s lovely sun to play some football in the park and watch my team Arsenal get beaten by Wigan 3-2, that wasn’t impressive! But it’s been an up and down week, it’s certainly been interesting!
So your new single Liquid Confidence came out yesterday – what’s the feedback been like from your fans from the so-called difficult second album?
Max: The reaction so far has been really good. We’ve been tweeting about it and trying to get people involved and the album’s got two live tracks from our live tour with Paramore last year at Wembley, so I think they’ve been psyched to get a couple of live tracks on it too. It’s been good I think people are just vibing on the song as well, especially as the weather’s getting better as well –it’ kind of an upbeat Summer song so people are really into it.
What aided your transition from the sound of the first album to the second? Did you find the pressure was on for the second album?
Max: We did feel that there was going to be a lot of pressure as when we finished our headline tour for Take Off Your Colours in 2008, we left our old label and management and we wanted to take it a step up. We also wanted to write music that we were really happy with. Obviously it’s a natural thing and kind of clichéd to say but the maturing thing happened for us too. We were on tour for a very long time, we all grew up as a band and we all started to get new music tastes which we wanted to incorporate into the new songs. I think the pressure helped us as well as I think our band work really well under pressure, it keeps us on our toes and trying to get our stuff the best we can produce.
And last month you had your biggest tour to date – what was that like for you?
Max: It was quite weird! But it was a great feeling as well. Playing shows like Manchester Apollo and Brixton Academy were some of our dreams that we wanted to do since we were little kids playing music, so having that opportunity to do that was amazing. We’re so privileged to have all these great, amazing fans so we wanted to produce something that they could really remember as well. So we took a lot of lights and a stage ramp and stuff like confetti on some shows, all just trying to take it up to the next stage for You Me at Six and do something different.
How has the live show changed for you since you started off as a band? Do you think your dynamics performing have progressed
Max: Yeah definitely. Obviously we’ve been touring for such a long time now so we’ve kind of learnt how to do stuff on the road and learnt new moves on stage –like the right points on stage where you should go mad and the points where you should kind of take it back and be like ‘right this is an epic song, so try and make it look as epic on stage as you can’. We try to incorporate almost a theatre style into the performance
Any amusing stories from touring or is it a case of ‘what happens on tour, stays on tour’ for You Me at Six?
Max: I can tell you a classic You Me at Six story from when we were on tour. This was one of our first tours in 2007 and Dan, our drummer, had just joined the band. We were on a Summer tour in the UK and one night we had to stay in a car park with the other band, who were in a caravan on wheels. So everybody had a few beers and we were playing football and then all of a sudden our mate Jack dives for a header and puts his head through the caravan window! We heard all the noise and were like, ‘What’s going on?!’ and found him outside with this massive gash open on his head! So at 5am we had to get someone from the other band to drive to the hospital and get him stitched up. It was quite a rough night but something we laugh at now!
The beauty of hindsight! So what are your Summer plans?
Max: Well, we’ve got a couple of shows in Spain in May - so hopefully we can get there if all this volcano ash disappears! We’ve kind of got a bit of time off in May too so will get writing a little bit for the new album.
Then we go away in June and do a few festivals and couple of headline shows in Paris and a couple of shows with Bring me the Horizon, which will be awesome. Then we go away for the Warped Tour so we’re all excited to do that as obviously we only did three weeks of it last year, so we didn’t really get the full experience. When we get back we have Reading and Leeds and a couple of festivals in Europe.
It’s going to be a good Summer and we’re all really excited to just get on the road again, working our arses off and playing our new songs to people who haven’t heard them
Being Surrey boys- what’s it like being on the Main Stage at Reading this year?
Max: This is the third year in a row. We did the first one in 2008 and we were on the Festival Republic stage and that was mid-afternoon, about 4/5pm we played. Then in 2009 we played the Radio 1/NME tent which was sweet. The boost from a 1,000 people tent to a 12,000 camp tent was pretty amazing.
Now we’re doing Main Stage, so it’s been a constant progression and we’re so privileged to play with the bands that are playing on the main stage as well, like Blink 182, Paramore, Weezer, Limp Bizkit, Cypruss Hill. All the bands on that day, we’re all fans of. I’m playing before my favourite band Thrice on that day, so I’m kind of stoked to be playing before my favourite band on the main stage.
It’s cool to go from being the person who used to go to Reading as a camper and have a good time with his friends to the person who is now playing and when you’re playing and you see your friends out in the crowd – it’s a special feeling.
You mentioned working on a new album in your limited spare time, what direction will you move in for a third album do you think? Is there anything that is influencing a new sound?
Max: I cant really tell you. At the moment I’m spending a lot of time just writing with my guitar and I have a few ideas which are kind of like Hold Me Down but kind of a step up and I’m trying to add new influences of what I’ve been listening to. I listen to a lot of old school like Van Morrison, Marvin Gaye and sort of Hip Hop/Soul so I’m trying to influence that and just sort of really clean rock as well. I’m a massive fan of Incubus so the really clean riffs and stuff I’m going for, but we’ve still got a long way before that new album comes out.
Anything you want to add?
Max: We have got another tour announcement coming out soon and that is going to be in December so keep your eyes peeled and tickets should be out soon.
By Laura Routledge