‘This record really challenged our listeners’ | You Me At Six at Leeds Festival

You Me At Six have slowly been making their way up festival rosters for the past ten years. From a not-so-secret set at Reading & Leeds’ The Pit stage, to an all guns blazing headliner at the Radio 1 / NME tent – it’s obvious this year has marked a huge surge forward for Surrey’s rock champions.

We caught up with the band at Leeds Festival to chat all about touring, the famed festival headline spot, and how their music will continue to evolve.

CelebMix: Are you guys excited for today?

Max Helyer: Yeah! It’s going to be good I think for us. We love Leeds because you always get the madness of Reading and then I think Leeds gets forgotten a bit sometimes. For us, Leeds is our second home we’ve spent a lot of time here and our first manager was from here, our first record label was from here, so it feels like a second home for us. This date is always a lot more stress free which makes it more of an enjoyable show.

It’s just got that mellow vibe here you know, whereas Reading’s manic.

Josh Franceschi: Reading’s full of lots of people from the music industry from London who just want to burn your ear off about nothing. For me, I’d rather be here and stand and talk to fans than I would talk to some twats from the music industry about absolutely nothing.

CelebMix: How did Reading hold up yesterday?

JF: It was wonderful.

MH: It was great yeah — it was a very great experience for us because we’re clashing with some great artists like Kasabian, Fat Boy Slim, and Billy Talent, so you know for us we had a full tent yesterday and it was a great thing.

To go back and play the NME tent, I think the last time was 2009 and it was unbelievable, we had Queens of the Stone Age playing before us. It feels like it’s a kind of meant to be, every time we play this stage it’s a Josh Homme invasion — but it was a great show.

JF: I think he’s just got a crush on Max, and he can’t bring himself to tell him so instead he does secret sets in and around You Me At Six just so he can see Max bit more regularly.

MH: I still haven’t got the minerals to talk to him though. 

CelebMix: This is the latest slot you’ve played at Reading and Leeds — how does it feel to be headlining such a massive stage?

JF: Well last night we actually broke a record which we weren’t trying to break. Because Queens of the Stone Age went on late, we went on late, and we now have the record for being the band to play latest at Reading and Leeds festival — we came off stage at five past midnight. So we now have that, which is kind of cool.

MH: When Metallica broke curfew, they paid the fine and somehow we didn’t have to pay the fine.

JF: You know, honestly we kind of use Reading and Leeds as a marker as to where our band is at the moment. We’ll be in a cycle, half way through a cycle, and be like ‘right what’s our role at Reading and Leeds’ and that always, not defines, but it gives us a temperature of where this band is at. To headline the second stage at Reading and Leeds is mental.

MH: And if you look at the other acts — you’ve got HAIM and you’ve got Flume — it’s very different bands across the board but they’re worldwide renown acts.

JF: It’s just cool because we’ve been coming to this festival since we were 15 and we just keep trying to work our way up different bills different things and the last few years it’s been the main stage and this year it’s the NME stage.

MH: It’s sort of insane to headline this stage now, I think it gives us the running to maybe next time we come back to Reading and Leeds to look at the other slots on the Main Stage. Could we be a main support or will we get to the headline slot you know — only time will tell.

CelebMix: Is that the dream — to headline Reading and Leeds?

JF: That’s been the dream since we were 15 years old. I think that some people misinterpret ambition for greed or fantasy or whatever you want to call it – the reason we say openly we want to headline this festival isn’t necessarily because we think we deserve to right now or we think we’re the biggest band in the world, but its just because it’s something that gets us out of bed in the morning.

When we go and rehearse, when we write songs we try and visualise ourselves playing those songs in these sort of environments. So it’s not about getting to headline Reading and Leeds because we’ll get paid a million pounds or whatever it is they get paid, it’s about headlining this festival so we can say we were part of this elite group of bands that in that period time meant something so profound that they were asked to headline something as iconic as Reading and Leeds.

I very much think it is on our radar, and the best thing about it is that if in life you set yourself a goal and you don’t quite achieve it — if you can land somewhere in the middle, then you’re in a good position. At least you’ve got the drive to want to better yourself and to grow and evolve and I think that’s what it’s all about.

As I say, it’s a weird thing in England culturally that we have this thing where we want people to be successful, but when they talk about the fact they want to be successful it’s considered arrogant.

You see it sometimes with footballers – you’ll build up a young English player and as soon as they get really good or really renowned they start to get mugged off by the press. It’s that build them up and bring them down culture which is strange but this has been a festival that always encourages the growth of British bands.

CelebMix: Are there any other festivals that are still on your bucket list to play?

JF: We’ve never played Glastonbury. We actually got approached about it this year but we had a festival weekend in Germany and logistically we couldn’t get from there unless we got on a private jet, and we didn’t want to spend the money to do that.

I think with Glastonbury when it happens, it happens, and you don’t try and force it. This year was the first year we’ve ever been offered something and you know it’ll come around again and hopefully when it does it’ll be better suited.

CelebMix: Do you have anything special planned for tonight?

JF: Yeah, playing an hour and five minutes worth of You Me At Six songs.

MH: I think only two songs in the set aren’t singles, so that says a lot and for us. We’ve brought in a lot of production from our UK tour because at a festival like this people will come and they’ll watch us, maybe they’re not big fans of us, and what we like to do is entertain, and put on a show so people will walk away and say “You know, that was a great show.”

We want to be a stand out artist for the weekend for when people come by the NME tent — we’ve put a lot into it, we’ve thought about our set and the songs we’re playing, and we want to make it a spectacle.

JF: But also that question is so difficult to answer because — what is interpreted as a special thing?

Is it bringing out a guest? is it having a lot of production? I think the beautiful thing about a festival is that it’s the atmosphere of the tent or the stage that makes it special and I think that’s what I witnessed last night at Reading, and I know that up North they turn it up like 100 times more.

What made last night special was the crowd and what we had going on with them, so hopefully it’ll be more of the same.

CelebMix: Your latest album, Night People, saw you take huge strides away from your typical sound – how did fans react?

JF: I think, first and foremost, this band has always had, whether it’s been lyrically or musically, a harder rockier edge. So on this record we didn’t try and do any of that consciously — it’s just the songs we wrote.

Songs like ‘Spell It Out’ or ‘Swear’ or ‘Night People’ are still very much showcasing the DNA of this band —we’ve always had a tendency to have these explosive moments you know and we love writing a nice melodic rock song, but we also enjoy playing heavier music as well, so I think it’s just a combination of both of these things.

M: I think also, it’s a cliche thing, but we’re also growing up, so if we tried to write an ‘Underdog’ now at the age of 27 we couldn’t — we wrote that song nearly ten years ago. We’d have a different interpretation, a different spin on it now, and you can hear that on all the songs in our record. There’s a song called ‘Give’ – it still has that uplifting melodic vibe to it, but it’s just portrayed in a different way because you can’t recreate what you’ve done before.

We just want to enjoy ourselves, and make music that makes us excited and right now we have a very broad taste in bands, and listen to a lot of different types of music — how do we condense that into the You Me At Six sound?

This record really challenged our listeners — but not in a bad way, because it’s eclectic, but I think that we made this sound and it’s not an album you listen to straight away and love. It’s one that over time you’ll go back to, and you’ll go to songs like ‘Take On The World’ and maybe it’s not what you expect but, maybe in two years time maybe in five years time you’ll think ‘yeah that’s maybe the best record now I’ve had time to listen and listen and absorb.’ It’s a slow burner.

Let us know your thoughts on You Me At Six on Twitter @CelebMix

Written by Faith Ridler

Faith Ridler is a UK based student, music journalist, and twenty one pilots aficionado. Follow her on Twitter @FaithLRidler!