We sat down with You Me At Six frontman Josh Franceschi to chat about their new album 'SUCKAPUNCH' and what it means for the band in 2021.
Bunkered down together in a Thailand studio at the tail-end of 2019, You Me At Six could never have predicted how much the world would need an album like SUCKAPUNCH.
A little over a year later, on album number seven, the British rockers are coming out all guns blazing.
Gritty opener ‘Nice To Me’ kicks things off with reckless abandon – and the energy doesn’t falter from there.
Second track ‘MAKEMEFEELALIVE’ might be the band’s heaviest moment in almost a decade – and whether they’re leaning on electronics, trap-inspired R&B, punk, emo, or even hip hop, the intensity continues to soar. Then, in moments when punchy melodies give way to heart-cracking emotion – like on ‘Glasgow’ – the intensity is present in a different, yet equally potent, way.
Fifteen years into their career – and almost half a lifetime for each of its members later – you might think releasing a safe album would be enough. But instead, what You Me At Six deliver on SUCKAPUNCH is a total knockout.
“The main conversation we had when we went over to Thailand to record was, if it isn’t different, let’s not even bother,” You Me At Six frontman Josh Franceschi says.
“If we aren’t offering something that is showcasing this band and the spirit of what we do, and our intent with a different twist, so it’s going to be interesting for both us but also the listeners – we’re on our seventh album, we can’t just churn out the same old and expect it to move people.”
More honest, open, and upfront than they’ve been on recent records, this is not only You Me At Six at their best – after nearly two decades they’re still taking their music to new levels.
“I feel like we did that with this record. That was probably the only mission statement. Everything other than that was, ‘Let’s do what we want,’ but it had to be something that provokes a conversation. It had to challenge people, and it had to challenge us,” Franceschi says.
“When we were in Thailand, it was like, ‘Let’s not take one step. Let’s take two, three, four, five, and just go,’ because we don’t have time to sit around and wait to catch people up to speed with where we want to go, we just have to do it and they will either be with it or they won’t.
“I think we’ve done some hiding at times. We sort of made a song that feels like that, but then not really because we didn’t want to scare anybody and put them off. With SUCKAPUNCH, it was like, ‘We can do that. People will respect the fact that we haven’t tried to play it safe,’” Franceschi continues.
“There is a lot of You Me At Six that is familiar and present on SUCKAPUNCH, which maybe just took a vacation on some of our other records.”
There is more to the album’s energy and vulnerability than just that though – for Franceschi, he headed into the studio believing that this could very well be his swan song. That mindset might just be what makes SUKAPUNCH’s sound so thrilling to listen to – this is a band who had absolutely nothing to lose.
“In the early stages of us going to Thailand, I said to our producer Dan Austin that I wasn’t sure I was going to be making more music in general after this album, let alone with You Me At Six. I was really conflicted about what I wanted and where I saw myself going in life,” Franceschi says. “He was like, ‘Well, you should really leave everything on the table then, everything that you’ve ever wanted to say, anything that you feel you haven’t faced head-on, you should put it into this record.’
“At times making this record, I’d go to bed and I wouldn’t be able to sleep because I’d be thinking, ‘I can’t believe I’ve just sung that in front of my friends. I can’t believe they know that I’ve gone through that.’
“When I came out of tracking ‘Glasgow’, I’ve never had a reaction like that from any of the other dudes in the band. They were like, ‘I have been crying listening to you record.’ But it’s good, because it’s showing me that what I was doing in that moment was the right thing to be doing. It’s a very honest record and I got a lot out of my system and it taught me more about myself as a person and as a writer.”
By the band’s own account, some of their more recent records – even if their previous album 2018’s VI saw the band push to get back on track – didn’t quite reach the heights the five-piece had hoped. SUCKAPUNCH was their chance to set things right.
“I didn’t feel like we fulfilled the prophecy on VI, I feel like we dipped our toe into certain things. We needed to make a record with no fear and even with VI, there were conversations going on about a bit of a recalibration job, of restoring confidence in ourselves, in our fans, in our peers, in the industry, that we’ve still got something to say, something worth listening to,” Franceschi says.
“There are some highlight moments on VI, but not in the way that there is with SUCKAPUNCH. I feel like SUCKAPUNCH is a celebration of all these things we were just starting to do. We’re 15 now, and over that time I’m glad there has been progression, but there have been three or four different bands throughout that process. For us, VI was our first record with this new You Me At Six, and now SUCKAPUNCH is our sophomore.
“We aren’t comparing the band we are now to records we made like Hold Me Down or Sinners Never Sleep when we were young men in our early 20s. It was something that was on my mind a lot, about taking that next step.”
Seven albums down, and a whirlwind of a year later, it seems like Franceschi is in a very different place to the one he was in when he headed into the studio.
“I’m immensely proud of what we have done because the joy that I’ve been able to get out of this record since making it through this horror show of a year, if it’s doing that for me, I hope that it will do that for other people,” he says.
“It’s the first time in a long time where I’ve walked away from recording a record thinking, ‘You couldn’t have said or done anything more than that. You put everything into it.’ Hopefully, people will feel the same.”
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