You Me At Six
Sun, February 24
Doors: 7:00 pm9:30 Club
You Me At Six - (Set time: 9:15 PM)
Few bands get to spring a surprise six albums into their career. Even fewer do so in as dramatic a fashion as You Me At Six do on their simply titled new record, VI. They know what you probably think of them – “The emo pop-rockers from Surrey,” as guitarist Chris Miller puts it – and once upon a time you would have been right. But not for a long time, and certainly not on VI, a record that switches moods and styles with breathless confidence, from devastatingly defiant rock to joyously uplifting pop. It all but drips with melodies and moods. It’s the kind of record a band makes when they are in love with all the possibilities of music. VI is not what you might expect a You Me At Six album to sound like.
“We’ve always been a band that straddles styles,” says singer Josh Franceschi, sitting with his bandmates outside a London bar on a warm, early Summer afternoon. “We’ve always had that pop sensibility, but we’ve tried not to pigeonhole ourselves – that’s come from other people. If we want to make another six albums, we have to to maintain the foundations of what makes this band good, and we have to be contemporary and forward thinking.”
“We’re five individual blokes,” guitarist Max Helyer says, “but when we mash together in a band, something great happens. I’m not saying it happens every time, but sometimes something unbelievable happens.”
You Me At Six needed something unbelievable to happen with VI, because by their own admission it didn’t happen with their last album, Night People, released in February 2017. As a band, they were too tied up with their own business affairs, they didn’t write the songs to do their talent justice, and they created an album they felt was too samey, too linear, always travelling in one direction.
This time round it wasn’t just that something had to change. Everything had to change. New label – they now have their own label via AWAL/Kobalt – new management, new work ethic. Before Night People, they hadn’t written any songs for three years, which they think was a contributory factor to the album’s flatness. That said, Helyer suggests, it was a necessary record – “It was a step in a different direction for us, musically. It was a breach, and every band needs to have that record where they make a breach.”
VI was about opening that breach, and letting the full scope of their creativity flood through. They began writing as soon as they had finished Night People, but things really started to catch fire last November, when they went for a writing session with Eg White, whose versatility has seen him write with and for Adele, Linkin Park, Florence + the Machine and Kylie, among scores of others. That first session yielded immediate returns in the shape of ‘Losing You’ and ‘Fast Forward’, the album’s opening track, and one of its two lead songs, along with ‘3AM’. Helyer and White had been watching a clip of Radiohead at the Grammys playing ‘15 Step’, which gave Helyer the idea for a riff. “I said, ‘Let’s get heavy and industrial on those electronics, make it uncomfortable listening.’” For bassist Matt Barnes, it’s a song dramatic enough that it could transform their career the way Mountains changed Biffy Clyro’s.
And while Franceschi’s lyric is about making changes to his own life, it’s not hard to interpret it as a call to arms for the band: “When you feel the fire has gone / Pour some gasoline on it.” He sees the parallels. “It’s a self-reflective song, but it’s indicative of where the band was at. You’re only ever one track away from reigniting the momentum or reinventing yourself artistically, and that’s what that song represents.”
Working with White opened the floodgates, not just to songwriting, but to sounds, because of his experience in electronic music. It gave them a vision of how many different directions were open to them. “For Miracle in the Mourning, we knew we wanted to have this dancey element, and almost R&B feel in the verses,” says drummer Dan Flint. “But it’s always going to sound like us. Even if we wrote a hip-hop song, it would sound like You Me at Six.”
Former Athlete frontman Joel Pott also came on board to write – helping out on ‘3AM’ – and the group were rejuvenated by the outside contributions. “It’s about accepting there isn’t just one route to the end goal,” Franceschi says. “We embraced that idea. We’re creative people and we want to learn from other creative people. You want to improve, not stagnate, and maybe Night People was creatively quite stagnant. Bringing in new people with fresh ideas, ideas we’d never have, has been so exciting.”
Recording began in January at Vada Studios in the West Midlands, with producer Dan Austin, who became like a sixth member. The sessions were so fluid and fluent that the band completed 11 songs in just 34 days of tracking. “Sonically, Dan blew our minds,” Flint says. “And that inspires you,” Miller adds, “because you want to learn stuff from him.”
Still, though, this is very much You Me At Six’s album. As Franceschi explains, their new management had warned them they should not assume a producer could magic up greatness. “They were saying from the word go: ‘It all has to come from you. Don’t go in there thinking you’ve got a few good songs and they’re going to make it into a great record. Everything has to come from you.’” But what Austin gave the band was the sense that there were no limitations on what they could do. “The whole thing was a flow of creativity non-stop,” Flint says. “And it bounced from one person to the other.”
Only when they made the album they wanted did they think about who might want to release it, and when they played tracks to AWAL/Kobalt, they found people to match their enthusiasm. “From then on they wanted to be involved,” Flint says. “They made us feel we couldn’t really refuse. We’re on our sixth album, but we’re still pretty young. We’re not a heritage band, and no one should market us like a heritage band. So to find another label that can match our ambition is impressive.”
What Flint says highlights the most rema rkable thing about You Me At Six: they’re still only now entering their late 20s – they were teenagers when they made their first couple of albums. That means they still have hunger – they know they’re too young to be touring off past glories. In fact, they’re young enough to still be releasing their first album. And if VI were that first album, it would be hailed as one of the most exciting albums by a British band in years – uncategorisable but familiar, raucous but mainstream. You can almost bathe in their excitement about the record they’ve made – they compete with each other to spill out their thoughts and their stories, they nod supportively at each others’ observations. “We’re not nervous about this record being different,” Flint says, “we’re excited. Our fans have grown up with us and they want to hear the music we like.”
“I’m just excited for people to hear it, because we believe we’ve made a great record,” Helyer says.
“You have to make music for yourself,” Franceschi concludes, “because without authenticity people are going to smell the bullshit. None of us are going to into this with any fear, because we’ve made something we can stand behind.”
You Me at Six are about to change the way you think about them. Be excited.
Dreamers - (Set time: 8:15 PM)
With their raw passion and restless intensity, DREAMERS deliver a dynamic breed of alt-rock that channels the glory of the past while pushing toward the future. But on their new EP FLY, the L.A.-via-Brooklyn trio reflect on all the wonder and chaos of living fully in the present.
“FLY is about being in the thick of an adventure or a major change in your life—that moment before you have any hindsight, and all you can do is just go with it,” says DREAMERS vocalist/guitarist Nick Wold, whose bandmates include bassist Nelson and drummer Jacob Wick. “There’s no time to think about tomorrow or yesterday, so all that matters is right now.”
FLY arrives as the second installment in a three-part series that began with LAUNCH a powerfully charged EP released in July and featuring their Alternative radio single “SCREWS.” Set to culminate with their forthcoming album, the series finds DREAMERS intimately chronicling the aftermath of a major breakup endured by Wold after the release of their 2016 debut This Album Does Not Exist. But rather than wallow in heartache, DREAMERS turn the typical breakup narrative on its head, speaking to the undeniable thrill of striking out on your own.
Co-produced by DREAMERS’ touring sound engineer Tyler Tedeschi, FLY also defies expectation by fusing the volatile guitar work and visceral rhythms of classic alt-rock with inventively sculpted electronic elements. “Those are the two pieces we wanted to yin-and-yang on these songs,” says Wold. “Our favorite music through the ages is from people like The Beatles and Bowie and Iggy and Nirvana, who took the ethos and mentality of rock & roll but moved it forward in a way that no one had ever done before. For us it’s about taking that spirit and building on it with all these things we can do now with sound design.”
That intricately layered aesthetic permeates songs like “All Washed Out,” a track woven with thrashing guitar riffs, heavy bass grooves, and ethereal harmonies. Written in the midst of Wold’s breakup, “All Washed Out” unfolds in wistful and weary lyrics that, at one particularly poignant moment, contrast a flashback of running wild in the rain with an image of dry-as-dust Southern California. “My ex and I lived in New York together and everything was perfect there, but once we moved to L.A. it all went downhill,” says Wold. “The song’s about our relationship falling apart and turning into some faded memory.”
Despite its undercurrent of nostalgia, “All Washed Out” bears an unstoppable urgency, a limitless vitality that DREAMERS sustain all throughout FLY. On “Last Love Song,” for instance, the trio unleash a joyful fury as Wold looks back on broken promises (“You said we’d get drunk and rule the world forever”) and ultimately discovers an unlikely solace in all that ruin (“So here’s to moving on/Now that you’re gone/I’ll take back my heart and put it back together”). “It’s probably the most angry burn of all these songs, I’m dreading when my ex hears it,” notes Wold. “I wrote it after a horrible fight, where she ended up throwing all my clothes out in the street and I had to go sleep in the van. The next morning I went into the studio to write, and the idea I had was, ‘I’ve written all these love songs for you over the years, and now this one’s the last.’”
On “Misfits T-Shirt,” FLY offers up a moment of punk-fueled levity as DREAMERS capture the euphoric frenzy of a new crush. “It’s about a girl in New York I hung out with for just one night, and it’s kind of poking fun at how everybody wears Misfits T-shirts nowadays even though most people don’t know who they are,” says Wold. Meanwhile, the hypnotic “Demons” drifts into more darkly romantic terrain and attests to the strange magic of letting your mind run free. “It’s inspired by something Kurt Cobain said about how punk rock means freedom and playing whatever you want, and how it doesn’t matter if it’s sloppy as long as it’s sincere and has passion,” says Wold. “‘Demons’ is about letting out all your crazy thoughts, all the parts of your imagination that make being alive in the universe so amazing.”
Although FLY packs a whole spectrum feeling into just four songs, DREAMERS stay rooted in an unshakable longing that Wold traces back to his formative years. “I remember being in elementary school,” he says, “wandering around the playground and having that song ‘Sex and Candy’ stuck in my head, experiencing a feeling of melancholy for the first time and being like, ‘What is this? That feeling is something I’m always going for with our music.”
Originally from Seattle, Wold played saxophone throughout his childhood and later headed to New York University to study jazz, but soon felt compelled to make rock music. Once he graduated, he moved into his rehearsal space to devote himself to songwriting. “I realized that if I didn’t have an apartment I could get away with working one day a week, so for two years I lived in my practice space and got a $20 gym membership to have a place to shower,” Wold recalls.
During that time, Wold crossed paths with Nelson, also a former jazz musician. “I played upright bass in high school and got a full scholarship to college, but instead I ended up touring around the country with this band that did USO tours,” says Nelson, who’s from the small town of Ridgely, Maryland. After years on the road, he moved to New York and started working as a studio musician. “I was pretty burnt out on the music world, but then I met Nick and heard his songs and knew that this was the band I’d wanted to be in my entire life,” he says. “His songs felt really current and new, but at the same time they were referencing the music I grew up on and loved. And the fact that he was living in his rehearsal space was like, ‘How much more serious can you get than that?’”
Arriving in 2014, DREAMERS’ independently released debut single “Wolves” made its way into full rotation on SiriusXM’s Alt Nation and landed in the Top 18 countdown. The band quickly caught the ear of Stone Temple Pilots (who hand-picked the trio to open a number of 2015 dates), and later paved the way for their signing to Fairfax Recordings. Also in 2015, DREAMERS solidified their lineup with the addition of Wick, whose parents spent years playing in a rock band that performed in prisons all over California. “My dad’s a drummer and my mom’s a piano player, so ever since I can remember there was a drum set and a piano in the living room,” he says. “Whenever I was bored, I’d sit at either instrument and mess around, and by the time I was a teenager I realized that music was all I wanted to do with my life.” With This Album Does Not Exist released in summer 2016, lead single “Sweet Disaster” shot to No. 7 on the Alternative radio chart, and DREAMERS embarked on a relentless touring schedule that’s included appearances at major festivals like Lollapalooza and Bumbershoot, as well as support slots with such acts as Catfish and The Bottlemen and Weezer.
As they gear up for the release of their sophomore full-length—DREAMERS hope that Fly might leave listeners with a certain determination to live more boldly and deliberately. “There’s a positive feeling that comes when you make the decision to break up, or when you make any kind of big change in your life,” says Wold. “A weight is lifted and you feel this new freedom that you wouldn’t have felt otherwise. Even if it’s scary or painful, change can be the most invigorating thing.”
Machineheart - (Set time: 7:30 PM)
Machineheart has lit up the blogosphere with their shimmering, alternative sounds, making the five-piece band one to watch as they prepare to launch their Columbia Records debut album this year. Lead single "Circles," an artfully delivered track, was received ears-and-arms-wide-open; it broke into Spotify's Viral 50 chart and soared to the #1 spot on Hype Machine, fully embraced during its reign as the most popular song on the internet. A remix of their sweetly haunting track "Snow" quickly followed suit, garnering machineheart another #1 spot on Hype Machine. Hailed as "a girl power Foster The People turned all the way up..." by Neon Gold, the L.A.-based alternative group is cementing their place in the alt-pop world.
Fronted by the charismatic female firebrand Stevie Scott (who Neon Gold praised for her "endlessly endearing vocals") the group merges their pumped up drums, haunting melodies and cinematic soundscape to create a soulfully resplendent sound. Completing the group are Trevor Kelly (acoustic guitar), Harrison Allen (drums), Carman Kubanda (electric guitar), and Jake Randle (bass).
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001