From angsty teenage pop-punks to one of the UK’s biggest rock acts, You Me At Six have certainly had a steady and successful rise over the past ten years or so. From playing in small, cramped venues to headlining arenas in the space of just six years, the group have skyrocketed towards stardom, multiple high-billed festival appearances, and gained a massive status.
The five-piece – consisting of vocalist Josh Franceschi, guitarists Max Helyer and Chris Miller, bassist Matt Barnes, and drummer Dan Flint – have mostly been together since the band’s formation apart from Flint, who replaced former drummer Joe Phillips prior to them recording their 2008 debut full-length, ‘Take Off Your Colours’.
Phillips had been the drummer on the debut EP, 2006’s underground and hard to find ‘We Know What It Means To Be Alone’, before Flint came in and recorded an untitled (and almost lost) EP in 2007, which mainly consisted of demos that were later found on their debut, ‘Take Off Your Colours’, a year later.
‘Take Off Your Colours’ – viewed by many as one of the best YMAS records – was some debut. It felt pissed-off with tales of love and loss, and about as many punchy hooks as humanly possible to write onto one record. It was raw and super-charged, with tracks like ‘Save It For The Bedroom’ and ‘Jealous Minds Think Alike’ seeing them earn fans countrywide, reaching #25 on the UK Album Chart and getting certified Gold, too.
The group followed-up the success of that record by going one better on ‘Hold Me Down’. A record packed with even more driving pop-punk and improved song-writer Franceschi‘s growth from ‘Take Off Your Colours’ to here is audible. With tracks like ‘Underdog’, ‘Stay With Me’, ‘Liquid Confidence (Nothing To Lose)’ and ‘Fireworks’ proving to be some of the best tracks in their discography, and still are today. It went on to hit no. 5 in the UK Album Chart, which was spectacular for a UK alternative group – let alone one just on their second album.
With the world at their feet, YMAS looked for all the world destined to dominate the pop-rock world for years to come. Enter ‘Sinners Never Sleep’: a record that effectively tore up the rule book for the Surrey lot.
By this point, a hectic touring schedule had worn thin on the band and tensions were severely building to a dangerous climax – so much so that while Franceschi, Helyer and Miller spent time writing tracks, Flint and Barnes fled to Las Vegas for a much-needed break. The tension was everywhere – with Franceschi and the group falling out with their label manager, which lost them time in the studio and saw them pulled from a tour with Blink 182 all in one-day – which led the frontman to a hospital-inducing panic attack. All of this meant recording had to be done quickly, and there was plenty of fuel to that particular fire – leading to their most aggressive release. The frontman later revealed that ‘Bite My Tongue’ was about himself becoming overly frustrated at the rest of his band and felt the need to put his anger into musical form – on what is largely considered the group’s heaviest track to date. Again, they had chart success with the record despite the slight change in direction, reaching third in the UK Album Chart.
After that, the band took a bit of a break from diving straight into recording, having left their label, Virgin Records, in favour of BMG for their next release. That record shaped up to be 2014’s ‘Cavalier Youth’, coming out three years after ‘Sinners Never Sleep’ – the longest the group have ever gone between releasing a record.
Unsurprisingly, their quiet spell only led them to become more popular, as when the record finally dropped album number four, it peaked at number one. There came with it commercial success, with tracks like ‘Fresh Start Fever’ and ‘Lived A Lie’ getting plenty of airtime, but all that was thanks to the band’s more rounded, alt-rock sound – leaving behind little inkling of pop-punk and post-hardcore tendencies found previously. Their sound remained polished, but it slotted more into the category of radio rock now – big, chunky choruses, riffs aplenty, and littered with delicious singalongs. The group had clearly grown up, and this was a mature, confident album to mark such a change.
The group toured ‘Cavalier Youth’ for a whopping 18 months, before deciding to take a break before heading straight back into writing – an exploit that proved successful on their last effort. ‘Night People’ was ultimately released in 2017 and aimed to build on much of the triumphs found on ‘Cavalier Youth’ – that bustily alt-rock tone given another chance in the spotlight. While there were some solid tracks like ‘Give’, ‘Plus One’ and the title-track, critics were a bit divided on the overall sound, and whether it was perhaps a bit too middle-ground, while it didn’t sit greatly with their entire fanbase. That said, the record certainly still had its successes, reaching another top 5 finish in the album charts, reaching number 3.
‘VI’ followed that up just a year later in 2018 – titled as (surprise!) it’s their sixth full-length record. What was once excitement for the record soon become dislike, and their creative process was under threat for their next release as a result. Thankfully, the group managed to pen ‘VI’, a record that more than not makes up for the failings on ‘Night People’, restoring a bit of faith in the fans and with critics.
With six records now under their belt, YMAS have stapled themselves to the UK rock scene and are undoubtedly one of the country’s biggest bands of the last decade.
Check out our playlist below, compiled with what we think are some of the best You Me At Six tracks in the band’s catalogue, both for newcomers to the band and already firmly established fans.
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Below is our choice of the most accessible You Me At Six records. With such a choice of acclaimed, lauded, stylistically evolved music, it may be a tough choice to know where to begin. Leave it to us to pick the three essential LPs below.
Released: October 3rd 2011
This was the record that everyone finally began to listen up and take notice. Funnily enough, it was (in places) a far cry from the band’s previous two outings, ditching the teenage, raw pop-punk for something that sat in between that and post-hardcore – a combination that sat very nicely. There was more of bite to this record, and they’d pushed the boat out on the features too – with Oli Sykes’s scratchy screams beefing up ‘Bite My Tongue’, while Winston McCall‘s feature on ‘Time Is Money’ is as unnecessary as it is brutal – and hard not to love.
Even the band’s heaviest release still has time for softer numbers, with ‘Crash’ and ‘Little Bit Of Truth’ being two of their slowest songs prior to the album’s release. ‘Sinners Never Sleep’ was the frustrated teenagers having one final tantrum before finding their feet in a more radio-rock stance, but we’ll never forget how good an album it was.
Best tracks: Bite My Tongue / Reckless / Loverboy
Released: January 11th 2010
Sure, the nostalgia in us wants to pick ‘Take Off Your Colours’, but the realist in us knows that ‘Hold Me Down’ was the more consistent record of the two (but we still love you anyway, ‘TOYC’). This was the record where the five-piece took the hooks and attitude of their first album and ramped it up to eleven, and still to this day boasts some of their best material.
The ferocious ending to ‘The Consequence’ never fails to impress, while hit cuts like ‘Underdog’, ‘Stay With Me’ and ‘Liquid Confidence (Nothing To Lose)’ rarely lose their punch. Even besides the singles, tracks like ‘Hard To Swallow’ and the fabulously-titled ‘There’s No Such Thing As Accidental Infidelity’ (featuring a great performance from former Kids In Glass Houses frontman Aled Phillips) are buzzing with energy and killer hooks. ‘Hold Me Down’ is certainly one of YMAS’s best efforts.
Best tracks: Stay With Me / Underdog / Liquid Confidence
Released: January 27th 2014
By the time ‘Cavalier Youth’ came out, YMAS were no longer yearning for pop-punk licks, nor were they willing to give much more time to seeking a heavier route. Instead, they landed on a radio-rock sound that, while less energetic than their younger selves, seemed to suit them no end. ‘Lived A Lie’ was picked up by a host of major radio stations and even got featured on FIFA 14 too.
As a record, ‘Cavalier Youth’ played to the ‘radio-rock’ sound but really pulled it off – with tracks like ‘Fresh Start Fever’, ‘Cold Night’, ‘Room To Breathe’ and ‘Love Me Like You Used To’ drawing in the rashness of previous releases, while retaining that signature big singalong chorus they do so well. There’s even the lovely little two-minute love song, ‘Be Who You Are’, which is just heart-meltingly sweet. It’s accessible, it’s entertaining, it’s one of their best.
Best tracks: Lived A Lie / Fresh Start Fever / Cold Night