Forget everything you know about You Me at Six. Okay, almost everything. There's still five of them, the same that have made all the previous albums. They still call Surrey home in merry old England. With VI, however, you're bearing witness to a widescreen pop rebirth – a leap of faith from a band looking to redefine and reinvent. Finding more in common with Maroon 5 than Mayday Parade, VI may come as a shock to old-school fans – but, as the band will helpfully point out, those fans have well and truly had their moment.
“For us, there were no rules when we were writing this album,” says Chris Miller, one of the band's two guitarists. “Without wanting to sound selfish, we were truly just writing songs for ourselves. We didn't want to put any limits or restraints on what we were doing. This was about expanding our craft as songwriters, as well as just taking time to enjoy the moment.” When asked if any sort of fan backlash was anticipated, Miller makes a point of looking at the broader climate in which their music is being released.
“We're in the Spotify era,” he says. “We're all streaming everything, and rappers are collaborating with everyone under the sun. It all feels very free now. I don't think that bands should be worrying or self-conscious about what they're putting out there. Right now, you should just be doing what feels natural – and as far as we're concerned, this is it.”
VI arrives some 18 months after the You Me at Six’s previous album, 2017's Night People. It's a relatively quick turnaround for the band, who had previously held gaps of three years apiece between albums. According to Miller, it was simply a matter of striking while the proverbial iron was hot. “The minute Night People was out, we were back in the studio writing new songs,” he says. “We saw the effect of what having such a long break can have on a band, and in retrospect it didn't make sense. I mean, [2014 album] Cavalier Youth went to number one in the UK – why on earth didn't we capitalise on that? We all knew that we didn't want that to happen to us again.”
It's worth noting that the last time YMA6 fans saw them in action live, it was under very different circumstances. Rather than the slick and bombastic pop of VI, the band were throwing it back in a massive way by playing their 2008 debut, Take Off Your Colours, in its entirety to commemorate its tenth anniversary. Made at a time when the band were still in their teens, it's gone on to be one of the fore-bearers of British pop-punk – an entire world away from where the band find themselves now. “It's amazing to me how valued that record is, so far removed,” says Miller.
“I guess the big thing for us is that we've only just now had a chance to look back. For us, it's always been a matter of going onto the next one – the next song, next album, next tour. We've been so busy that we're only really now finding the time to appreciate that time in our lives for what it was. Relearning the songs and refreshing my memory, it hit me just how excited we all were. I mean, why wouldn't we be? We were 15, 16 years old, in the studio for the first time and writing songs we thought sounded cool. The record is really a time capsule for us.”
With their nostalgia quota filled, the band now looks ahead to playing VI live. Miller notes that they’ve already played some of the key singles live, including ‘3AM’ (sadly not a Matchbox Twenty cover) and ‘Fast Forward’.
“It's always weird when you're playing a new one outside of the rehearsal room for the first time,” he says. “No-one knows the song apart from you, and even you are a little sketchy on how it will go down. Once you're doing it, though, it becomes so much fun – and I can't wait to get them all out there as soon as we can.”
VI is out now via Underdog Records/Cooking Vinyl Australia.