You Me At Six

Rockers You Me at Six have gone from small stages to headlining Wembley. They tell us how the UK’s grassroots venues helped them do it…

Jim Ottewill
  • By Jim Ottewill
  • 26 Jan 2015
  • min read
‘These venues are the reason I believe our band had a chance to go on and develop into what it has become.’

Max from You Me at Six is enthusing about the importance of the UK’s small venues in helping the band get to where they are today. Which is pretty far compared with many British rock outfits. This Surrey group have released four rapturously received albums, including last year’s ace Cavalier Youth while their distinctive brand of thrash, laden with pop hooks will see them embarking on a February arena tour. In the meantime, they play Guildford’s significantly smaller Boiler Room on 30 January as part of Independent Venue Week, a new initiative aimed at celebrating the UK’s smaller stages. We caught up with Max to find out important they were in the career of You Me at Six…

How did you get involved in Independent Venue Week (IVW)?

Our involvement started with someone we work with and myself talking about IVW. I had never actually heard of it before but felt strongly about local music venues getting shut down and wanted to try and give something back to these smaller venues.

We were lucky enough when our band started out that there were lots of different venues you could play as a small band starting up, but in the UK right now it's totally different. It's almost like they don't want musicians to succeed of their own accord, working hard from the ground upwards and developing an organic fan base. I was lucky enough to be introduced to the people at IVW and really felt that the time was right for us to be part of this, especially as in the last few years there has been a lot of small local venues being closed down, venues which our band played and are a big part of our history (for example the Kingston Peel and Guildford Backline). These venues are the reason I believe our band had a chance to go on and develop into what it has become today.

Do you remember the first gig you went to?

Yes I do, the first band I saw was Green Day at Wembley arena in 2004 or ‘05. I walked away that night wanting to have the same impact on people as that show had on me. I was buzzing and had never felt like that before. Somehow seven years later, You Me At Six went on to headline Wembley Arena and sold it out. To this day I still don't know how we ever got to this position, but we’re grateful everyday.

How important has playing live been to your career?

No doubt playing live is the most important part of being a band in our eyes. We come from playing live gigs, converting new audiences to fans and putting on a show that makes people walk away saying ‘we have to see them again'. You shouldn't just be a good band on record, you should also be a good live artist. This takes time playing live gigs, perfecting your craft and practicing. It's okay to suck at the start because you can't be amazing from day one in a band. It's hard work but it's something our band really enjoyed and we benefited from playing lots of local shows at the start.

What’s the most memorable gig you’ve played?

The most memorable gig would still be headlining Wembley Arena at the end of 2012. We had worked from the ground up, playing shows all over the country, from rooms that barely had any people in at the start of our career to seven years later selling out our first arena. It shows if you really want to make it in the music industry, you can do so without the help of going on TV and being recognised that way.

What are your views on the live music industry in general at the moment?

It's upsetting to see a lot of small live venues being shut down as it's how you start as an artist. But right now I think live music is at its most important period. With sales of CDs being at its weakest point ever, musicians have to go out and play live shows to make a living if they want to pursue their dream job. Look at festivals for example. This is a big time of the year for live artists to all come together and play music for people who enjoy listening to music and enjoy live performances. Music brings a lot of people together and that's obvious by the turn outs of festivals such as Reading and Leeds, Glastonbury, BBC Big Weekender, T In The Park and Isle of Wight . It shows that music is a big part of everyday peoples’ lives. It's also a social event and playing live shows seems more important than selling copies of your latest single or album.

What can playing live do for new artists?

As a new artist I think playing live shows is key to the development of what you are trying to create. You can see and feel the response to songs you have created, sometimes good and sometimes bad. So when it comes to writing new material you can nail down sounds that really have connected with an audience from previous songs you have written and adapted.

Which new musical acts are you currently excited by? 

For me 2014 was a great year for music. A lot of artists came out with great records. Artists that have been around for a while and new artists that only have had their first releases. The new acts that I came across last year that got me really excited were bands such as Jungle, Royal Blood, James Bay, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Logic and St Paul and the Broken Bones. There is really a lot of great music out there from all different genres and it's all about finding new artists that excite you.

What’s keeping you busy/what’s next for you?

We are on tour next month across the UK in arenas which starts from the 7-14 February. Then we have a couple of festivals over the summer including Isle of Wight and we will also be touring North America again, before we finish our album cycle. Lots of preparation to make sure we are playing the right material and to make our live show really stand out.

You Me At Six play at the Boiler Room in Guildford on Friday 30 January. 

We're hosting our own event at the Sebright Arms on Wednesday 28 January as part of the week. Find out more details on the night featuring live sets from Prinzhorn Dance School and Tuff Love, plus a DJ set from Richard Norris.