We caught up with YMA6 bassist Matt Barnes to find out why the band nearly missed their first headline show at Download, what track he’s looking forward to playing on the upcoming Take Off Your Colours tour and how they nailed that ‘3AM’ video dance routine.
You headlined the Zippo Encore Stage on the Friday at Download. What was that performance like for you?
It’s the second time we’ve done that slot, so we sort of came into it thinking that we knew what was going to happen and actually this time around it was a much better gig. The first time we did it we clashed with Metallica playing ‘The Black Album’ on the Main Stage. None of us even wanted to play [laughs]. We were all like, ‘well, if we finish early maybe we can get over and catch the last couple of songs’.
Always enjoy playing Download as it’s such a friendly environment and friendly atmosphere. Some other festivals up and down the country are just a little bit mismatched; when you have loads and loads of different genres – you’ve got the grime artists, a pop artist, a metal artist – sometimes the crowd is a little bit disjointed.
The thing about Download is that when you look out you see such a friendly environment and everyone is getting on – there’s no egos, no one’s looking down on each other – it’s a really nice festival to come and play.
What bands did you catch at Download?
We actually didn’t as we had something ridiculous like 16 interviews to do in the day. I wanted to go and watch Hell Is For Heroes play, because they’re probably one of my favourite bands of all time. ‘The Neon Handshake’ probably shapes the way I think about music…We saw a little bit of Avenged as we were coming back from stage and that was pretty epic. I watched a bit of the two part Sky Arts thing which was cool.
You’re releasing your new album VI on 5th October. What can fans expect from the album?
I’d say that we are still You Me At Six. When you’ve got Josh’s voice on top of anything we are going to be You Me At Six, but we don’t have any songs like ‘Bite My Tongue’, we don’t have any heavy songs. We’re probably never going to be as heavy as we used to be, but don’t get me wrong we haven’t just lost all of the guitars and replaced everything with synthesizers or something mad.
Our music tastes have changed so much over the years and when we were releasing albums like ‘Sinners Never Sleep’ that was the sort of music we were listening to. It’s a general progression I think of getting older: me and Dan are both 29 and Josh is now 28…I think your music tastes do change when you get older and especially now with Spotify where you can listen to any genre. I don’t know why I’m saying this, because it’s a classic [puts on old man voice] “it’s us but a bit more grown up” [laughs].
What were you listening whilst you were recording?
A crazy eclectic mix. People were always taking over the speaker and it could literally go from rock to country to pop to hip hop to rap to classical. We’ve only recently started listening to absolutely every genre; I think the only genre we don’t listen to is opera music as we still can’t really wrap our head around that.
We’ve got a song called ‘I O U’ and that essentially stemmed from when we were writing and we were listening to some hip hop and we thought, ‘how can we have a hip hop song without it being hip hop and still have a You Me At Six, Red Hot Chilli Peppers vibe to it?’…Some of the songs that made the record I don’t think we really thought would make the record.
You had writing sessions for the album with Eg White (Adele, Linkin Park) and former Athlete frontman Joel Pott. Why did you decide to work with other writers again? What did they add to the album?
They added quite a lot, actually. We did one or two songs on ‘Night People’ with different people and we were very hesitant at first… When we came in we actually learnt something; I don’t think you can really progress as musician or anything in an industry if you’re not paying attention to what’s going on around you, you can always learn new things, you will never have learnt it all.
Our management on this record were trying to get some writers in and Eg White’s name was being thrown around and he’s been in a room with Adele and crazy big artists. We’re obviously not going to turn down learning something from someone who’s written number one records.
Joel Pott used to be in Athlete and they’re a great band and it almost like hanging with a mate as we literally just pick up the guitar and have a little jam – he’s got a studio in Brockley in London so it’s not even too far away.
It’s an interesting one as we were so against it for years and years and I don’t really know why we were against it, like ‘it’s our baby, it’s our thing’. Music is an art form, everyone should get together and it’s worked quite nicely.
For this album you changed to new management and your own new label via AWAL/Kobalt. Why was it important for you to make the change?
It’s our third or fourth management company and going through them I think we’ve finally found a home. On ‘Night People’ we had internal struggles, a week after we released the record we didn’t have a management, we weren’t really getting on with our label – it was all sort of breaking down internally.
From a fan perspective you never really see what’s going on, you just look at the band and go, ‘what’s going on? Why are they doing that?’ Maybe the reason ‘Night People’ was more under the cover was because no one was really managing our band and the label didn’t spend any money on our band. We came to the end of it and went, ‘we need to finally find out management home’ and we did with Prolifica.
We also thought, ‘now we need to find a label again’. I hate major labels, everyone’s got an ego and you get put on a roster with a certain amount of people, and if one song doesn’t do as well as the last song they won’t want to put as much money into the next song. We thought we want to go back to releasing it ourselves like we did with ‘Take Off Your Colours’ 10 years ago.
We’re putting it [‘VI’] out on our own and we’re going to make our own team around us and see how it goes. Essentially, ‘f**k the man’ as it’s crazy unless you’re Justin Bieber, Kanye West or Maroon 5 no one gives a s**t really. We thought bypass all of the morons and just do it ourselves – I’m really looking forward to it.
Plus, now we can sign other bands, put other band’s records out and that’s something we’d like to do – help younger bands, and even give them advice. To have some sort of platform for up and coming bands, because the industry is so different to how it was 10 years ago.
You started out when you were really young and you’ve been together now for about 14 years. What advice would you give new bands?
It’s a tough one, we’ve been asked this question over the years and it gets different every single time. I remember being asked 8-10 years ago and all we would say was, ‘get out there and play gigs at your local venues’. That’s now not how you do it, you can’t go and play loads of gigs at your local venues, because not many people are going to these gigs anymore, and there’s nowhere to play.
These days you’ve literally just got to write music, you’ve got to get your laptop out. All you need now is a keyboard, a digital workstation and a microphone and you can bang out some demos and say, ‘this is the band, this is what we want to sound like’. Upload them to anywhere you can get them on, like YouTube, try to get your word out there that way. It is hard because there’s so many people doing this on laptops and it’s quite flooded with new bands and new songs. It’s weird now with Spotify, but there’s a lot more people on their phones ready to listen to music which is a positive.
You’re heading out on a 10th anniversary tour to celebrate the release of your debut album, ‘Take Off Your Colours’. What one song are you looking forward to playing live?
None of them? Nah, I’m joking [laughs]. Probably not ‘Save It For The Bedroom’ because we still play that live all the time and it’s so fast and it’s just like, ‘this is quick, why did we record it so quick?’ I’m quite excited to play ‘Tigers And Sharks’, that’s our slow one off that record; we’ve played it before, f**ked with the structure a bit and changed it up, made it more like a jam song – I’m really looking forward to playing that.
I’m looking forward to playing them all, to be fair. There’s one song on the record called ‘Call That A Comeback’, which we’ve never played live. We wrote and recorded it 10 years ago and then I’ve never ever played that riff ever again, so we’re going to have to get in a room and relearn that song. Josh probably won’t even remember any of the lyrics, it’ll be quite funny, we need to start practising for that.
You’re also doing a string of sold out headline shows. What track from the new album are you looking forward to playing live?
We’re not sure what songs we’re going to play off the new record yet. We’re going to see what everyone thinks of it and then see what’s the favourite or stand up tune and go from there. One of my favourite tunes on the record is the second song, which is ‘Straight To My Head’ so maybe we’ll play that one if I get my way.
You covered Drake’s ‘Don’t Matter To Me’ during a Radio 1 session. Would you ever play it live?
We actually talked about that the other day, because Josh actually wants to be Drake and loves Drake. He was like, ‘maybe we should play it live?’ I did enjoy playing it. We did another cover of James Bay ‘Wild Love’ the other day as well and that sounded pretty cool. We used to play a cover of ‘Poker Face’ on Live Lounge probably eight or nine years ago and we used to play that all the time, but we haven’t played a cover since then so maybe we should bust one back out.
The ‘3am’ video features an amazing synchronised dance routine. Are you naturally a good dancer? How long did it take you to learn it?
None of us are naturally good dancers, no one knows how to move. When we turned up, it was rehearsal dance studio, so we’re walking through the front door and I think most of us were hungover and it was just like, ‘what the hell are we doing?’ Coming in to people who looked like they’re actually dancers, like ‘oh my god, where are we?’
When it started off Dan and Chris especially had faces like slapped ar**s, honestly they did not want to be in the room. They were stressing out, Dan just before we started said ‘I don’t want to f**king do it’. 10 minutes later he had the world’s biggest smile on his face and he was like, ‘this is actually really fun’.
We all had quite a good time during that day. We weren’t great at it, we didn’t do one take where we were completely in time and everyone did everything at the same time. Even in the video, if you slow it down, there’s still people doing it not in time, or doing it slightly wrong so it’s pretty funny.We all like having a laugh so when we read it, it was like ‘dance routine? That’s weird but it does sound f**king hilarious’…It was funny, don’t know if we’ll do it again.
‘VI’ is released on Underdog Records on Friday 5th October 2018. Visit Live Nation to buy tickets for the Take Off Your Colours tour.
Get ready to ‘Take On The World’ when Download Festival returns on 14-16 June 2019. \m/