A little more than one year after the release of the group's debut album, Take Off Your Colours - a collection that propelled its creators into the UK Top 30 (number 25) and onto concert stages the world over - England's You Me At Six return with Hold Me Down, their second full-length LP.
"We're absolutely thrilled with the music we've recorded," says Josh Franceschi, the band's frontman. "We wanted to strike while the iron was hot. Obviously over the past 18 months or so we've had some momentum behind us, and we wanted to capitalize on that, to build on it. A lot of bands take two years off [between albums], but what the hell is the use of that?"
The momentum of which Franceschi speaks rose to a boil with the release of Take Off Your Colours, unveiled to the public in the autumn of 2008. But even prior to the release of this debut set, these Surrey boys had already begun to make waves. The group had supported Angels And Airwaves (the outfit formed by Blink 182 mainman Tom DeLonge) at London's now demolished Astoria theatre. Without a debut album to their name, the young group also toured with Charlie Simpson's Fightstar and American pop-punkers New Found Glory, to name but two.
Once Take Off Your Colours was finally released its creators slid further through the gears. First of all, they were able to sell-out Westminster's 2,000 capacity Astoria theatre under their own steam. As if to prove this was no fluke, they then bettered this achievement with a sold-out headline performance at the 3,200 capacity Roundhouse in London's famous Camden Town. YMAS also toured Europe under the wing of American teen idols Fall Out Boy and, separately, Paramore. In the United Kingdom YMAS appeared as part of the Download, T In The Park and Give It A Name Festivals; while in the United States and Canada the quintet toured as part of the Vans Warped Tour package and subsequently as one of the five groups that made up Alternative Press magazine's AP Fall Ball Tour.
You Me At Six have also been announced as special guests on Paramore's European winter arena tour, which will visit such venues as the world famous Wembley Arena, among others.
"It really has been an amazing time," says Franceschi. "One minute we're practicing in our rehearsal place in Leatherhead, and the next minute we're onstage in Salt Lake City or somewhere. But nothing will sharpen a band up more than touring and working together. You can practice all you like, but there's no substitute for real experienceeeÃ? of getting your hands dirty."
Recorded before the clocks called time on British Summer Time - and, as with its predecessor, produced by John Mitchell and Matt O'Grady - Hold Me Down is the sound of a band who are proud to have learned their trade the old-fashioned way - with long haul travel in diesel vans and overcrowded buses; cheap food eaten at lonely hours and two-or-three-to-a-room in budget motels on the outskirts of sketchy cities. The band's willingness to put in a shift shouldn't be a surprise. Even in their earliest incarnation the members of You Me At Six - at the time aged no more than 15 - were willing to transport themselves and their instruments halfway across the UK on Happy Shopper buses and Network Rail in order to play a show they'd arranged with someone on MySpace.
But at some point between the recording of their first album and the release of their second, You Me At Six have gone from a hobby to vocation. And it shows.
"I know I'm expected to say this, but I can't believe how strong Hold Me Down is," says Franceschi. How so? "The fact that we play so much better now is obviously a result of the sheer amount of touring we've done. Such a heavy workload means that we've got to know each other really well, which infuses the music. If you're all sharing the lounge of a tour bus on the kind of drives that go on all night - well, let's say that you make friends with those people, or you get out. And I mean <
> friends. When you're out in the American Midwest for weeks on end, or in a van riding through the Canadian Rockies, there's nowhere you can escape to."
Both in terms of musical finesse and lyrical moxie, Hold Me Down is a stellar stride forward for You Me At Six. The words that can be seen shining back from songs such as Underdog - the verse to which warns of a feeling "that comes and goes like the strength in your bones", but "to put your mind at rest/I'll never let the two of us be friends." Or in Contagious Chemistry where Josh Franceschi warns his "Dearest Enemy," to, please, never "smother me/I swear that I need some room to breathe/ what with you all up, down and all over me/you're not a name just a face/it's contagious."
To go with such foreboding and resolute sentiments, Hold Me Down is also fortified by the marriage of both the blueprints of classic songwriting - any of these 12 compositions could be distilled into its purest form of one acoustic guitar and one singing voice - with a band who whip and lash like a bed full of firecrackers. Noisy when they choose to be, tender when the occasion demands, usually infectious, You Me At Six are a surplus of energy and motion. Their music is a collection of songs in the key of life.
"Bands these days come and go so quickly," says Josh Franceschi. "It's terrifying. But we don't want to be like that. We want to last, and I believe that we will last, and that we have what it takes. I think listeners will be surprised by Hold Me Down. Some of the kinds of preconceptions some people have about what we're really about are wide off the mark, and I'm looking forward to putting that right. How are we going to do that? We're going to do it by working hard: by getting into people's faces and not going away."