You Me At Six’s Josh Franceschi: “I’ve always hated it when my favourite bands have ended badly. This isn’t like that”

So, who saw that coming? After almost 20 years, You Me At Six are calling it a day, bringing things to a close over the next 18 months, including a final headliner at Slam Dunk. Here, Josh Franceschi tells us the reasons, emotions, and feelings of rightness involved in the decision. “It was almost meant to happen this way...”

You Me At Six’s Josh Franceschi: “I’ve always hated it when my favourite bands have ended badly. This isn’t like that”
Nick Ruskell
Freddie Stisted

When You Me At Six were announced as headliners for Slam Dunk 2024 toward the end of last year, it didn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary. Their relationship with the festival runs deep. They got one of their earliest breaks there, and it was the site of some of their first big victories – like headlining in 2009, when it was held at Leeds University before the event grew into the behemoth it has since become. Festival boss Ben Ray even managed the band at the start, and put out their earliest works. They’ve not played there for a few years, probably their natural turn again. Been a minute, here we are, bingo bango, job’s a good ’un.

What nobody outside a select few knew, though, was that this would be the band’s final festival booking. One of their final bookings, full-stop. In late Janunary, the Weybridge wonders announced that the end was coming. They were powering down, with their home festival as one of the big moments in a final hurrah that’ll last into next year.

It’s rare that a band should last as long as You Me At Six. Rarer still that they should have maintained their good name for that time. And the plan they’ve outlined is something afforded to bands just as rarely: to lay it to rest at their own pace, at a moment of their choosing, still as mates.

“We’re really proud that we’re doing it our way,” says Josh Franceschi from the living room of his Brighton flat. “We would hate for something to be done or to be said or something bad to happen, instead of being happy together and able to draw a line under it and celebrate it properly.”

This isn’t the end. But it is the beginning of the end. Speaking exclusively to Kerrang!, Josh explains why they’re calling time, their plans, and why, as he says, “It just feels like the right time…”

How are you feeling about the decision now that you’ve said it out loud and everyone knows?
“We’re all really comfortable with it. It’s something we’ve been talking about for a couple of years. Pretty early on in our career, we became quite obsessed with the idea of longevity. We were like, ‘How can we create our own luck and create a space for ourselves so we can have a sustainable business – and I hate that word – to be able to travel and see the world and do it for as long as possible?’ We gave ourselves a target of 20 years, and next year is 20 years of the band. We’ve got to a bit of a crossroads in our lives now where we all love what You Me At Six is, what it has given us, and what we’ve been able to give with it, but we also feel like we’ve done everything we wanted.

“We always wanted to go out on our own terms. No-one’s in the dark about what’s happening, and that means we can enjoy it more. If we were to rock up to Slam Dunk, and be like, ‘This was our last gig, see you later,’ drop the mic and walk off… I think we’re better than that. And I want people to remember our band as being their band. We owe them some respect.”

It’s a rare thing that bands get to do it while they’re still in as good a place as you – you aren’t exactly struggling along…
“I know what you mean. We did Ally Pally last year, so people still really love this band and care about it in the same way we do. And it’s because of that that we didn’t want to be dragging it on with our minds elsewhere. There’s other things in our lives that we want to do, and now feels like a good time to do it.

“It’s no secret that I didn’t really want to go into the studio to do [2021 album] SUCKAPUNCH. But things played out, and I saw that the band itself needed the band, if that makes sense. We needed it, and needed purpose, and we needed each other, really. And it went to Number One, which was amazing because we thought those days might have been over. But it was also one of those things where we knew we’d got to a point where we’d achieved everything we wanted to achieve. I’ve hated it when my favourite bands have clearly ended badly, or they stopped doing it because they fucking hate each other. We’re lucky we don’t have that.”

And apart from at the very, very start, it’s been the five of you all the way through…
“We’ve always put the relationship as the most paramount importance. We’re proud that it’s us five, it’s always been us five. We’ve ridden the crest of the good waves, and we’ve also fucking got down in the trenches with each other and battled through really tough times. My biggest fear was always being in a situation where I’d look around onstage and it’s not the other four. If that happened and it dragged us down, I would see that as a failure that we’d allowed ourselves to fucking self-destruct to that point. There’s been a lot of compromise and sacrifice from everybody over the years to make this work. And because we did that to make it work, we’ve managed to maintain relationships and keep that going.”

One of the big farewells will be headlining Slam Dunk. How did that come up?
“There’s a lot of serendipity. The first-ever festival we did was Slam Dunk. And when the conversation about splitting was going on, Ben Ray actually came and offered us to headline. We were like, ‘That should be the last festival we do.’ We’re going to be doing a lot, but Slam Dunk for me is the beginning of the end. It’s like a good place to be the cornerstone of this whole thing.”

It’s fitting, since Slam Dunk was one of the first places to cut You Me At Six a break…
“Yeah. We played it in 2007, and then we went back in 2009 and headlined it. It’s very bizarre, but completely brilliant. It’s been important in our story: the festival, Slam Dunk Records putting out our early stuff, even the fucking Slam Dunk club nights that used to happen at The Cockpit in Leeds. That’s the first place we got recognised – both by fans and people who thought we were shit!”

What was that first time there like, when you were proper newbies?
“It was the first time we’d played with bands we were massive fans of, like Paramore. That show really started our whole career, honestly. Things happened with labels, Ben was able to build a team around us, and we became friends with Paramore on that day. We then ended up playing shows with them, which turned into touring arenas with them, going to America, Australia…

“The week of that show, I was doing my AS level exams, and Ben offered us a show at The Cockpit with Saosin. When we met him, he was The Man to me – he’d got a festival and he had Fall Out Boy headline [in 2006]. We begged him to put us on the bill, properly just kept on at him, and they ended up opening the doors half an hour earlier to fit us on.”

And then in 2009 You Me At Six were headlining the thing…
“Yeah! Ben was managing us, and he thought it would be a real statement to have us headline. It was pretty wild. And it changed the way people looked at us. From about 2007, when we left college to do the band, there was a period where everyone called us ‘Dial-a-support’, because if there was a tour happening in England, You Me At Six were probably doing it – us or Bring Me The Horizon. But that Slam Dunk show put a stop to that, and we were seen as our own thing.”

How did it feel to be doing all this stuff when you were still really young?
“Crazy. I was 21 when we headlined Wembley [in 2012]. How insane is that? When I was 14, 15, I put on my Myspace profile that the band was gonna headline Brixton Academy by the time I was 20. We did it when I was 19. I remember thinking – and not to buy into our own bullshit – ‘Fuck, we’ve really done something here.’ All of our mates’ bands from Guildford and Woking and Kingston all dreamed of doing it, and we actually managed it! I remember that being a fucking big night. It felt important. There was loads of laughter, loads of crying, and everyone being like, ‘This is insane. I can’t believe we’ve just done that.’”

Have you thought about the final shows yet?
“We’ve got a plan to play songs from every single album, and make it a real victory lap. And everyone feels like that. We’ve looked at the setlists from the past two years and gone, ‘Cool – those five can stay, the rest is gonna be stuff we haven’t done for years.’ We want to have 40, 50 songs ready to go so that each night we can constantly mix it up and make it special. As far as the end goes, we want to end it at Wembley.”

What are your plans for what comes after?
“There are things for all five of us that are already taking shape, but the boring answer is that for now we’re just totally engrossed in this and committed to it. We’d be really naive to not already have things on our radar. Some of us want to go travelling, some people want to start families, some people want to move completely out of music, some people want to move even deeper into different areas of music… For some of us, it’s a challenge of what life can look like outside of this thing that has dominated our lives for so long. I think that’s scary, but equally, it’s really, really exciting. But for now, our main focus is to make sure that we put everything into this last 18 months.”

Is it liberating being able to go out and just play music, without having to look further ahead and think about things strategically?
“Yeah, and it’s really nice – again, because we’re so comfortable with this decision. We don’t have to worry about what happens next. It’s all wrapped up in one thing. There’s no game plan. We’re not trying to be savvy, we’re not trying to hold things back, we’re not trying to play moves with promoters or festivals. It’s like, ‘This is what we did, come and be part of it, enjoy it, and let’s celebrate You Me At Six.’”

How do you think you’re going to feel when you walk offstage that final time?
“There will be a lot of sadness, because it’s everything. I’ve spent more of my life being in this band than I haven’t. It’ll be highly emotive, but I know what the plan looks like, and I know where it’s ending. Weirdly, Max [Helyer, guitar] realised over Christmas that the anniversary of the first-ever time we rehearsed is going to be the night we play our last gig. There’s all these little things that just keep popping up like that. It’s almost like it was meant to happen this way.”

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