As one of the few rock bands to top the various “Top” charts in recent years, You Me At Six has been relentlessly writing, recording and touring since first forming in Surrey, England back in 2004. For bassist Matt Barnes, the hard work that is required to maintain a career in the music industry feels a lot less like a job and more of a chance to share incredible, life-changing experiences with his best mates.
“Touring is holiday and studio is just a hang out, so do what you love and never work a day in your life.”
We recently sat down with Barnes to discuss the health of the genre, how their albums were directly impacted by outside musical influences, and the factors that forced the band to consider walking away from it all.
TrunkSpace: You guys are out touring in support of your latest album, “VI,” with stops in the States starting on February 21 in Boston. Do you find you’re still experiencing “firsts” out there on the highways and byways? Does it still feel fresh?
Barnes: I think this is our 14th time touring the U.S. now, so I wouldn’t say it feels fresh. (Laughter) However, now that we know all the good spots and have friends all over the country it is even better, as we know where to go and what to do.
TrunkSpace: A lot of people use writing music as a form of personal therapy – a way to work out whatever demons they have. Does performing have therapeutic benefits as well? Can you get in front of a crowd and come off the stage a different person than as you went on?
Barnes: I would say sometimes if you are having a bit of a bad day it can completely change your mood into a positive mindset. However, sometimes it can be tricky if you are not in the right mindset right before you play to try and get into the vibe. If the show is going really well and the crowd is loving it, there is no better feeling.
TrunkSpace: You Me At Six is one of the few rock bands who performs well on the charts, and yet, outside of the mainstream, rock and all of its sub-genres seem to have very thriving scenes. As one of the few rock bands cracking the mainstream in 2019, what’s it going to take to see the genre as a whole find its footing again?
Barnes: We have always been lucky to cross over into a few different genres. We have always written and played music that we want to play and have been lucky to be acknowledged as a crossover rock band. I also think the genre ‘rock’ never lost its footing, so to speak. Yes, the radio is full of songs that sound the same – (laughter) – but there have and will always be rock fans coming to gigs and loving the scene. Especially in the UK, there are some amazing new rock bands coming up, which is so good to see.
TrunkSpace: Six albums is no easy feat for any artist in this industry. What has been the magic recipe to the longevity of You Me At Six? What has kept you engaged both creatively and personally in the band?
Barnes: We are all still best mates so hanging out and writing music has always been so much fun – it has never felt like a job. Touring is holiday and studio is just a hang out, so do what you love and never work a day in your life.
TrunkSpace: What do you get from writing and performing in You Me At Six that you can’t access from a solo mindset? What are the benefits for you personally in having a group of people fighting the fight alongside of you?
Barnes: Well, you have your best mates to your left and right that you trust with your life!
TrunkSpace: Do albums become a bit like chapters of your life? Like: “These were my ‘VI’ years and those were my ‘Cavalier Youth’ years?”
Barnes: You can hear that we are listening to specific genres at certain points of records, which I find quite interesting. We loved pop punk for our first two albums, then strayed a bit heavier for “Sinners Never Sleep,” then went a bit more pop for “Cavalier Youth.” Then we were listening to a lot of rock and hip hop for “Night People,” and on our latest album “VI,” we listened to so many genres it is an amalgamation of everything we have ever done.
TrunkSpace: You Me At Six has experienced a lot together over the years. After everything you’ve been through and the point of view changes that come with age, do you see the band differently now than you did when it first came together? Does it serve a different purpose for you in 2019 than it did when you came together in 2004?
Barnes: Nope, we still just turn up, play gigs and get pissed. Just these days the gigs are bigger.
TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your musical career thus far; what is the moment that you will carry with you through the rest of your life?
Barnes: We have played the Reading and Leeds festivals quite a few times, but last time we played, it was on the Main Stage and we must have played to 80,000 people. It was a life-changing moment.
TrunkSpace: How have your own experiences – the journey that made you who you are as a person – shaped your musical POV?
Barnes: Over the years we have all been through a lot personally that changed us. There have been points where some of us haven’t wanted to do this anymore for many reasons, be it the label trying to mess with us and screw us out of deals, or family issues – but we have always gotten through it.
TrunkSpace: What do you personally get out of music through writing and performing that you couldn’t get through being a listener alone?
Barnes: Well, you can project thoughts and feelings that can only be expressed in creative ways. It’s a magical thing to have an outlet where people are listening to and feeling what you are writing about and we feel blessed to have the outlet.
“VI” is available now.
You Me At Six tour dates are available here.