A CONVERSATION WITH DAN FLINT OF YOU ME AT SIX
You Me At Six are an English rock band from Surrey. Formed in 2004, the group achieved success in 2008 with the release of their debut album Take Of Your Colours. Their second album Hold Me Down released in 2010, debuted at number 5 in the UK, while their third album released in 2011, Sinners Never Sleep peaked at number 3 was certified Gold, and spawned the band’s fifth top 50 single. ”Cavalier Youth”.
You Me at Six has toured extensively, with appearances on major festivals such as Warped and Soundwave and have toured with 30 Seconds to Mars, Paramore, Fall Out Boy and All Time Low. The band won the award for Best British Band at the Kerrang Awards in 2011. Ahead of their headlining appearances at the legendary UK festivals Reading/Leeds I had the opportunity to have a discussion with drummer Dan Flint about both his and the band’s musical journey to date.
Despite the fact that the band are into their tenth year I was curious if they personally still experienced a degree of anxiety and nerves as particular situations arose in their ongoing career. I referenced the upcoming headlining festival dates at Reading and Leeds and asked Dan if they would approach it as just another gig or if instead they would experience some trepidation and nerves ahead of those particular shows. ”Yes, Reading is the festival that is closest to our homes. So, we’re always very excited to play that festival. We’ve done it so many times now it feels like a bit of a homecoming festival for us. It’s really, always exciting. There’s always a lot of family and friends there. It’s always a very hectic day but it’s always by far the most exciting. We get the butterflies just before going on stage. It’s going to be an incredible experience you know. We’ve sort of gone up through different stages. So, we’ve done the main stage. There’s definitely a lot of butterflies just before you go on before that but yes, you have to put out a proper show on really. You play those night-time slots, it’s definitely exciting because we spend a lot of time thinking about production and putting on a real show when we have our headline gigs. So yes to be able to do that at a festival is going to be really really really fun. I can’t wait for it.”
As I had referenced earlier, the band were now into their tenth year of their career, was it just another year or would the band be celebrating that occasion by doing something particularly special?. Dan told me that on the day that had marked their anniversary that the band had met up and had a celebratory drink. They had also celebrated Josh’s birthday the day before my interview in a similar fashion. ”It’s a band of brothers so we definitely take our time at certain moments and spend sort of milestones in our careers to really reflect on how far we’ve all come” Dan spoke specifically regarding his very first You Me At Six live show in the London Underworld in 2007. ” I remember what I was wearing and everything. I remember the whole day, the excitement, the nerves, everything about it. I remember it all…” There are many particular highs over the band’s musical career. Dan referenced the band’s headlining shows at Wembley Arena,and the O2. Standout festival highlights included Reading. He also stated that the tour travelling which had taken the band to many countries including Japan, Malaysia, Asia and all across America and Australia
has also proved to be a great experience. Just being able to play shows in all those countries around the world has taken You Me At Six a considerably long way since their inception back in Surrey.
I am often curious as to what had proved early musical inspiration to existing professional musicians. What had basically set the tone, tugged at the heartstrings or planted the seeds of curiosity in someone’s head. What sources had put a particular idea of being a musician or proved attractive as a career option. In Dan’s case it was actually when he started playing drums at the age of 12. A drama teacher he recalled taught him that playing a musical instrument should be a fun experience. That it shouldn’t be all “regimented and boring”. Dan elaborated on the experience that working with that teacher had actually taught him ” It’s like everything in life you start to really find your passion for it and then you start to want to learn yourself and that’s when the progress started to really happen and as you start to get good at the instrument you’re playing. ”Once then that he started playing in a band and writing music with others his focus shifted direction from being just on himself to actually creating music as a unit or band. Dan describes it that as an ongoing learning process and he was still learning now and still hungry to keep learning so he thought it’s always important to involve everyone.
Prior to the release of latest album Night People the band’s last album had hit the top spot on the UK album charts. Having actually hit those heights I wondered if that had brought additional pressure for the band when it came to recording a follow up. Dan explained that as the band were ambitious naturally that in itself created its own pressure. ”We just wanted to produce something that was better than we’ve ever done before or more exciting or become better songwriters or become better performers and better players. That’s always the ambition really.”
He stated that as the band have a wide range of diverse influences and that the genre barrier has been broken down in music slightly so the band have not become scared about trying new things to try and challenge themselves creatively. The recent album was more positive than previous releases as the band had matured and tended to view things differently as they were all now in “happy places”.
A common trend in music these days was collaborations with other artists. You Me At Six had previously recorded a track with Oli Sykes, I asked Dan if that would remain as a one-off recording or was the idea of doing something with another artist something that they would also be keen to explore again in the future. ”We talk about this every now and then and it’s one of those things that we wouldn’t try and force anything, we wouldn’t try and go. We would just go and do anything for the sake of it.” He stated that if it came around naturally with somebody that they knew then it may be possible. As the band had some hip hop influences Dan referenced a guy called Logic who came from that particular musical field as someone that he would personally be keen to create some music with.
The life of a professional touring musician is a very intense one. Dan told me that outside his YMAS work, he and his fellow band members liked to travel with their respective partners. He liked to explore nature as the band still lived in the area of the band’s origins in Surrey. He enjoyed attending sporting events but overall, ”It’s just trying to take a step back from that really just to relax.”
Bass and drums are said to be the engine room of a band’s sound. The two elements need to be in sync and in harmony. There needs to be a cohesion and unification. As Dan played drums I decided to deviate from the much asked question as to who his drumming influences/inspirations were. Instead I decided to challenge him to think outside the box and share with me his views on who his favourite bassists actually were. My question appeared to have him momentarily stumped before he responded, ”That’s a hard question to answer. I’m not really too sure, bass players. I’ve never really thought about that but obviously Flea, from the Chili Peppers is a great guy.” Dan further contemplated my question before returning to his fellow band mate Matt whom he felt had really progressed in his own style of playing.
The band had headlined Wembley and the Reading Festival in addition to having achieved a number 1 album. I was curious as to how he personally dealt with fame and all the aspects that went with it. Dan stated that it generally had not presented any particular difficulties or issues for him. If they are recognized in the street they are flattered and they respect that. The band are more actually worried themselves by the weight of artistic pressure that they themselves feel and the pressure to build on the level of success that they have already achieved. They contemplate perhaps losing that, or that they will not live up to the fans expectations of them. Generally, though they regard their level of success and fame as being a very positive thing.
Regarding the ever changing music industry Dan felt that it was more difficult to earn a living in it these days. ”You have to be really careful to not become complacent. That’s the thing, you have to be so on your game the whole time. You have to keep feeding people with so much content 24-hours a day. That’s the society that we sort of live in now. So, it has become difficult but it’s an exciting place to be as well you know. With all this technology, you can’t dwell on the past, oh no, God back in my day or anything like that. You have to see it as an exciting thing and use those tools to your best ability.” He felt that there was an element of their art being cheapened by it not generating the appropriate income for the musicians. However, at the same time he recognized that it was just part of the changing and evolving process of the career choice that he and the other members of You Me At Six had made. ”You have to just understand that that’s the way that the world is spinning, that’s the way that the world is moving so you’ve just got to suck it up and try and keep positive and like I said use it to your best ability really, use it to your best advantage.”
Wrapping our conversation up I concluded by asking who would Dan himself actually like to interview. I generally find by flipping this around and asking my interviewee this it creates initially a silence before revealing some quite unexpected and unusual responses. Dan delved into the world of movies with his reply. He stated Leonardo Di Caprio would be his choice. Dan was a fan of his work and also said that outside music that he felt it would be good instead of meeting musicians to meet someone from another artistic career. ”So that would be an exciting thing to do and it’s often, that’s another way that we get away from music is watching movies. I love going to the cinema as well so a really big movie fan and he’s one of my favourites so yes that would be cool. De Caprio for sure. I brought the interview to a conclusion by wishing him all the best for the forthcoming Reading/Leeds shows.