You don’t have to spend long chatting to You Me At Six frontman Josh Franceschi to see that he and his band have grown far beyond the pop-punk image that has made them famous since their formation twelve years ago.
‘If you want, I’ll pick up the guitar and write you a record in an hour that sounds like [You Me At Six’s debut album] Take Off Your Colours,’ he tells me. ‘But nobody probably wants that, I don’t want to do that.’
Once placed alongside names such as All Time Low and Fall Out Boy, Franceschi now speaks passionately of his dreams of touring with rock bands such as Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters, or Kings of Leon.
‘I’m trying to write a different kind of song now,’ he says. ‘I’m trying to write a song that isn’t the time and place of me being a pop-punk kid, you know, and that doesn’t mean that I don’t have ties and a lot of love for that, but I am who I am and I can’t change that.
‘We can’t be what people want us to be all the time, we can only be who we are and what we want us to be and if people also enjoy that, then great.
‘And if they don’t, then there’s plenty of other bands who are making pop-punk music so they can go and listen to them, and more power to them.’
Speaking backstage ahead of the band’s first Sheffield show since 2010, the 26-year-old vocalist is looking firmly towards the future and a new kind of sound for his band.
It is five years this month since the release of the certified gold album Sinners Never Sleep, and now the band are preparing to bring out a very different album, Night People, the already-unveiled title track of which has been compared in sound to the likes of the Arctic Monkeys or the Black Keys.
‘You can always look back fondly but you have to look forward. The band we were and the songs we were writing when we were 16 or 17, it feels almost like an out-of-body experience when I look at old footage.
‘I can’t believe that’s me and that was what we were doing. Not in a bad way or a good way, I think it’s just the history, it’s what it is.’
Despite a six-year wait to return to the steel city, Franceschi admitted that Sheffield has always been something of a spiritual northern home for the band – due largely to their friendship with the city’s fastest growing band Bring Me The Horizon, who have shared a connection with You Me At Six since the very beginning.
‘The Sykes [Bring Me The Horizon’s vocalist’s] family used to put us up at their house when we couldn’t afford to get a hotels and we were getting the Megabus or trains to shows. So as far as coming up north goes, we’ve grown up surrounded by our friends at Drop Dead and Bring Me The Horizon, and we’ve always had a very full guestlist when we’ve come to this part of the world.’
An 18-month break, something that Franceschi described as ‘unbelievable to say out loud’ after years of non-stop touring, preceded this return tour, and it is something the singer feels was much needed.
‘Life just sort of galloped away, in a sense, so the intention behind the time off was just to regroup. And that we did.’
And judging by the evening’s performance at Sheffield O2 Academy, they are back and sounding as good as ever.
Support came from by VANT, who Franceschi summed up by saying: ‘I think VANT are really fucking good, I like their rawness and their unapologetic rock and roll and I’d much rather be associated with that.’
VANT provided the perfect opening to a tremendous evening that sent everyone home with a smile – something the singer touched on as a highlight of this more intimate tour.
‘They’ve been really good shows, it’s been nice not just to play in a big arena where you’re looking more at a mass. I’ve enjoyed being able to see people’s facial expressions and what the show means to them, and that in turn has been a really good way of injecting good vibes into myself and the other boys on stage.’
The future looks bright for You Me At Six, who head to Europe for a ten-day stint following this tour. Having returned with secret sets at Reading and Leeds Festivals in the summer, Franceschi speaks of big goals for that particular event in years to come.
‘It was a great way to come back, we have a great working relationship with Reading and Leeds – we’ve done it five times. We’re not including this time, properly, because we weren’t on the bill and we want the sixth time we play Reading and Leeds to be the time we headline it!’
Of course, You Me At Six’s biggest moment of 2017 will arrive in January, with the release of the album Night People – which the singer promised fans will hear more of well before the final release date.
So, in three words, how would Franceschi describe his upcoming release? After some thought, and with a smile, simply… ‘already a classic.’