Six albums in and UK rock outfit You Me At Six have still managed to notch up a couple of firsts with their latest outing. Released on October 5, VI marks not only the first record to be released via their own label, Underdog Records (in partnership with AWAL), but also the band’s first step into the world of production. Recorded at Vada Studios, VI was co-produced by the band with acclaimed producer Dan Austin, who has worked with the likes of Biffy Clyro, Pixies, Massive Attack and many others. The resulting record is one that sees the band expand their sonic range further than ever before, combining rock, pop and electronica and spanning a variety of genres. To find out more, PSNEurope caught up with the band’s drummer Dan Flint, who took a leading role behind the desk, to find out how they “made a beast”…
How different was the process compared to previous records you’ve made?
This process was extremely different. We worked with a producer who was very hands-on. In the studio manning the ship from 9am to sometimes 2/3am. He lived and breathed it, as we all did. The studio was also residential, so at any point throughout the day there was something going on. The rule book was thrown out. We had a creative space for us to explore any idea possible and it made the whole process very exciting.
How hands-on were you personally during the recording and mixing process?
We worked very closely with Dan to make sure every sound was absolutely spot on. I found myself spending a lot of time on my own laptop finding loops, instruments and a lot of auxiliary parts to either bulk moments or even give new colour to certain parts of the songs.
For the mixing, we all got our heads together and made some choices, then I built a close relationship with (mix engineer) Cenzo Townsend, and I would call him up so he could really understand our collective thought on the song. Sometimes it’s not just about a part coming up or down in volume but actually a certain feeling or vibe you’re missing. Having a real conversion about it gets this across a lot easier than just sending someone an email of mix notes.
How collaborative was the production process with Dan Austin?
The songs were written but it was all a collaboration in terms of sounds and reaching the end goal. We had a clear vision that Dan understood and that he was also able to put his own stamp on it. Together we feel we have made a beast. We like similar styles of music and enjoy similar styles of recording too, so it worked really well. We can’t wait to do it again.
What did he bring to the record?
Passion, excitement, hard work and the ability to make some of the most beautiful sonics you’ve ever heard. He’s a genius.
What is your approach to working in the studio?
We’ve really got into music production ourselves, as I have a studio in my house where we demo new tracks. This has lead us to enjoy building tracks from the ground up, even the drums. There was rarely a song I played from start to finish – it was all about making loops and exciting parts out of whatever we could record.
We took this approach to each song – we wouldn’t dwell too long on one part or instrument. As soon as someone had an exciting idea, we tried it, then moved on. We like to attack each song one-by-one. We don’t move on until we have 50-60 per cent of the track done. We can then either go back and do vocals or extra parts on a previous track or start something new.
Some headspace away from a recording can give you real clarity when you go back to it… but you have to get a good chunk of it down to start with so you’re not left with too many unfinished songs.
Tell us about the studio and the gear that you used – monitors, mixing desk, mics etc.
We made the record at Vada Studios. They have an amazing SSL desk. Both us and our producer Dan love the Adam A7x monitors. We had a lot of Telefunken mics and mainly used the U47 on vocals. We used the C-12 as an overhead for drums which was also particularly nice.
Do you see yourselves co-producing/fully producing all future records?
Without a doubt.
What were the biggest challenges you faced making this record from a technical standpoint?
It was pretty smooth sailing the whole way through. We had demoed a lot to refine the songs and Dan made it very easy for us to bring our ideas to life with his skills.
What were your sonic influences for this record?
We listen to a lot of different types of music and there was never really a particular record, but sonically we did reference The Weeknd a lot. The low-end on his records from a production value is incredible and we also like the textures in his vocals.
What is your studio background? Have you always been interested in mixing, recording etc?
From studying music at college I’ve always had an interest in recording. Since around the age of 14 or 15 I’ve always learned different DAWs and been able to record in my house at some capacity. It’s only recently that that has taken a real step up and I can see it coming into my life more and more as the years go on.
It’s certainly something that I really enjoy and it massively benefits us in the band. We have developed a way of building exactly what we hear in our heads, or at least we can give a great representation of what we want, and then we can have someone like Dan Austin come in and smash it out the park… Rather than trying to rely on a producer to always be on the same page as you.