Popular UK rock band You Me At Six have just launched their latest album, VI, and celebrated with a launch party at vegan restaurant Temple of Seitan, in Hackney. Vegan Life caught up with Josh Franceschi, the band’s frontman, for his views on veganism, why he decided to make the lifestyle change and how he deals with being vegan on tour.
Veganism and a cruelty-free diet is something that Josh holds close to his heart. He explained his reasons for making the change, having transitioned from pescatarian to vegetarian, before becoming vegan. “I have been following a vegan diet since I made it a New Year’s resolution about two and a half years ago. I went ‘full vegan’ after watching a couple of documentaries, including Cowspiracy, and when I saw that, I realised how unsettling the animal agriculture side of things was.
“Maybe getting a dog, it added that final nail in the coffin.” Franceschi said: “Having a relationship that strong with an animal, it made me question ‘how could I ever be part of something that could remotely interfere with another animal’s wellbeing, in any capacity?’ Morally I just found it uncomfortable, and it’s not really hindered my life whatsoever, it’s only made it better.”
While every individual’s path to veganism is different, Josh admitted that cheese was one of the things that he found hardest to give up, saying: “I don’t know if it’s a myth, but I’ve heard that cheese contains one of the same ingredients as heroin. Now, I don’t know if that’s true, but I know it wasn’t the easiest thing to give up.
“But, I haven’t once looked at a plate of meat and thought ‘ah man, I’d anything for a steak or a chicken curry. I’m almost annoyed that I didn’t live a plant-based diet for my whole life, not just the last few years.”
But, with life on the road as the frontman of a touring band, how does Franceschi deal with finding vegan food in different countries? “I discovered the Happy Cow app and I use it around the world. What helps is that my bandmates are understanding and respectful of my choices, but moreover, their appreciation for it over the last few years has changed.
“When we go out somewhere, they’ll be like ‘we need to go somewhere that’ll facilitate Josh and Matt’ (who’s now vegan too). I think the market has come a long way now too, as venues have realised that more and more touring artists are now vegan, so they’ll be able to supply you with something,” he said.
So, why then did the band opt for a fully-vegan venue to launch their new album? Josh reveals that the idea of a vegan location goes further than launching the new album, VI.
“We wanted to do something which was first and foremost, a launch party. But then I was talking about doing some pop-up food, getting some drink companies involved, and I thought this could be a really cool opportunity to promote a company, a brand, a chain of restaurants where there’s already a personal relationship, and is in my local community,” says Franceschi.
He added: “I think that because a lot of our fans will be attending, and a lot of media attending too, there might even be just one or two people that try the Temple of Seitan food and go ‘sh*t, that was vegan”.
“And if we get one or two attend and go ‘I might give that a go for a little bit’ it would be a really cool thing to coincide with something as narcissistic as a record launch – it will have a bigger and deeper impact.”
Community is something that is integral to Josh and his relationship with veganism. With small, local stores serving the vegan community, people quickly become familiar with fellow vegans in their area. “I think just actually going down to vegan markets and pop-ups is actually a brilliant way of introducing yourself to the movement, because you realise that actually there’s an element of community in there as well,” Franceschi said.
You Me At Six has a global following, and Franceschi says for him, that sharing the lifestyle via social media is the best form of promoting veganism. “People don’t just like your band – they like your lifestyle and they like your fashion and especially, there’s certain ages in our demographic, which to them, You Me At Six, it’s not just a band, it’s a life choice.
“There’s ways of encouraging people or at least making them aware of stuff without being like, ‘I’m vegan, if you’re not, then don’t listen to our band’. This isn’t about a political, radical thing for me. It’s for me, my morals and my health and I think that actually, people seeing positive changes through me channelling that, especially across social media can encourage them to make a change themselves.”
With Franceschi saying that fans approach him on tour to talk about veganism rather than music, it’s clear to see that You Me At Six’s fan-base is welcoming to the lifestyle Josh chooses to lead, they have power to gently change people’s perceptions on what it means to be vegan, and use their popularity as individuals for positive change.
You can find their tour dates and download VI here.