Punk Interviews

Don Broco: An Interview From The Archive

The Bedford lads are playing 'one big show' this Summer at 2000 Trees Festival. Revisit when Chlo Spinks caught up with them at the Nos Alive Festival in 2022....

As we wait for news on Don Broco’s next release, the festival favourites have just announced they’ll be headlining the Saturday at Gloucestershire’s 2000 Trees Festival in July. Whilst we wait, let’s revisit the time Chlo Spinks caught up with them in sunny Portugal…

In 2022 Don Broco were taking the festival circuit by storm, wreaking havoc, starting pits, and imploring fans to rip off their shirts and swing them over their heads. We managed to intercept their whirlwind, catching up with frontman Rob Damiani and drummer Matt Donnelly in Portugal to ask about everything from politics in music to their equivalent of a Linkin Park/Jay-Z collaboration….

Don Broco. Pic by Fraser Taylor.

Hey, it’s great to see you guys! How are you doing?

Rob: Festival season feels like a blur right now!

Matt: Pre-pandemic feels like another life… But we are really excited for our last two festivals of the Summer- can’t wait to end on a bang!

The band’s musical trajectory has been really interesting- starting from funkier bass-focused tracks to more focus on breakdowns. What was inspiring you then and what is inspiring you now?

Rob: I’d say back then we never really thought about anything inspiration-wise.

Matt: You don’t want to overthink it.

Rob: Early days we were quite inspired by the alternative British Rock Scene. You end up feeding off the bands you’re playing with. We probably picked up an Indie Brit Rock vibe mixed in with the twiggly guitar sound.

Matt: The funkier stuff was definitely from Incubus who we have that funk influence. We all loved Incubus growing up so that was definitely in there. But as we have progressed and the sounds got heavier it has been because of touring- our main avenue of growth has been live. We were having more fun with heavier songs and that translated to a live environment, so well that we started to lean into it. We have always loved different types of music, but you can’t beat a heavy drop in a packed room.

So, when you’re putting together a live show is your priority in having a good time or maybe something else?

Rob: I mean, you try and do everything really. You wanna take people on a bit of a journey during a show. You don’t want to do the same thing for every show- we try to shake it up like we do within our albums, so we are lucky in the sense that we have songs from quite a wide musical spectrum within the rock sound so people think “oh, this is something a little bit different”.

It’s about keeping the energy up. We always put ourselves in the fan’s position. You want to see the songs you know, the big bangers, and start out hyped, but also it’s good to pace yourself and include slower emotional moments. You work it out after a couple of runs of the set.

Matt: It’s the flow- the flow of the set and having a beginning, middle, and end.

Like a fun communal journey!

Matt: Yeah, a fun journey. Like Rob said, we are always thinking about it from a fan’s point of view. I get it, the bands who have been around for a long time saying they’re bored of the hits and playing a long set of B-sides, but you’ll never catch us doing that. We don’t find that rewarding because for us it’s all about the energy you’re getting back.

Rob: Occasionally there are songs we will play that we don’t play much that we take a risk on that surprise us. A song that we didn’t play much because it’s that kind of funkier sound, ‘Keep On Pushing’, was one of our favourites off of our second album ‘Automatic’. We threw it in the set once in Spain, it was either Barcelona or Madrid, and it went off.

It was one of the most fun tunes to play ever because we didn’t expect anything and the crowd was bopping along- it was a really cool feeling. We haven’t played it since, though, left it on a high.

Matt: It’s special, it’s Madrid’s song now.

Looking again at your musical trajectory, it feels like you have been getting more outwardly political in your music. You recently released ‘Fingernails’ which looks at existing in an intense political climate. What is the place of politics in music and how does that intersect with Don Broco?

Rob: Good question… I think everything has a place in music. Music can be a conduit for any idea, that is what’s so great about it. As a music consumer, I don’t really care what they’re singing about as long as I like the song, but sometimes political songs can get you to look into a topic which is a powerful thing.

Over the last few years, it feels like the world is just falling apart, I found it very hard not to write about things like that, especially since the music was coming from primal feelings- heavy from a musical sense but heavy from an emotional sense as well. As we’ve written more albums you end up churning the same ground, but I try not to. So if I’ve written about a certain feeling or idea I’ll try and at least take a new angle. It’ll be something we will always tap into when it feels right. 

So approaching music less like a politically charged punk band but more holistically?

Rob: Yeah, the music has to speak to me in the right way. Personally, from a creative side of things, I would get bored writing about politics all the time… It would get me down. It’s good to get the anger out but when you’re thinking about it too much I personally feel like you need some levity, you need to celebrate positive things. It’s hard to make politics positive.

Matt: You want music to be your escape, and as a listener, you want that sometimes as well.

Don Broco. Pic by Tom Pullen.

Absolutely. So what’s your next little goal?

Rob: I mean, we always do have goals and dreams but we stopped worrying so much about that. Our song ‘Money Power Fame’ was about that- we kept setting goals and hitting them and it was always about the next one. After a while it felt less fulfilling- there’s unlimited things to keep moving towards. For me it’s just enjoying the moment, enjoying the process. Something we really enjoyed on this latest album, weirdly, was that lockdown allowed us more time. Writing music is always stressful, but that time made it so much more enjoyable. I’d love to continue that vibe- being with your mates, writing music you love, recording it in a fun environment, and once we start touring again being in that moment and just living it! 

Matt: Yeah, rather than worrying about arbitrary things to tick off. It’s part of getting older, it’s part of having more perspective after the past few years. We were worried if we could ever play shows again, you know what I mean? It’s like, what the hell’s going to happen to the world? It’s about having gratitude and that level of context to say, well, the only goal is to enjoy the journey.

Let’s get a little lighter, I’ll stop posing you so many existential questions. If you could interview your favourite artists, what would you ask them?

Rob: Wow, hm… I’d love to know the distinction between what makes an artist stick at one thing- what makes them tick. We have been discussing this, we always get so bored sticking with one thing that between songs and albums we are thinking about what can we do next, what haven’t we done yet. Whilst I love the artists that change it up, I also love artists that just do the same thing over and over again.

If it’s a good sound!

Rob: If it’s a good sound, yeah. So I’d love to know how other artists…

Matt: Maintain creative spark?

Rob: Yeah! Or how they decide to mix up their style. What takes them on that particular path.

Matt: That’s really interesting, to speak to someone like David Bowie who has reinvented themselves so many times. What made you make that decision, what made you think the risk was worth the reward… I mean, it would be interesting to speak to Bowie anyway and hear about his life. It would be cool to have a candid conversation with someone who has been really famous, like Paul Mccartney, and actually just chat about what his life is like. What is the reality of his experience and how has it changed? He’s seen every iteration of the world.

Have you had the chance to chat with anyone like that?

Rob: I’d say the only person we got to really speak to relatively deeply is Mike Shinoda. We were on tour and it was really interesting, talking to him about working with Jay-Z, because that was massive. Linkin Park has to be one of the biggest rock bands in the world, or at least they’re up there.

Matt: I think in the year leading up to the ‘Collision Course’ album they were the two biggest selling artists in America- Jay-Z and Linkin Park- and then they came together.

Rob: It felt like they got even bigger!

Matt: It was perfect and the sounds just melted so well. That’s an interesting point, Linkin Park are such a unique and interesting perspective, people will probably write books on this, being big and seeing the transition from pre-internet to post-internet and how it changed everything. When ‘Hybrid Theory’ came out it was still about CDs and records and now so much has changed…

Rob: Yeah, and Mike was talking about having Jay-Z in the studio. It’s so different when you’re all mates and you’re in the studio, you can mess about and put out stupid ideas, and it’s fine because that’s how you come up with the good stuff. There’s a comfort zone when you’re with your buddies, but suddenly he was masterminding this whole project where you had one of the biggest artists of our generation in the room and you’re asking him (*said meekly*) “yeah… just do that vocal take again?” trying to instruct Jay-Z how to record a vocal. He was saying that was a crazy experience.

What would be the Don Broco equivalent of that?

Matt: If you could cash in one chip you wouldn’t stay in genre, right?

Rob: If it could be any collaboration, if you could just go mad… For me, it would be Eminem. Growing up Eminem was my first love of Oh My God There’s Someone Who’s So Fucking Cool. He took the world by storm, you really felt part of the journey. ‘The Real Slim Shady’ was probably the first album where I properly went to the shops and chose it.

Matt: What year did that come out, guess!

Rob: I have no idea but I was so caught up…

Matt: ‘99! It was ‘99!

Rob: That’ll be the next ‘Collision Course’.

Matt: Broco Eminem, it’s inevitable. I’m sure he’s reading this article right now.

I’ll pop him an email, let’s make it happen! 

Don Broco will be joining a stellar lineup at 2000 Trees Festival in July this year joining Bob Vylan, The Chats, Nova Twins, The Gaslight Anthem, Spanish Love Songs and MORE. 

Get ticket prices and info HERE

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