THE DON BROCO BOYS AREN’T AFRAID OF SPANNING GENRES, BUT ROCK IS WHERE THEIR HEARTS LIE.
WORDS: JESSICA BRIDGEMAN.
Don Broco don’t play by the rules. And as they prepare to debut their second full-length, ‘Automatic’, for music press, friends and, well, anyone who’s managed to sneak in to the Red Bull Studio space in South London, their sense of riotousness is contagious. Sure, they’re running late from a clothes fitting, fumbling into their party wares between interview questions and scoffing cold pizza, but as Rob Damiani, Simon Delaney, Matt Donnelly and Tom Doyle scramble about us, they’re sounding far more together than their physical chaos suggests.
“It’s exciting more than anything,” says frontman Rob Damiani on the release of their new record. “It’s been a couple of months since we finished recording but we’ve been living with some of the songs for a good year or so. We’re still enjoying them,” he insists, before tackling the elephant in the room. Despite bands like Set It Off and Issues gaining phenomenal exposure with their fierce pop influences in the last twelve months, the Bedford foursome’s ability to tip the genre scales has long been something to divide opinion. “We’ve always straddled genres,” Rob says. “From our first EPs there’s always been a variety of music on there.”
Bassist Tom adds: “I think on a whole, we get away with it probably more than some rock bands do. I don’t think people expect us to sit within just rock, so we get away with using other elements and being potentially that bit more pop.” “We don’t stick to the rules!” Rob fist-pumps in jest. “We’ve always tried to embrace anything that we think sets us apart.”
As for ‘Automatic’? “If we come across an idea that we wouldn’t think we’d hear another band do, we embrace that and won’t shy away from it,” the singer says. “I think we try to mix it up but I’m not going to say we’ve created some sort of new genre. I mean, I’d love it if people look back in a few years and say ‘Wow, that genre called Don Broco…’, but for us it was more about all the elements of things we like, all our influences and artists we love, chucked into the melting pot, and this is what it’s ended up sounding like.”
At first, you wouldn’t be blamed for dismissing guitarist Simon Delaney as he jokingly compares his band’s sound to Queen. On paper though, there’s an argument to suggest that extracting the very best qualities of multi-genres to construct your hotly-anticipated second album is every bit as rock and roll as ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Almost. “We’re a rock band and I think we always will be,” Rob declares off the back of his bandmate’s brave comparisons. “We love guitar music but on this album we embraced a few other genres, but I think we always have in our writing.” “At the heart of it, it always will be [rock],” Tom says in support.
But while they were tucked away working on the follow up to 2012’s ‘Priorities’ – with Grammy Award-winning producer, Jason Perry, at the helm – the music landscape around them changed. When Don Broco released ‘Money Power Fame’ at the back end of 2014, they didn’t anticipate the digital backlash that would follow. Despite a big budget video, fans were quick to notice its absence from Spotify. “The video came out and we were busy in the studio so we weren’t really thinking about what goes on with the ingestion process of getting [songs] online,” Rob explains. “People almost couldn’t understand why it wasn’t on Spotify straight away, it was almost their right to have it there. Then when it did go on [in July 2015], people lost their minds.”
So as they weigh up chart opportunities and the possible success of a rock album in 2015, Don Broco know it’s all too crucial to have a grasp on how their fans are consuming music day-to-day. “Very much digitally,” says Simon. “We’re quite lucky we have a lot of hardcore fans who are still that record buying collective. Some are going to want the physical CD or vinyl, but the majority are going to be streaming.” Tom adds: “Traditionally you saw music videos on TV or maybe on YouTube in slightly later years, and then you’d buy the single when it came out. It wasn’t a question of instantly having it in your music library.”
With that they pour time and efforts into producing Hollywood-inspired music videos, with both of ‘Automatic’’s lead singles landing on the internet in slick formats. Think Miami beaches, dapper suits and their vey own banquet to begin. “When people hear of your band they’re going to check you out on YouTube,” Simon explains, “and often it’s going to be the first thing they see and the first impression. It’s so important that visually, you nail the tone of what you’re doing as well as nailing the song in the first place.”
Beyond the music videos, fashion appointments, free pizza and album parties, these Brit boys plan to rely on the hectic touring ethic that got them this far. Between a week-long run to support the album release at the beginning of August and their biggest headline gig to date at Brixton Academy in December – something Simon dubs a ‘massive’ milestone for the band- there’s a small matter of playing Reading & Leeds Festival this month. And the pressure to top the success of their 2014 set on the NME / BBC Radio 1 tent certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“For me definitely, it’s the best stage at Reading and Leeds,” Rob says. “The idea and the aftermath of main stage is insane but we’re the kind of band who love the intimacy of lively energetic crowds. When you get into that tent – it’s so massive that you have the huge crowd anyway – the sound is great and everyone’s just sweaty and vibey. It’s going to be the highlight of the summer again.”
Rules? Who needs ‘em.