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Expect Amazing Things: Rob Damiani Takes Us Inside Don Broco's Experimental New Album

Wednesday, 20 October 2021 Written by Simon Ramsay

Photo: Tom Pullen

If ever proof were needed that we’re living in an exciting post-genre world, then Don Broco’s ‘Amazing Things’ delivers it in powerhouse fashion. The band’s fourth album smashes together rock, rap, EDM, nu-metal and more over the course of 12 dizzying tracks that pack as much lyrical bite as they do stylistic bark.

Having grown increasingly successful with each release, the Bedford-born outfit’s last effort—2018’s ‘Technology’—landed at No. 5 on the UK album chart and set up a triumphant headline slot at Wembley Arena. After such lofty achievements, many bands might be tempted to consolidate that new found status and sculpt an even more accessible follow up. Not Don Broco.

Although it’s a genre-bending monster, with more than a touch of the progressive about it, ‘Amazing Things’ neatly balances experimentation with the band's infectious crossover appeal. Armed with massive hooks that imagine Muse gone indie-pop, Rob Damiani, Simon Delaney, Matt Donnelly and Tom Doyle may sweeten things up with a little commercial sugar, but they’ve certainly not sanitised their anger.

Whether tackling sickening racist encounters (Uber) or climate change denial (Swimwear Season), or social media bullies (Gumshield and Manchester Super Reds No.1 Fan) and theological questioning (Easter Sunday), these anthems pack a cerebral punch. We caught up with Damiani to chat about the band’s creative process, pushing the envelope without losing your touch, and what treats await fans when the band hit the road again in the not too distant future.

If there’s one word to describe ‘Amazing Things’ it’s ‘uncompromising.’  What do you attribute that tunnel vision to?

It’s down to experimentation, going with what feels good at the time, not worrying about anything and, when we write, not going in with an agenda. We’ve done that before. After ‘Automatic’ we’d just signed to a new record label and they were like ‘You Wanna Know, that’s the song. It’s got an American radio sound and we want another like that.’ So we spent a day or two coming up with a shitter version of You Wanna Know. You might get results like that, but it wouldn’t be fun.  

We try to hold on to, not the end result, but making the journey fun. It’s hard enough writing the music you want to write when you’re up against the wall and can’t work out where to take the song. But if you’re doing that with music you don’t want to write, that would be terrible. We definitely pride ourselves on, if not achieving it all the time, attempting to do something different and create a sound people haven’t heard. When you listen to lots of different bands, artists and genres, that fusion and mashup of styles is, for me, the most exciting way of achieving it.  

When music is your livelihood, how challenging is it to dial out thoughts of reception and create records that are completely true to who you are, and organically motivated, while still making them accessible?

That’s tough. There’s tracks on this record where we’ve had to throw caution to the wind and we’ve no idea if people are going to love it as much as we do. The success we had with our previous record, where we took that approach, we didn’t worry about the commercial side of things and did what we wanted, it worked out great.  We became a bigger band and got to play to more people. Of all the albums we released, that did the best.

One thing we do have on our side is a natural love of pop music. We love a good melody and even when we do end up going a bit more obscure, writing some pretty erratic song structures, or throwing arguably too many ideas into a song, the importance we place on the melody and hooks, that’s natural to us and reins in some songs. Even when they’re a bit mental, you’ve got those moments people hook on to.

Would you describe yourselves as a fearless band?

I’d definitely describe us as a fearless band but, being completely honest, there’s moments where you get afraid and think ‘have we gone too far?’ There’s always a debate. The four of us are heavily involved in the writing and will pick apart the instrument, movement and lyric. Sometimes one or two of us will be like ‘Erm, is it shit?’ That’s the catchphrase that comes out a lot. We’ll look at each other and go ‘Is this bonkers in a great way? Is this original? Is this gonna get people hyped and excited or are people just gonna be confused?’ There’s always moments where you doubt yourself. It’s about overcoming that and then becoming fearless.   

Did writing and recording in lockdown provoke a new creative dynamic?

Yeah, definitely. Not being able to meet up, we’d go off and do our own thing and then have two or three days a week on Zoom where we’d just play each other all the ideas we had and make a song out of them. It felt like we had to hear everyone out because we knew everyone had been putting in the work. With previous songs we’d go with the first or second idea because we’d be vibing off it in real time, so wouldn’t bother writing more stuff. It ended up being a more thorough writing process which, at times, got boring, but it actually yielded great results because we had more time and knew it was going to be scrutinised over listening sessions. So it had to be good.  

The other thing was that we felt we needed to move forwards quicker. When you’re comparing hundreds of ideas against each other, if something didn’t have a lyric it was hard for it to shine through. So we ended up writing lyrics on the spot. I thought a lot more about what I wanted to write about beforehand and because of that the songs are more direct, more metaphorical. Using ideas to explain other ideas rather than straight up storytelling, which has previously been my style.          

‘Amazing Things’ has a ferocious diatribe feel about it too. Was that approach in place pre-pandemic, or a result of making the album as the world began to change?

A bit of both. We definitely wanted to write a heavy record, but at the same time didn’t want another ‘Technology’. I was excited to try something different vocally too. The voice is such an incredible instrument you can literally do anything with it.  Trying to establish ourselves as a band in our own right and not fit any mould or genre, I’d shied away from doing anything too screamy or shouty before because I felt like that style had been done to death in heavy music. But I felt a confidence on this record to find my own take on it. Combined with having a year of uncertainty, upset and anger, that made it hard not to write about what I was seeing and feeling.  All that has made the record a lot angrier than we intended it to be.      

You once said you’d ‘be more than happy for the internet to die.’ I’m assuming you still feel that way as it seems to have fuelled both Gumshield and Manchester Super Reds No.1 Fan?

It’s a weird one because we’re so dependent on the internet. As a band we wouldn’t be where we are without–back in the day–having a Myspace account and pestering everyone to listen to our music, while building up a fan base, getting shows. All those things you can do yourself now. Make your own career and carve your own path in whatever profession. The internet is amazing for that.  

At the same time the stresses it brings, and feelings of always being ‘on,’ there’s never an end to your working day. It’s 24/7 and feels like you have to be at the beck and call of everyone. I’m quite a sociable person, but I get overwhelmed by a lot of it. The last album was like ‘we’ll call it ‘Technology’ because it feels technology is everything these days and I can get that out of my system.’ Clearly not. If anything this year has made technology and online communication even more vital.  In a year when you haven’t got to see anyone apart from the people living in your house or flat, the goods and bads have come from online interactions. That obviously ended up filtering into the lyrics in a big way.         

Given those issues, which recur a lot in your lyrics, do you enjoy modern life or wish you’d been born a couple of decades earlier?

I’d love to have been born a couple of decades earlier. You always want what you can’t have, don’t you? It felt like a simpler time, where you didn’t have a phone, social media. As a kid growing up that wasn’t a part of my life. It felt like a more carefree, innocent way of living. When I think back to school, you’d get bullies, cool kids and standard things you might worry about such as not doing your homework.  Now there’s 10 year olds with Instagram pages worried they’re not getting likes.  The amount of things they’re seeing, their access to information is so great. I don’t know if I’d be able to handle it if I was a kid now. It would be nuts. But obviously they are and that’s their norm.  

You’ve had a lot of time to think about how you want to present these new songs when you hit the road.

We’re excited to bring this otherworldly, science fiction inspired aesthetic to the shows. When we first started coming up with the album concept and themes, we had this idea of explaining modern day ills and issues in a fantastical way. That’s something science fiction does all the time. I’m a huge sci-fi nerd and so’s Si.  Anything we can do to bring that into the videos, artwork and live show we’re gonna do. We’ve got cool ideas and a lighting guy to help bring them to life.

Don Broco Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Mon October 25 2021 - NEWCASTLE O2 Academy Newcastle
Wed October 27 2021 - GLASGOW Barrowlands
Thu October 28 2021 - MANCHESTER Manchester Academy
Fri October 29 2021 - MANCHESTER Manchester Academy
Sun October 31 2021 - PORTSMOUTH Portsmouth Guildhall
Mon November 01 2021 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Tue November 02 2021 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Thu November 04 2021 - NORWICH Norwich U.E.A.
Fri November 05 2021 - LONDON O2 Academy Brixton
Sat November 06 2021 - LONDON O2 Academy Brixton
Mon November 08 2021 - OXFORD O2 Academy Oxford
Tue November 09 2021 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Wed November 10 2021 - BEDFORD Bedford Esquires

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