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Interviews

Interview: Don Broco Talks “Technology”, Record Label Struggles, and Challenging Yourself

By: Patrick Bales –

Don Broco.

Don Broco.

After an ill-fated sojourn with Sony Records, four-piece alt-rockers Don Broco are set to embark on their largest tour across the Atlantic yet, playing all over the US and venturing to Canada for the first time. The jaunt begins in San Francisco March 8th before landing in Toronto March 20th and Montreal March 21st.

But first, there’s a new record that’s been sitting on the shelf since the fall. The band’s third full-length, Technology, drops Feb. 2. via Sharptone Records. Don Broco lead singer Rob Damiani phoned in from the UK recently to talk about the new record, not pissing off the fans, the upside to an awful record company experience and how music videos usually suck.

You’ve got this new record coming out in two weeks. Do you get nervous when a new record comes out?

It’s liberating to know that it’s going to be out soon. More excitement than nerves. Previous albums probably have felt a little more nerve-wracking, but one thing that we did with this album was that we put out a fair amount of material from it already. In a way, that helped calm the nerves, because a lot of people have already heard the direction of the new album.

The only nerves you might really feel (are) that you hope you’re fans that you’ve already got are going to like it. New people are going to like too, but you don’t want to disappoint your fans that have been with you for years.

The general reaction has been the best we could have ever hoped for by putting out new music. Getting to play some of the songs as well already in the lead-up to the coming out. The last few tours we’ve kind of crept in the new songs to the set and it definitely feels like it’s the best live reaction we’ve had to new music.

Having that, even while we were writing the album, gave us that kind of confidence.

We’ve always had the general belief in ourselves and the belief that if you’re making yourself happy with the music, that’s the most important thing. You can’t make everyone happy, but if you’re being true to yourself and doing your best in creating the music you want to make, then you can’t really ask too much of yourself.

That’s a good way to look at it too,  because it keeps you from having in the front of your mind the threat of trying to evolve as a band and as a musician, but, at the same time you’re pissing off all the people that got you to where you are today, when you try something different or out of left field. But if you’re making yourself happy, it’s going to show in the product

I think so. You don’t want to see your favourite band stifling their creativity just to be putting out a crowd-pleasing album. I can understand it; it’s such an interesting debate. You want to make your fans happy; you’re not putting out music to piss them off. You want to, on every album, maintain your fanbase. Keep them, but you always want to challenge them, like you challenge yourselves. That’s the only way, really, to further yourself as an artist and further your career as a band. You just have to try your best.

We’re very lucky, as a band in the UK, to have a fan base that is very willing… to accept that we’re going to test waters. People who have been with us for a few years know that when you get a Don Broco album you’re not just going to get a carbon copy of the same song. We try to cover as much ground as possible… I feel that the best artists are the ones that have these different eras that change from album to album. It can either be super fast or super gradual; our next album could be completely different.

You said you wanted this album to “feel good.” What makes this record feel so good for the band?

It was really what we felt in that moment. That can be literally playing a riff really fucking loud, turning it up in the studio and just rocking out. We didn’t care if we wrote a certain kind of song; we didn’t care if the part didn’t make sense.

Damiani explained that the band would have unrelated parts written as pieces of songs. In the studio, they’d experiment and put them together as one unit. It didn’t matter if it seemed like it shouldn’t work. “If it felt good, we thought ‘why the hell not?’” he said. “Let’s do it.”

That’s different from their previous LP, Automatic, released on Sony’s Epic Records imprint. On that record, the band was far more careful in their songwriting. In all, their major label experience is not one to recommend, but the music they’ve been able to produce because of it ultimately made it worthwhile.

That experience you had with the last record really did a number on the band in a lot of ways. You guys have seemed to take that experience and with major labels and the US and turn it into something new and something different. Was there ever a fear that wouldn’t happen? That you wouldn’t be able to turn that negative into a positive?

Definitely. That feeling was something that stayed with us for a while. I’m sure you can ask any band that have had a few years in their careers, that there’s always ups and downs. It’s very rare to find any artist that doesn’t go through a struggle in some shape or form. It’s how you come out the other side and turn it around. That’s what kind cuts a lot of bands and artists out the game. The bands that can persevere and weather the storm are the ones that can have a career and forge a path.

We had a lot of issue with our last label and the general process of releasing a record on a major label. We had heard about all this before; that’s the crazy thing. The horror stories, we heard about…. There’s no way we even had it as bad as some other bands we knew, but I think the way it affected us was particularly bad in the sense because we had it so good before that. We had been very lucky as a group of guys being friends and enjoying being a band for so long. To have, suddenly, something put in front of us that wasn’t what we expected, that wasn’t a glorious, fun experience, it threw everything up in the air. It puts doubt in the minds, you get frustrated, you question everything. It’s quite hard to get through, but when you do, we definitely felt stronger for it as a band. I think if anything like that ever happened to us again, as a band, we wouldn’t think about it twice. It wouldn’t be a talking point; it’d be, “well, shit happens.”

Luckily for the band, they have a chance to turn that shit into solid gold. The band will face those hardships head-on every night on its upcoming tour, with the subject material inside the new songs. Several of the new record’s cuts are influenced by the perils of the past few years, including current single “Come Out To LA,” which satirizes the largesse of the music industry, not only through its lyrics but through a cutting-edge video that sees every fear of artificial intelligence come to life.

In the opening seconds of the video, Damiani meets his untimely and gruesome demise. While his bandmates mourn by calling dibs on being the next lead singer, a music executive/mad scientist brings Damiani back to life as a cyborg frontman. It doesn’t go well.

Outside of being killed and turned into a cyborg, Damiani said with a laugh the video is a completely accurate depiction of reality.

It’s the latest in a series of groundbreaking clips produced for the band’s singles.

What’s the genesis of these videos? How the did four of you as a band decide you’re going to make these things that are going blow people’s minds?

We want to make something exciting, different. Something we’ve never seen before, something no one else has seen before. We got very lucky by meeting this amazing team at Dominar Films who just had a very similar sense of humour and love of idiot movies and weird shit. It was a chance meeting. They pitched for “Everybody,” which was the first single.

It’s very rare to get back a video that you like. Quite traditionally you get a load of rubbish back. It takes about 10 edits to get something passable and by that point, you’ve kind of fallen out of love with it anyway because it’s gone through so much hardship to become something you think is okay. But we got the video back, on the first watch, we were like, “Perfect.” It was insane; it was as twisted as we imagined it. We’ve collaborated with those guys ever since.

The desire to shock, and create something online, that people are going to want to watch again I feel is a real challenge. We live in an age where it seems everything has been done. But if you can tap into something, or come by some nuts idea and actually create something new, then you’re onto something.

Pre-order Technology here.

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