“We didn’t have an agenda, we just knew we had to better the first album” - hmv.com talks to Don Broco
Bedford foursome Don Broco are a unique bunch. Their music brings together eighties off-kilter pop time changes, angular guitars taken from post-punk, funky rhythms and colossal pop choruses, it’s all thrown together and somehow comes out sounding glorious.
Their road to new album Automatic (which is out today and available to purchase on the right-hand side of the page) has been a long one. Formed back in 2008, it was a full four years before the band were formally signed and able to release their debut album Priorities, an album they recorded in a former paper factory when they could scrape together enough to afford the sessions.
Eventually emerging in mid-2012, the album sold well and allowed the band to build a substantial profile, with sell-out shows all over the country and big slots at many of the UK’s biggest festivals.
After touring that album into the ground the band regrouped at the end of 2013 and spent the majority of 2014 crafting the follow-up, an album that’s as full of as much verve, as many big choruses and weird time changes as their debut.
We sat down with the band to find out all about the making of the album, working with sometime A frontman Jason Perry as producer and why their lyrics owe a lot to hip-hop…
Your album’s out today, it’s the end of a long journey for you all, are you nervous or excited about people finally hearing it?
Rob (Damiani, Vocals): “I think it’s fair to say we’re just excited now, we’ve been living for these songs for almost two years, but we only finished recording in January, so it’s just excitement now.”
Tom (Doyle, Bass): “We’ve been chomping at the bit to get it out, it feels like a long time ago since we released ‘Money Power Fame’.”
That’s not even made the album has it?
Rob: “It’s on the deluxe edition. We wrote that track a long time ago and we wanted to put that song out straight away. We actually played that first at Reading and Leeds last year, so it’s been out there for that long.”
How did you find the process this time? Because for your first album you pretty much recorded when you could and when you could afford to…
Rob: “It’s weirdly frustrating in some ways.”
Simon (Delaney, Guitarist): “It’s amazing during the creative process, a proper gift, because you get time and facilities and the means to create an album far superior to the first. But now you’re in the major label system and there are way more people involved and a lot more speed bumps. You can’t just drop tracks online, there are far more boxes to be checked.”
Matt (Donnelly, Drums): “It’s really gratifying that so many people want to be involved, it shows how much faith the label have in us, so in one way it’s great, but at the same time it’s frustrating that it makes everything take so long.”
Did it feel like there was more pressure on you this time round?
Tom: “I think so. The touring and promoting of the first album lasted longer than we anticipated, it was a proper slow and organic build.”
Matt: “We weren’t an overnight success, we had to tour really hard and get the name out through word of mouth and we were really focused on that for a long time.”
Rob: “I don’t think we were even thinking about writing new songs during that time. We were enjoying the touring and being in a band, it only dawned on us that we had to do another album after we finished our tour. It was the first time in our career that we’d had a next chapter and something to plan for. We didn’t have an agenda, we just knew we had to better the first album.”
How did you want this album to move on from Priorities?
Rob: “Our main agenda was to write an album that didn’t sound like our first album but still sounded like Don Broco. I think it pushes us forward and that was really our only goal. We did a lot of experimenting, we tried out a lot of sounds.”
Was anything rejected for being too wacky?
Tom: “There were lots of ideas that went out the window, especially early on. We had an anything goes policy when we getting started, we took things in every direction.”
Rob: “There are some pop moments on there, some things that a bit more out there, it took us quite a while to bring them all today, but that’s what makes the album.”
You worked with Jason Perry, what was he like? He’s worked with some rock bands, like Kids In Glass Houses, but he’s also done big pop stuff like McFly...
Simon: “He was perfect for us. He’s got a really varied background and really eclectic music taste, he loves pop, but also he’s a huge fan of Rush.”
Matt: “He understood that we’re a band with lots of different aspects to us, we get bored quite quickly and we hate repeating ourselves so we end up with a really varied record and he was brilliant with that.”
How did you end up working with him? Was he suggested to you?
Simon: “We were searching for people and we were really at the end of our tether. We’d had so many people suggested to us and we’d tried a couple and they really hadn’t worked. Then we got an email, we don’t even know how Jason had got the demos, but it was the most mentally detailed email, he’d broken down every demo and each one had an essay with them, he’d put in YouTube clips, other references, so much. He’d put so much into it and he was really excited, but he had lots of ideas too.”
Rob: “We’re very hard on ourselves and we worried we’d end up going in with someone who’d literally take the songs and press record. We wanted someone who got the songs and had something to bring to them.”
You’ve got a lot of different genres going on in your sound already, were you wary of working with someone with their own signature sound?
Matt: “You’re always wary of that. You check out the records they’ve made and you have to wonder whether you’ll just end up making an album that sounds like that band. There’s always a leap of faith, Jason had done bands we love and some we probably wouldn’t listen to. It’s all about how you work together.”
Tom: “From the first time we met Jason, which wasn’t formal or anything, he just came round and had a beer and we got on really well, you need that when you’re committed to spending weeks and weeks with someone.”
What kind of record is it lyrically?
Rob: “There are quite a few parallels with the last record. I like to write about how to deal with awkward situations, so there’s a lot of that. Listening back to it I think it’s actually a very positive record, it comes from a much more positive place, the first album was very fun musically, but lyrically, when you really dissected it, it was quite a negative album. Having enjoyed a couple of years of being in a band I think our songs come from a more positive place. It reflects who we are as a band and there are still tough situations, when you’re in a band you never know how long you’ve got, it might be over next year, so there’s a sense of ‘enjoy it while you can’ on the album.”
Do you have any lyricists you look to for inspiration?
Rob: “Not really. I listen to a lot of hip-hop, that’s where I get my storytelling from. With a great hip-hop tune you can get exactly what they’re talking about pretty instantly, I take a little from that, I chose the main message of what I want to say and try be as direct as possible.”
What’s the plan for taking the album out live? You’ve already announced a big show at Brixton Academy, but are there lots of plan beyond that?
Simon: “It’s a tough one, when you’re a small band touring is easy, you go to every town you can, over and over again. We did a tonne of different support tours, we’d play anywhere. Now we’ve got to be more tactical, can’t be doing the same places four times a year.”
Tom: “The main plan is to go abroad a bit more, we didn’t get to do a lot of that the first time round, it was very UK focused. We’ll choose carefully, we can’t waste our time and money on places that won’t pay off, but we want to get out there a bit more.”
Rob: “We’re up for touring for just as long. We’ll play anywhere, we just want to get out and play these new songs.”