“It’s a darker album than anything we’ve done before…” - hmv.com talks to Don Broco
It’s a theme that keeps coming up. We’ve now got a generation of bands who’ve built their careers on the internet. None of them needed to be given Twitter training by their record labels or have it explained to them why they needed to maintain their Facebook page, but, increasingly, we’re getting bands discovering the darker side of their online lives, in essence, how we’ve never been more connected, but never felt further apart.
It’s a theme that rockers Don Broco have taken and run with for new album Technology, the third LP of their career.
As the album hits shelves, we spoke to frontman Rob Damiani about the band’s difficult relationship with technology, life on a new label and their plans to take the album out live...
How did you want this album to move on from Automatic? Did you have a goal in mind?
“I wouldn’t say we had a goal. The only thing we wanted was to write a different record, that’s always our brief, to do some free and different, but we didn’t know how we wanted it to be different. What came quickest and felt most right was pushing the extremes of our sound. We wanted an album that was super fun to play live.”
Did the way you’d recorded Automatic feed into that?
“We toured a lot on Automatic and all that touring really reinforced our love of massive party songs, songs that make people move and jump around. The last record was a record with a lot of groove, it was very smooth, very slick and polished, and the obvious thing was to do the opposite. We tried to write a bunch of different sounding songs that we could bring together as one piece.”
Did you write a lot of songs for the album?
“We don’t get too far with songs we don’t end up recording. We start off with hundreds and hundreds of riffs, they then turn into 50 or 60 rough demos and then we slim it down over time. By the time we get to the studio we know what we want to record. By the end of the process we loved so many of the songs that we wanted to put them all on, that’s why it’s ended up being such a long album…”
You worked with both Dan Lancaster and Jason Perry on the album, how did that process work?
“They did different songs, except one, ‘Come Out To LA’, they both worked on that. We got a feel for the songs as we were writings and we’d worked with both of them before and each of them has such a different vibe that we wanted them both to be on the album. We did most of the album with Dan, it’s a very modern sounding record, very high-energy, very in-your-face, there’s no much subtlety going on. But a couple of the songs aren’t like that, they needed a different production style and we went to Jason for those.”
For most pop albums, that’s pretty standard, you work with lots of different people and then pick the best songs. But for rock bands, it tends to be one guy in a room for six months, would you consider using multiple producers next time...
“It’s definitely something we’d do again. I was reading about the new Fall Out Boy album and how many different producers they used and I can see how it keeps things exciting for bands. In the small way we did it on this album, it made a massive difference. There’s definitely something to be said for sticking with one person for a long time, things fall into place and it’s easier to make it sound like a body of work. But one thing we’ve learned about this band, it doesn’t make what we do or what we try, it always sounds like Don Broco. We start from really odd places and it always comes back to our sound.”
What kind of record do you think this is lyrically? Is there a theme to the record?
“Technology, as a theme, was something we figured out much later. They’re all their own songs. When I write an album, I take it song by songs. It’s a chance for me to talk about a lot of things. It was only afterwards that technology, the effects of social media, the effects it’s had on my friends and how it’s made me feel about them, wishing I could turn back the clock to a time when it didn’t rule everyone’s existence, it was a thread that I picked up on. It’s a darker album than anything we’ve done before, I touch on things I’ve never even considered, a lot of it’s very personal, about me, about the band, in a way it’s a more reflective album, but I’m not sugar coating anything. This is me looking at the world in a new light, it’s a darker place now.”
A band like yours has spent their whole career with an online presence, so it’s interesting that now the power of technology is giving you pause…
“There so many times we’ve talked about how much fun it would have been if we’d been a band in the 1960s or 1970s. Growing up with technology in its infancy, now, feels like a real blessing. I’m grateful that I can remember a time before smartphones, growing up when you couldn’t just talk to anyone at the touch of a button. It’s an amazing thing, it’s so powerful and it can bring so much pleasure and do so much good, but with that there’s a darker side, misuse, overuse, and it’s the more negative side you tend to focus on when you’re writing songs, you need anger sometimes to bring out what you’re really feeling.”
It’s a hell of a cover, where did you find that image?
“It was an idea we had. Once we settled on the name Technology there were some obvious options, like putting a phone or tablet on the cover, which we didn’t want. We had this idea of technology of being such a force to be reckoned with, people rever it, they’ll queue up all night for a new iPhone. We wanted to play with the idea of technology being the new religion, this otherworldly force in our daily life. It’s jarring and open to interpretation, I just love the savagery of it.”
How’s your live set coming together? You’re three records deep now…
“We had a brilliant time doing Alexandra Palace last year and that felt like a Greatest Hits, cherry picking the songs we loved and testing out some new songs. It is getting harder to pick a set, but we’ve loved playing the new songs and they’re going down so well. As we were writing the album, we were playing shows and how we are live informed so much of the new album, it’s brilliant that the fans have been so receptive. It’ll the new ones alongside all the ones you’ll expect to hear.”
Finally, this is your first album on Sharptone Records, how’s the transition from Sony going?
“Having a label based in America has been a complete game changer for us. It’s opened up so many doors and given us a new worldwide focus. It’s an indie label and we love having a direct contact with them, we didn’t have that with our old label, now we can just pick up the phone and talk ideas anytime and we’ll get to talk that day. On a major, you’re talking a two-week wait to do anything. We wanted to work creatively and work quickly. Major labels have too many mechanisms to do that, we’re loving it. It’s a smaller team, but it’s more focused and far more passionate.”