INTERVIEW: Don Broco Talk About Creating a Strong Live Show, Their First U.S. Tour & Plans for Their Third Album
Interview & Photos by Shannon Shumaker
UK breakout band Don Broco have been going non-stop since the release of their sophomore album, Automatic back home in 2015, and when I say non-stop, I mean it. On top of packed headlining gigs of their own, the band recently set off on their first ever Japanese tour with ONE OK ROCK, and last year hit the road with both Bring Me The Horizon and 5 Seconds Of Summer. Don Broco’s diverse sound and high energy performances allow them to play seamlessly alongside these very different sounding bands, which makes them a perfect fit on their first and current U.S. tour alongside State Champs, Against The Current and With Confidence.
Although back home, the band might be playing to packed arenas and sold-out headlining shows, things are on a much smaller scale across the pond, but unsurprisingly, they’d prefer it that way. On top of earning new fans at every single show (in Denver, there was a near continuous line at the band’s merch table) Don Broco are also taking some time to see the sights and be tourists for a bit before heading back home to finish working on their third full-length record, one that U.S. fans might not have to wait very long for. Despite the fact that Automatic dropped in the UK back in 2015, U.S. fans didn’t get a taste of Don Broco’s signature sound until late last year when the record was finally released stateside, but thankfully there won’t be as much of a lag between releases this time around. With a strong focus on their live performances and their sights set on creating their best record so far, Don Broco are anxious to share their new music with fans, but until then, they’re hard at work every night, playing their hearts out to new fans across the states.
The Prelude Press: You guys have literally been going non-stop since you released Automatic back in 2015. What have been some of the highlights of the last year or so for you guys?
Rob Damiani [vocals]: I think we got to play one show that really sticks out in our memories in Europe in a place called Verona in Italy. That was the first open air show we did, and not only was it open air, it was in this ancient Roman amphitheatre.
Matt Donnelly [drums, vocals]: It’s kind of amazing that they let gigs happen there, cause it’s such a historic site. But yeah, it was amazing.
Rob: Yeah, it was kind of just next level. Like, you really feel like you’re part of history. So that was definitely a show that we were like, “Wow, this probably doesn’t happen that much in a band’s career” - getting to play that venue.
Simon Delaney [guitar]: It was a real buzz. Just getting to do stuff for the first time, too, like our first visit to Japan and now our first visit to the states.
You just did Japan too, right?
Simon: Yeah, it was in February.
That tour was with ONE OK ROCK, and you’ve also done stuff with Bring Me The Horizon, 5 Seconds Of Summer and now you’re on this tour… What do you think makes you the kind of band that can jump from genre to genre and still do well at these shows?
Rob: I think it’s probably the music we listen to. You know, we love all kinds of rock music - all kinds of music, to be fair. One of our things, just by accident, is whenever we start writing a song, if it ends up sounding too much like anything else, we kind of stop and reevaluate and try to kind of come up with our own sound at least. And I think because it’s our own sound, it’s borrowing from so many different genres from within rock music, that it kind of translates to all of those different audiences a little bit. I mean definitely, you enjoy being a band that can straddle a few different genres, because it’s fun for us to get to play with all of these different, equally awesome bands.
And it’s different crowds too.
Rob: Yeah, definitely. And then whenever you play your own show, it’s like this kind of weird melting pot of loads of different people that might not usually be hanging out at a show together. Then you see this crowd and there’s just so many different kind of types of people and ages and styles, so it’s cool.
And you guys between albums have switched up your sound a bit, so it’s cool that you don’t have that genre or that label to fit into, sort of. I know you’re working on a new album right now - do you have any goals for what’s next sound-wise?
Rob: Yeah, I mean we’ve kind of gotten pretty stuck in now… I’d say it’s definitely taking on a slightly darker, heavier tone to some of the music. At the same time, it’s still very poppy, very Don Broco. It’s kind of in a way a mix between our two albums together in a way, but maybe even still a bit grittier than that.
Kind of like how “Everybody” is a little more guitar driven?
Rob: Yeah, totally. I think that’s probably a good indication of where some of the songs are going.
So Automatic has been out back home for over a year, but it just finally released here last year. Is it cool to hear feedback from people who are hearing it for the first time again a year later?
Rob: Definitely. For us, it’s been out for so long and a lot of people in the UK, you know, they’ve had it for so long. Whenever we’re playing a show, it’s like everyone bugs us like, “Where’s the new music? When’s the new music coming out?” But here, everyone’s like, “Yeah, Automatic is great! The new album’s so fresh.” Obviously people are into it now, so when we do finish the next record, there won’t be a huge gap. Everyone in America can get something new pretty instantly, which is nice.
Looking back on the album and being able to play it live, is there anything that you’re really happy with?
Rob: Probably if anything, there’s kind of stuff you wish you did differently. Yes and no, actually, cause Automatic we wrote very much as like a studio album. It was the first time we’d ever written an album in a studio environment and actually been to a proper studio with real equipment and everything, and we kind of didn’t really want to think about the live show too much. We kind of made a conscious decision to do that, which inevitably when you translate the songs live, you want to kind of beef them out more, and there’s a few things we do live that we don’t do on the recorded versions, which are really fun to do and they kind of bring the songs to life a lot more in the live arena. There’s a few bits in “Automatic,” for example, there’s this guitar part that we absolutely loved that we ended up actually taking out of the recorded version, but live, we can chuck it in and be a bit more indulgent and just go with the feeling of the show and see where it takes us.
"You want to go to a show, you want to be out with people to have a fun time, so translating those songs in a way that will make them the most fun possible in a show scenario is what we aim to do." - Rob Damiani
You guys do go all out for your live shows a bit. When you’re thinking about the live show after the fact, what goes into it?
Rob: I guess we like to think back to what we want to see at shows and we’re the kind of people who don’t want to just listen to the record really well played. I think some bands do that, and that’s fine, but I love bands that get the crowd involved.
Matt: Just tweak it.
Rob: We play the songs live in a way that you’ve might not head before or you might not realize and just have a bit of a party, really. I think that’s what it’s about. You want to go to a show, you want to be out with people to have a fun time, so translating those songs in a way that will make them the most fun possible in a show scenario is what we aim to do.
Is there anything you learned while working on Automatic that you’re taking into working on this third album?
Rob: I think definitely with this next album, and we’ve never done it before so it’s new for us, to really think about it. The first one, we didn’t think at all [laughs]. Just literally recorded. The second one, we said, “Right, let’s make a studio album.” And then this one, we’ve gone out of our way a little bit to make this a live album. There’s definitely a lot of songs that are in the running to make the album that we’re so pumped about playing live already. We just know they’re gonna translate super well into the live arena and be fun songs to play. So that’s definitely something that we’ve never kind of cared about before. It’s probably the fact that we’ve done so much touring over the last year or so with Automatic, we kind of think that we’re just gonna use that energy and actually put it in the song structures and how we present the songs on record as well.
Do you have any big plans after this set of shows?
Rob: For us, going back to the UK. We’re really excited to play Slam Dunk Festival, that’s kind of our big festival over the summer that we’re super excited to do. The lineup is sick, there’s so many bands we know that we’re friends with that are playing the bill as well, so that’s going to be our main UK summer thing. And then, we’re going to get back to writing and finishing the album. So hopefully, we can get some touring at the end of the year.
For anyone who is coming out to any of the upcoming shows, what can they expect and what do you want them to be able to take away from your set?
Rob: They can expect mostly songs from Automatic [laughs]. Because we thought our first album was available in the U.S. too -
Matt: But it’s not [laughs]
Rob: We thought it was on Spotify and iTunes and we were playing those songs and people were like, “Yeah, we don’t really know those ones.” So, being an opening band on a bill, you don’t really have a lot of time, so we’re just kind of hitting people with all of the songs from the album that people who do know the record know, and it’s just a kind of condensed introduction to who we are as a band really.
For us, it’s been awhile since we’ve done opening shows. We haven’t really done any anywhere else, so our only experience of it really is the UK quite a few years ago. And I’d say this tour by far has been the most welcoming, accepting crowds for an opener we’ve ever experienced. I don’t know if that’s american crowds or maybe State Champs crowds, but everyone is so cool and so up for discovering new music.
Matt: People are in the venue early and they’re just very open to hearing new things.
Rob: You know, whenever you’re supporting anyone, you’re sometimes faced with those people who sat there watching it, just killing time, having a beer in the back. But it’s definitely the case on this tour that the crowds are just cool to every band. It feels like everyone is here for a full show.
They’re here for the full experience instead of just showing up for the headliner.
Rob: Totally, which is just really nice and just a better environment and better vibe in the room for everyone, so that’s really sick.
It’s kind of like starting over, too. When you guys are back home, you’re playing arenas and this is obviously a smaller scale.
Rob: It’s kind of cool, though. It’s kind of nice. I prefer it, to be honest. It’s way less pressure [laughs]. We can just play the show and have a few beers and hang out and actually have a bit more time as well. For us, it’s our first time in the states. We can actually see the towns and cities we’re visiting and actually have a look around. Whenever you’re headlining, obviously it’s amazing - you’re headlining - but at the same time, there’s all this extra stuff you need to do that just takes so much time and you don’t get to experience much of the tour apart from the actual shows, so for us as tourists in America, it’s really cool.
Don Broco Tour Dates w/State Champs:
April 25: Las Vegas, NV—Hard Rock Hotel
April 26: Phoenix, AZ—The Pressroom
April 28: Austin, TX—Emo’s
April 29: Dallas, TX—Gas Monkey
April 30: Houston, TX—Warehouse Live
May 2: Nashville, TN—Cannery Ballroom
May 3: Atlanta, GA—The Masquerade
May 5: Orlando, FL—Beacham Theater
May 6: Charlotte, NC—Neighborhood Theatre
May 7: Baltimore, MD—Baltimore Soundstage
May 9: Philadelphia, PA—Theatre of Living Arts
May 11: New York, NY—Irving Plaza
May 12: New York, NY—Irving Plaza
May 13: Clifton Park, NY—Upstate Concert Hall
May 14: Boston, MA—Royale