DON BROCO write songs as if they’re on a mission to destroy the rules of genre. In the process, the band create mind-blowingly complex musical landscapes, each one distinct from the last. The group also straddle the line separating fun and seriousness, producing tracks that are as clever as they are a reflection of their passion for music.
With their latest album, Amazing Things, the band go even further into their own unique realm of music, fluidly crossing boundaries between rock, pop, hip-hop, R&B and more. Frontman Rob Damiani detailed the band’s inspiration and their unique approach to songwriting. He also took us behind the scenes for their recent singles “Manchester Super Reds No.1 Fan” and “One True Prince,” their plans for the future and their love of all things live and heavy.
Can you take us behind the process of recording your new album?
It was something that we didn’t really have too much time to think about originally. We started writing it before the pandemic hit—we were in writing mode anyway. We finished our first U.S. and Canada tour. It would have been two years ago now in October. It’s mad when you think back—I still think of it as last year. We got off that tour and basically had three months to write a new album. That’s the time limit we set ourselves because we had a load of touring booked already for the U.K. We were headlining Slam Dunk Festival for the first time, which we were super excited about.
It gave us this added pressure of having an album ready or at least the first songs ready to go so that would be the launch of the new campaign. We were maybe a little bit ambitious in thinking we’d get that done in time, but we were doing our best, and we worked over Christmas. [We] were just doing the best we could until we got to recording time, and we were like, “I’m not sure this is ready.” The start of it was actually super stressful, and [we] didn’t really have time to think about what we were doing and what we were trying to create.
Did you appreciate the extra time brought about by COVID-19? Did that help you refine the themes or goals for the record?
We initially just wanted to make something heavy. I think that was the only parameter we set ourselves. We loved how on the last record, we brought that heaviness from our live show into the record, which then again made the live show even heavier. We love to perform. Playing shows is our favorite thing in the world, the reaction you get from a fan, from a crowd. It’s obvious: The heavier you play your shit, the more people go wild. It’s just fun. That was the only thing we originally set out to do.
As things progressed and lockdown ended up happening, luckily the one positive through it was it gave us a lot more time to actually write a record that we were going to be super happy with rather than rushing something out that was maybe half done. Having more time to do that, it really let the record take shape. There was definitely a danger because we set out to [create] this heavy record. It could have just been this heavy-metal record, which wouldn’t have felt true to us.
We always love combining sounds and our influences and as many crazy ideas we can fit into an album. When it doesn’t make sense a little bit, that’s when we’re doing [it] right—when there’s moments where you’re like, “What the hell’s going on?” Overall, for us as a band, the lockdown gave us that chance to focus, gave us something productive to do, gave us purpose in our lives. As a band, we’re just super grateful. It was a crazy shit time for the world and for us and our own personal lives. In some aspects, we still got to do something we were super happy and proud of and create something special. We’ll look back on that year and be like, “What did you do?” Actually, we did write and record an album. We can feel good about that.
One of the things that jumps out to me about the new record is how eclectic it is. I feel like you blend a lot of different genres, which is not an easy thing to do well. What made you want to play with genre and skirt the rules so much?
Growing up, listening to everything, that has just always been something we set out [to do] from literally the start of our career. We all met at school, so we’ve been together for a long time. In the same way when you were a school band and you don’t really know who you want to be, we’d just play covers from all our favorite bands. You play a blink song, you play a Chili Peppers song, an N.E.R.D song, a Metallica song. We never shook that. We always wanted to be everything we listen to and everything we consume as fans of music. We’ve never let go of that desire to do whatever we want, do everything. When it comes to writing music, we try and bring that forward in our songs but do it in interesting ways.
We listen to rock, [but] I’d say all of us listen to just as much pop and hip-hop and electronic music. That’s always been in the sound from our first record, but as we’ve grown as musicians, rather than seamlessly bring them together, we actually thrive off the contrast sometimes. Automatic, our second record, was a lot smoother. It brought those pop and melodic and R&B moments into the songs, but in a more smooth way where you think, “OK, they’ve created this whole sound from that.”
On this record, we wanted to take things and make it way more clunky and weird. You still get those moments sometimes where it feels smooth and you know where you’re at. But being able to pull the rug and then go into something completely different, that also really excites us. Even listening to a lot of modern hip-hop, they just really don’t give a fuck. They’re in the studio. There’s clearly two or three beats that they’re vibing off, and they’re not the same song, but they end up being the same song because it just feels good, and it doesn’t make sense. If it feels good, you run with it. We wanted to bring that excitement back into rock music and do that on the album, too.
One of the other things I really appreciate about the new album is the contrast. Each song has its own individuality. That even shines through in your videos. I love that you followed “Manchester Super Reds No.1 Fan”—this very busy, conceptually rich but also quite funny kind of video—with this lush, beautiful feature for “One True Prince.” Did you intentionally play with contrasts in that way?
The songs end up dictating what we feel is right for the videos. Those two songs in particular are perfect examples of [being] erratic [and] all over the place. On “Manchester Super Reds,” that really was listening to Travis Scott’s “SICKO MODE.” I was listening to that on the way to the studio, just loving how that drop happens, and it lulls you into this false sense of security. Then the drop comes in, and it feels so satisfying and different and cool. I was like, “Fuck it, let’s try this in a rock song” but take it from an approach [of] you’re doing a traditional angry-sounding rock buildup and then just pull the rug and go into this full techno kind of rave and then take it into this weird, Linkin Park-esque chorus.
That really excited me, combining all those elements. “Manchester Super Reds” is fun. “One True Prince,” as soon as we heard the chorus, it just felt safe. [It’s] not safe, musically, but it makes you feel safe listening to it. It felt like a heavy guitar riff can make you feel that warm and cozy and protected from that side of things. We knew straight away we didn’t want to do anything crazy with that song. It wouldn’t have felt true and fair on the chorus. We just wanted a nice journey throughout the tune.
That ended up dictating the videos. We wanted something crazy and something people were going to talk about with “Manchester Super Reds.” In the same way, we were trying to mash up all these sonic ideas in that song. We were like, “Can we mash up cloning David Beckham, Star Trek and Beastie Boys visually?” Three things that probably shouldn’t work but somehow just about does. Contrasting to “One True Prince,” we knew straight away [that we wanted] something grand and massive that also felt effortless. Obviously, a lot of effort did go into making a video, but it just glides, and it takes you into a different place. I’ve always loved bands and artists that can straddle those feelings.
I love knowing that “SICKO MODE” was an influence on that song. I can totally hear it now that you mention it. [Laughs.] But now that I’m thinking of it, one of the other things I notice is a lot of what I guess would say is social commentary on the album: fandom, social media, things like that. I think talking about the real world in music can be hard, and it doesn’t always translate into something successful. But you find a way to offer a perspective without it really getting in the way of the music or the experience.
I’m so uncertain. My mind changes so quickly on how I feel about certain things. They very much are social commentary rather than a “This is right, and this is the way the world should be.” I don’t think anyone can say that. It’s very much just observations that I’ve made and how certain things make me feel. If people relate to that, or even if they don’t and they see things in a different way, then that’s great.
I hope it gets people thinking and looking at things from a different perspective. I thought [our] last album, calling that Technology, would be my social critique of any technological aspect. But it just doesn’t end. The more the world progresses from that side of things, the more emotions you feel, and the things that trigger you aren’t necessarily things that happen in the real world. It might be a horrible email or a DM or a load of comments that make you feel that way.
[With] “Gumshield” and “Manchester Super Reds,” at one point, I was like, “I don’t know if I want them both on the same record because they tackle similar issues in slightly different ways.” “Manchester Super Reds” is a lot more focused on fandom and how fandom can turn super negative. Fans who love artists or movie stars or sportspeople or whatever, how that love can quickly turn into hate if they do something they don’t like. Obviously, that’s within the social media world and the real world as well.
“Gumshield,” there’s definitely crossover. That was about the nature of social media with the way it’s going. I guess most specifically, Twitter, just how argumentative it becomes. If you happened to be in a group of people and you meet someone you don’t necessarily know and you’re talking about something, you just have a debate about it. It might get heated at some point if you’re talking politics, but it wouldn’t be full-on 100% at each other’s throats in real life. The way social media encourages very antagonistic behavior and messages, it became a really stressful place to be—especially last year. All these topics I deal with, they’re very much about me and how I’m interpreting them. If people see something in that, then I think that’s great.