As part of their first ever headline tour, Don Broco performed at Joiners late last month. A few hours beforehand, I got a chance to sit down with the band’s guitarist, Si, whose broken wrist it turns out, inspired the band’s name.
Firstly, for anyone who hasn’t heard the music of Don Broco before, how would you describe your sound?
Just really upbeat, catchy, pounding rock music that’s a lot of fun.
So, how did you guys all get together in the first place?
Well, me, Matt and Bobby have known each other since we were at school, since we were really young, and we’ve always been in bands before, and we met Tom touring with his old band, Proceeds, when we were first trying to get tours and get on the road. We just really naturally hit it off with Tom and so he fits in really nicely.
How’s the group dynamic with a new member? Is there ever any bickering when it comes to songwriting, with three against one?
Not really. We’re all kind of like really similar backgrounds, and so, even though Tom is the newest of us, he fit so quickly just because we’ve all got the same kind of experience. We all went to uni, started a band, and then started taking it to the next level. We’re all on the same page when it comes to most aspects of the band: songwriting, touring, and so normally if there is any bickering, it’s all resolved very quickly and we compromise.
That’s good. So, where did the name of the band come from?
Well, we wanted to be called Don Loco because we liked the word, we liked the word[s]Don and Loco, but we researched it and there was a rapper who had already taken Don Loco, and so, I, at the time, had broken my wrist playing five-a-side football, and so Bobby, who was temping at a call centre, called me, as a very bad joke, ‘Don Broke-o’, and it stuck, and we were like ‘oh okay cool, yeah.’
So, I read that 2010 was the year you guys realised that everything was really getting going. It was the year you performed at Download for the first time, got a support slot with Enter Shikari. So, what was it about that time that got you on your way?
I think, at the time, we had recorded a DIY video called Thug Workout, and it went really viral online. We got loads of support. Red Bull really picked up on it, and so out of that one video we started to gain a lot of online popularity. And, the Shikari boys, it was really lucky. We’d just put out this video and we knew Shikari vaguely from where we live. They’re from quite a similar place and Rob just asked their bassist, Chris, ‘Oh mate, we’re doing some shows that coincide with the ones you’re doing. Would it be okay if we jumped on one of the shows that you’re doing’ and he said ‘Oh man, just come on all of them’, so yeah, it was really lucky!
How was that experience?
It was amazing. I mean, they’re super nice guys. They’re kind of the same age as us, so we’re all really on a similar page, and we like doing similar kinds of things. They’re just great musicians, and put on an amazing live show. It’s awesome for us to see a band that are going for what they’re going for, and they’re taking it so far and they’re so popular. It’s really inspiring to be a part of a tour like that, yeah.
How was your experience at Download as well in 2009? You had Slipknot, Def Leppard, Faith, White Snake, Marilyn Manson…
Yeah, all the big names!
Did you stay for the whole three days?
Yeah, it was the first festival we’d ever really done, and so it was all really new, really exciting, and I remember when we played our set, we were playing in a really small tent that faced the main stage, and we rattled through our set in double-quick time because we wanted to go and watch Limp Bizkit who were performing on the main stage. It was a really nuts experience, because it was the first time we had ever been backstage somewhere with so many famous people, you know, like Marilyn Manson, Slipknot, and they’re all just walking around, and it’s really daunting, like ‘Oh my god’. But no, it’s one of our favourite festivals. It’s nice going back there now because it’s the first festival that we ever got to do, so it’s got a special place in our hearts.
You also performed at Reading, so how did you find the two differ. Do you prefer one more over the other?
They’re really different. I mean, at Download, the age of the punter is really varied. You get the kids from 16 but also people in their 60s, and it’s not weird that there are 50 year olds wandering around at Download, whereas Reading and Leeds, they’re kind of universally far younger. The majority of that catchment is 16-20, and so the vibe’s quite different. Reading and Leeds feels really mentally intense, like a kind of sugar rush I guess whereas Download’s almost like a kind of family atmosphere which is strange when you think it’s a metal festival . They’re really different, but I don’t think I can compare them saying one’s better than the other, just because they’re so… Both different but both great.
So, what are some of your musical influences?
We’re really into, like me and Bobby love Every Time I Die. They’re our heavy favourite band. At the moment, we’re listening to a lot of Frank Ocean and The Weekend. It’s so different, just so chilled, and it’s nice to listen to stuff that’s completely different from what we’re trying to write. The main ones you’re looking at are Biffy, Rueben, and Incubus, that kind of thing.
You can definitely hear those influences in Priorities.
Awesome, yeah, wicked.
So, tell me about making your debut album. What was that experience like?
It was really intense. There’s loads of pressure on your first album because you can only release your first album once. Everyone’s like ‘oh my god, what’s it gonna be like?’ It was really rushed for us actually because we’d built a bit of hype with an EP we’d released beforehand, and we’d play quite a bunch of festivals that year, so there was loads of buzz around the band, but we didn’t have an album to release, so we were like ‘we need to capitalise on the buzz now. We need to get something really quickly, and fire it out while everyone’s talking about it’. So, we were on tour and we literally wrote the whole album in the back of the van. I’d be in the back with my guitar just jamming riffs, and Bobby and Matt would be sitting on drives and they’d be trying to come up with vocal melodies. You’re doing 4/5 hour drives, and so in a drive you’d be trying to nail out a song and get the basic ideas down, and then we’d have all these ideas recorded on our phones, like really terrible quality, and you’d hear more of the van than the actual guitar. But, then we took it into the studio, recorded it with our mate, Dan Lancaster, who is a really good friend of ours, and so that part of it was really chilled just because we knew it so well, and we’d literally just bust out the whole thing in a couple of weeks, and then yeah, the rest is history.
You’re in Southampton as part of the tour promoting your debut album, Priorities. This is your first headline tour, so how does it feel to be headlining for the first time instead of supporting?
It feels amazing. We spent the whole of last year supporting other bands, amazing bands. It was probably my favourite year of being in the band because we got to play with so many cool people we love listening to like Four Years Strong, The Used, and Billy Talent – that was amazing. But, when you do those support shows, you’ve got literally a half hour set, and it’s like you’ve got something to prove. You’ve got to go out there and prove you’re worthy of the support show when you’re supporting such a great band. And then, when we announced the headline tour, we had no idea how well it was going to sell because it could have gone either way. We didn’t know how many people would want to come and see us, but it sold phenomenally and way better than we expected, but it’s put loads of pressure on us to deliver something really special because now it’s not supporting, we’re headlining, so people are coming to see us, and we need to give them something a little bit extra than we’ve been giving before. It’s a lot more pressure on us to deliver now, but I kind of like it because it means we’ve got to up our game and rise to the challenge.
On the tour, you’re being supported by Mallory Knox and Hey Vanity. What’s it been like touring with them?
It’s been awesome so far. We know the lads in Hey Vanity from quite a long time ago because they used to be in a band called Fei Comodo, and Fei Comodo gave us our first ever tour back in 2009, so we’re really good mates with them. We’ve toured with them before, so we knew it would be really fun for us all to tour together. And, Mallory Knox, we’ve run into them so much in the last year playing the same kind of shows and the smaller festivals together, and we really love what they’re doing. We love their vibe. We thought it would be a really cool package to have the three bands together, because I think there’s quite a lot of crossover between all our music but they’re not the same, so I think people will really enjoy it if they come and see us.
So, what have you got coming up for the rest of the year?
After this tour, we are doing a few dates in April. We’re doing our biggest ever London show in Koko. It’s mental, I can’t wait for that. Then, we’re doing quite a few of the smaller, indoor festivals. We’re playing Takedown here in Southampton which will be amazing in May. We did it last year and it was nuts. We’re doing Ragstock in Liverpool and we’re doing Hit the Deck in Nottingham and Bristol. Then, after that we’re going to Germany with We Are the Ocean, and then we’re jumping into festival season which will be amazing. There are quite a few lined up but I can’t announce them yet, but you will have heard of them!