Few hours before their sold out show in Paris last January, we met Matt Donnelly, drummer from Don Broco, to talk about the crazy year they just lived and their expectations for 2019.
Nothing seems to stop Don Broco. What can you expect for the year?
Matt Donnelly (drums): We’re not stopping anytime soon, I can say that. It was a creazy year last year but we’re so proud of the album we released, “Technology“, and when an opportunity to tour comes up, especially one we hadn’t been to before, we just can say no. So we ended up spending most of the year on tour. Much on the dismay of our families and girlfriends.
When you have an opportunity, you don’t refuse it.
Matt: That’s it. And we’ve got to see so many amazing places. We hadn’t really tour in America before this record. We’ve been back 4 times for 18 months. It really feels like something is begining there.
Is that a kind of breathrough?
Matt: Yeah, I hope so. We haven’t done our own tour yet, it has only been support tours, with Our Last Night, State Champs, we did one with Mike Shinoda and then the final Warped Tour. So yeah we’re just working hard but we have our biggest ever shows back home coming up, like next week. And that was what drove us to release something new. We wanted to play something new. Because it’s been a year since the record. In gaps last year and on the tourbus, we found some time to write, which we hadn’t done successfully before but this time it worked out! We found a little gap in our tour schedule to go back home to record it. And then we went back to America again and that took us to the summer. And I mean, festival season. The year was already gone!
You’re once again mixing styles in “Half Man, Half God”. We have some issues describing it. How do you describe your own band?
Matt: I’ve given up, I’ve given up trying. We get bored easy right. So we never wanted to make the same song twice, we never wanted to make the same record twice. We have so many varied influences. We enjoy so much music, on depending of what we’re feeling on time.
In what kind of music are you into?
Matt: We all like a bit of everything, we listen to pop music, we listen to R’n’B, we listen to rock, to heavy metal since we’re little kids and being able to. I don’t know, when you have a bit of time to write a song, especially when you don’t have to much time pressure, you want to take the same chords, the same lyrics, and try to take it in differents way. Sometimes, people do crazy covers, and you could do that into the original stage and to see, does it suit more being more like this ? Or more like this ? We just have fun exploring!
You’re talking about time pressure, like, you seem really free in you creation. Is that the case?
Matt: The scariest was the second album, “Automatic” (2015). Cause the first album was more sort of like punk, rock record. We decide to indulge more a smooth 18 inspired pop sound and that was the first time our fanbase, the smaller fanbase we had on time, heard such a shift. But it was a risk and it payed off. Everyone seemed to receive it well and even since then in steps we’ve dipped our toe in other types of sounds. So I think now what’s nice is that we do feel free because our fans know it’s part of the deal if you’re a Don Broco fan, you expect a variety of different albums.
Yeah but “Automatic” is a pop album. Before you were doing heavier songs and now you’re like going back to this vibe.
Matt: If I have to describe “Technology”, I would say like to my grand parents, when they say: “how do you sound like?” “oh like, a bit of Muse, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Biffy Clyro.
You didn’t go to a pop path, came back to heavier vibes after “Automatic”. Is it because you went from Sony to Sharptone Records?
Matt:I wouldn’t say so: It’s one good thing we spent time on a major label and it was the right time to us to find a diferent approach. Sharptone is more a indie label, they would give us more freedom. And that’s not necessarily to say Sony didn’t, they never told us we had to write different type of music. But it was more restrictive around when and how we can release our music. Now with Sharptone Records, like “Half Man, Half God”, it wasn’t recorded a long time ago. We have the flexibility to being able to turn music around a lot quicker.
Don’t you have like deadlines to go through?
Matt: We don’t have to like reach a certain quota of songs before we’re allowed to release a new one. So that’s good, and it just came a time where we had tour with “Automatic” and it’s a more pop album. What we found is overtime gradually, we changed arrangments to songs we all like to make them feel better live: bigger drops, more anticipations, and stuff like that. And because that was the record that took us worldwide. It was the first time we could really tour outside the U.K., through playing in front of differents types of audiences. We kind of learnt what works for us. So what we came to “Technology”, we took that knowledge and that experience in studio. We think the main enojyments from our band is to see us live. We’ve never been the darlings of radio, or media. So we focus on what feels good on live. So yeah, we went back on the studio, and we wanted to set what gonna make you feel good, what’s gonna make you jump up and down, what’s gonna make bang your head, the heavy bouncings and sing along.
In this album “Technology”, you criticise social media a lot, but you’re all using them a lot, to promote your tours, to share your music or even to chat with your fans. Isn’t that a bit paradoxical?
Matt: It is, but it’s more an observation rather than a critic. I wouldn’t necessarily describe “Technology” as an instructions manual of how you should do social media. We’re just mentioning this, we’re all full into it. And I think, there’s no going back. Our lives are so intertwined. Not with social media but with technology generally. The first thing you do when you wake up is to check up your phone, and it’s probably the last thing you do when you go to bed. We’re all connected to everything. It’s never been such easy to access and use an information. And the album is more like a discussion. Is there a cost to it? It definitely brings a benefit, but I think there’s a cost for people’s anxiety, mental health. There’s a lot of thing to consider. We appreciate we live in a world where we need it. It’s like, if for example you have an issue with the political system, you still have to live in it, you have to try to change it from the inside. So that’s it, I think it’s an incredible tool, but we need to try to learn how to handle it.
What’s your feeling about this new success that “Technology” brought to you? We talked about this kind of breakthrough you had in America, You’re doing your biggest venues ever next week. Do you manage do keep your feet on the ground?
Matt: We did our first in maybe 2009, it’s not an overnight success story. I guess what stands to our benefit, it’s we have done it gradually. We started off like every band, we bought a van, we would drive around and sleep on other people floors. So every little milestones had been baby steps. And that’s what keep us together, united as a group of friends. I don’t think our head would ever go one day in the clouds. We never associated that with people who one day wake up much bigger of how they used to be. If you have to work hard for every small increment, you appreciate it.
Last one: How do you feel about playing Wembley next week?
Matt: It’s crazy because I never, ever imagined playing there! But when we were young and we started playing as a band, it was always a dream so far. I used to watch bands a lot in Brixton in London witch is 5 000 people. I could visualise myself on a stage and I was like: “I want to do that” and then, we did it! But it was such a gradual move. I never ever imagined us playing arenas so that’s definetly a new step.
What could you possibly imagine next?
Matt: Next is thinking about a new record and we will take some time in 2019 to write it. Possibly in the summer between festivals. And there will definetely more music this year. And then I’m not sure. I would love to think about we could start playing biggers venues in Europe, in the U.S., we’ve never done a headline tour there. More tours, more venues U.K.’s alike, that would be great.
Do you know where you’re going to record the next album?
Matt: Not yet, any producers out there listening, we’re interested !