Samstag 17:40–18:20 @ Alternastage
“Technology is a reaction to our last record, Automatic,” explains Don Broco frontman Rob Damiani. “We wrote that album as a test of our traditional songwriting abilities, but Technology was all about keeping ourselves on our toes. For this record we didn’t set any rules, it just had to feel good.”
That was the goal behind Don Broco’s third studio album, yet the result is something much more than just an inventive, constantly surprising album. Filtering their charismatic ‘80s pop-inflected rock seamlessly, almost restlessly, through metal, funk and electronics, it also happens to the best of their career. Since forming in 2008, Don Broco – completed by guitarist Simon Delaney, drummer/vocalist Matt Donnelly and bassist Tom Doyle - have become one of rock’s most diverse and charismatic bands.
Their two previous albums Priorities (2012) and Automatic (2015) led to performances at UK arenas with Bring Me The Horizon, huge shows worldwide alongside You Me At Six, One OK Rock and 5 Seconds Of Summer, as well as headlining the Kerrang! Tour and delivering triumphant sets at Reading/Leeds Festival, Download and Slam Dunk. It’s no wonder that, in 2017, their headline show at London’s historic Alexandra Palace was a sell out.
In many ways, Technology – released February 2nd, 2018 via SharpTone - is custom made to conquer the big spaces they will be playing throughout the UK, America, Australia and Japan in 2017 and beyond. “The question we asked ourselves was, ‘How will this feel live?’” recalls Rob. “If you can imagine playing it to a packed-out room and people are going crazy, that’s a goer.” To nail the enormous sound they were chasing, the band sought the services of producers Dan Lancaster (Blink-182, Good Charlotte) and Grammy Award winning Jason Perry. The outcome is Don Broco as you’ve never heard them before. “People think we’re just good time guys,” says Matt. “But that’s always been only one side of our personality.” For proof, look no further than the complex thematic fabric that makes up Technology.
The album opens with the title track and sets the tone for the record, which is an inventive, intelligent and infectious piece of work taking a frank look at modern day life. Rob introduces the track, “Technology is about a casual swipe through Instagram that ended up in me unfollowing a load of mates. In reality my friends are not vain, self obsessed, PDA loving show offs so I'm blaming social media and the habitual nature of sharing every waking moment of your life online.”
The following track Stay Ignorant looks deeply into the world’s current turmoil. It is a song partly inspired by Rob watching the 2016 Netflix documentary The White Helmets and the global atrocities that bypass our daily attention. “The White Helmets in Syria go through the wreckage, the bomb sites, and try to save everyone they can from a region that has been completely devastated. It affected me so much.”
T-Shirt Song is a colossal rock anthem and reveals a different period of mental turmoil for Rob. “It’s one of the most emotional songs on the record, inspired by a close friend who had just been through a dark break-up. While writing the song it was also a difficult time for me emotionally, and one night I found myself in a club where the DJ was playing the Baywatch theme tune. Anyone who's been to a cheesy club night will know this is the moment everyone takes off their T-shirt and swings it round their head. I didn't really feel like it, but I joined in and, as stupid as it sounds, it really made me feel better. That was the start of the process by which I came to realise there was light at the end of the tunnel. This song is about going through hell and coming out the other side stronger for it."
Next up, Come Out To LA - a 3-minute 29-second explosion of sarcasm aimed squarely at the music industry: an anti-hit that deserves to be a huge hit. “On our last album, with Sony, like most bands when they first sign a worldwide deal, we were shipped off to LA to meet the bigwigs and shoot videos. We had someone taking us to fancy meals, promising us the world, and in our naivety we lapped it all up. It quickly became apparent that it’s just a façade.”
Pretty further explores the theme of appearances being deceptive, or as Rob puts it, the moral ambiguity of “seeing someone as physically attractive even though they’re the biggest piece of shit in the world.” Afterwards, The Blues marks one of Don Broco’s most emotionally-charged moments to date, highlighting the challenges of helping a friend suffering from a mental crisis. “How do you help someone who doesn’t want to be helped?” ponders Tom. “How can you help someone when you have a suspicion they need help but when you try all they do is shrug it off or change the subject.”
This delicate balance of human relationships is expanded on Tightrope. “It’s about how easy it is for some people to turn their backs on others when it doesn't suit them,” says Rob. “How even family can run when things get hard.”
While the world was first introduced to Everybody via the hilarious cowboy-themed video, it actually catalogues the moment Don Broco almost came to a premature end in more ways than one. “It was something we’d never talked about,” reflects Rob. “Band morale was at an all time low and we couldn’t practice without basically breaking down, though we kept that internal to the band and didn’t want the world to see it. We were driving super-late to a festival and could have died from crashing the van just from being in a place, emotionally, where we shouldn’t have been on the road.”
Thankfully, from that band low emerges Greatness – a song that doubles up as Technology’s eclectic manifesto, not least for including both a heroic use of cowbell and a devastating drop-A tuned riff. “Why would you not pursue greatness and originality and diversity?” questions Rob. “People seem quite happy with mediocrity these days. There’s a lot of great music, but there’s so much shit out there - song after song that sound the same.”
Porkies, however feels like a revolution as it builds into a huge, propulsive riff. The aggression makes sense when you find out what inspired it. “Porkies is about fake news and its spread due to the rise of such easily accessible articles and opinions that technology has provided us with,” explains Rob. It perfectly tees up the raucous title track’s swipe at what Rob says is the increasingly problematic relationship between “technology and modern life.” Musically inspired by the bands Broco grew up on, including Deftones, System Of A Down and Incubus, Simon had a simple studio litmus test. “Does this riff make me feel anything? No? Then bin it,” he smiles. “Does it make me feel uneasy? In that case, it’s the right riff.”
Meanwhile Don Broco focus on the darker side of love with Got To Be You and trace a relationship’s curve from happiness to emotional slavery, buoyed by what Simon unapologetically refers to as an “honest homage” to U2.
The band couple genuine worries about smart phone surveillance with the best lyrical use of ‘chilli con carne’ in any song ever with Good Listener. “It freaks me out that all this stuff is happening,” says Rob. “That your phone in your pocket is always potentially listening to you whether it’s on or off.” This charismatic streak continues with ¥, a song inspired by their first trip to Japan that contrasts the value of money in relation to experience - Rob comparing his own adventures in Don Broco with his friends’ spending all their money on booze and buying flats. “Our experience in Japan was priceless,” he says. “It brought everything home to me in regards to the life we’ve chosen to live as a band.”
The album ends with Something To Drink, which draws together Rob’s own awkward experiences at bars and weddings when conversation turns to politics and uncomfortable political views are aired. “It very much has Brexit in the background,” says Rob. “Everyone is entitled to what they believe, but the problem I had with Brexit and the rise of Trump is not the economical or financial reasons, it's the hidden hatred bubbling under the surface of some of those people that support it. You can call it xenophobia but I see xenophobia and racism as very interchangeable - in my view we are all the same people.
It’s a song that drives to the heart of what is really different with Don Broco in 2017 and beyond. They still mix massive hooks and brilliant melodies with wry observational lyrics, but this time they want to make you think bigger and more critically too. “This record gives a deeper and more varied understanding – of what’s going on with us,” concludes Rob. “For me, the exciting thing is that we’re always changing.” Based on this evidence, long may that continue.