Revolver has teamed up with Don Broco for an exclusive vinyl variant of their new album, Amazing Things, on white wax. It's limited to 350 — order yours now before they're gone!
"I'm quite an ironic person. I can be negative at times, but this is one occasion where we wanted to really hold onto something that wasn't ironic, but rather hopeful and positive."
Don Broco vocalist Rob Damiani is discussing the title to the Bedford, England, rock, pop and post-hardcore mashers' fourth and latest full-length, Amazing Things, which itself was pulled from a line on the album's Deftones-esque cut "One True Prince." Had this been earlier in the quartet's career — they first formed in 2008 — Damiani admits that the album title might've been delivered with a sarcastic sneer. But, as with the rest of us coping through the past year-and-a-half of a global pandemic, living through unprecedented upheaval had a way of altering the vocalist's perception of daily life. He tried not to sweat the things he couldn't change, and became more appreciative of his surroundings.
"It summed up how I was feeling with the entire year we'd been through. A lot of despair, uncertainty — what's going to happen to your career with [everything on] hold?" he explains. "The song ["One True Prince"] is all about putting things in perspective. We are just tiny specs in the universe, and when you start thinking from that universal outlook, all the things going wrong in your life don't matter so much. Despite all the rubbish stuff happening, you can find these moments of brilliance, creativity and happiness — that's what we found in general while writing this album over the worst year in the history of our world, or at least our lifetime."
In that sense, Don Broco sound especially free and experimental on Amazing Things. Though already possessing a penchant for genre blending, the record has the group jubilantly jolting between the cocky swagger of Y2K nu-metal, the melodic pound of post-hardcore, knobs-twisting EDM skittishness, and even one triumphant key change Damiani likens to early aughts Irish boy band Westlife.
Lyrically, Damiani and co-vocalist/drummer Matt Donnelly run lines that cover anything from the casual racism of an Uber driver ("Uber") to the entitled menacing of online trolls ("Manchester Super Reds No. 1 Fan") to a grinning Die Hard tribute ("Bruce Willis") replete with Damiani's absurdist-but-awesome rap-metal growl: "Yippee-Ki-Yay Motherfucker!" This random mashing extends to their visual aesthetic, too. Take the recent video for "Manchester Super Reds No. 1 Fan," which manages to combine the worlds of Star Trek and pro soccer as the band, appearing as a clutch of Starfleet graduates, clone themselves an army of David Beckhams.
"The stuff that gets me going is kind of that hip-hop mentality of mixing things up," Damiani says of Don Broco's carefree cross-referencing, "combining ideas you wouldn't have necessarily seen or heard before to create something brand new."
Speaking with Revolver, Damiani got into online etiquette, getting weird on the mic, and Don Broco's latest collection of amazing things. Read that conversation below.
"MANCHESTER SUPER REDS NO. 1 FAN" HAS THIS PLAYFUL VIDEO MIXING TOGETHER THE WORLDS OF SCI-FI AND SPORTS. BUT THE LYRICS SEEM TO TAKE A LOOK AT THE TOXIC SIDE OF FANDOM. WHAT WERE YOU TRYING TO CONVEY WITH THIS SONG?
ROB DAMIANI I'd had this idea for a song for a while now. I'm not going to say it's just Twitter, but Twitter is probably one of the worst culprits, as a social media entity, of bringing out the worst in humanity. People can get so mean on there. I'd seen a lot of fans of bands who'd been super cruel to various members of those bands — just general celebrity culture as well. It struck me that a lot of these superfans of bands or sports players are the ones that are the most critical and cruel towards the artists that they supposedly love when they put a foot wrong, or when they release music [the fan] didn't like. This animosity is so real; the hate burns them to the core. I guess it just upset me.
The lyric came from a key ring that I'd found at my mom and dad's house. I brought it to Matt, who is a Manchester United fan. I brought him this key ring as a little present, this bootleg key ring that I was going to throw away. As we were writing this song, there were these two sections that I wanted to fit together. I started shouting out "Manchester Super Reds No. 1 Fan" because I had the key ring in my pocket. That ended up sticking because it just sounded so weird and intriguing. It highlighted the parallels between super passionate music fans and super passionate sports fans — they're probably the two worst culprits of tearing their idols down. If a sports team loses, or if their favorite player missed a goal, the abuse turns into unadulterated bullying. I thought it was an important song to write. But at the same time, despite dealing with such serious topics, the feel of the music is just so vibrant. That's part of the contradiction within our music, and this album.
HAVE YOU EVER FOUND YOURSELF IN A POSITION WHERE YOU TOOK YOUR OWN FANDOM TOO FAR?
It's so easy to put out a sentence on Twitter about how you hated something, and not have to explain yourself. I liked Game of Thrones, like a lot of people, but I was disappointed with the end of the series. I mean, I'm not huge on Twitter anyway — I can never be bothered to constantly update my thoughts [online] — but I'm always keen to praise things when I love them. I almost picked up my phone and tweeted something not great about it, but then I saw the tweets of everyone reacting in real time. People were disappointed, but were also, again, super cruel to these two writers who had brought [Game of Thrones] to life. They took this creative decision and it wasn't to everyone's tastes, but the amount of hate they got for that — death threats — stopped me [from tweeting]. I didn't want to be part of that negativity. There's no way you can just ignore that level of hate when it's coming from that many people. We're all human, just be kind and think about what you're saying before you type it.
LOOKING BACK ON THE MAKING OF THE ALBUM, WHAT SURPRISED YOU THE MOST, IN TERMS OF WHERE YOU PUSHED YOUR LYRICAL THEMES?
There's a song called "Gumshield" on the record that surprised me. It was a real Frankenstein's monster of lyrical themes. It was only at the end that I managed to make sense of it all. In the same way that "Manchester Super Reds No. 1 Fan" touches upon the stress of the modern world, "Gumshield" weirdly ended up summing up a lot of my fears and anxieties of the entire last year — this fear of being torn apart by anyone by putting a foot wrong out, or by engaging in any sort of conversation and making a mistake. People change their minds on things all the time, [but] if you put it down on the internet it's kind of there forever. People find it hard to understand that other people change; people's opinions change. Debate is a very real thing that actually gets results. It actually sums up a lot of what the album's about.
THERE ARE ALLUSIONS TO CONFLICT IN THE LYRICS TO "GUMSHIELD." THERE'S A LINE THAT HAS YOU QUESTIONING, FOR INSTANCE, WHETHER YOU NEED TO BODY SLAM PEOPLE TO PROVE A POINT — AND IT'S ALSO A SONG THAT HAS YOU NAME-CHECKING JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME. SOMEWHAT WITH HIM IN MIND, YOU'VE RECENTLY BEEN POSTING PHOTOS ON YOUR INSTAGRAM PROFILE WHERE YOU'RE TRAINING OUTDOORS — MAYBE FOR BOXING OR KICKBOXING? IS THAT SOMETHING THAT YOU GOT INTO DURING THE PANDEMIC?
This was over lockdown. I was trying to stay fit. All the gyms were shut here in the U.K., so we didn't have anything to do apart from workout at home or go for a run. When you're doing that for a year, it gets boring. My friend's a kickboxing trainer, [but] I'm concentrating more on the boxing side of it. It's a newfound passion. I wouldn't say I'm particularly great at it yet, but it's something fun to get you out of the house. You can only play so much Zelda.
BACK TO THE ALBUM, WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT THE BALANCE BETWEEN YOURS AND MATT'S VOCALS THROUGHOUT AMAZING THINGS? IF THE BAND WANTED TO PUSH THE ARRANGEMENTS, HOW ARE YOU PUSHING EACH OTHER, VOCALLY?
This was something we definitely experimented with more on this record. A lot of my favorite bands are dual-vocal bands. I love when you hear that contradiction between a verse and a chorus, or people [splitting] parts within a chorus or a verse. To hear the same melody or same lyric sung by someone else just gives it this different take. We'd really enjoyed doing that on the last album [2018's Technology], so we thought we'd take that even further [on Amazing Things]. Matt's range is super high; he's got a clean, poppier sounding vocal. So, I thought, if anything, I'm going to go the other way and keep it super aggressive — angrier vocals. Where on previous albums I might've held back, maybe tweaking the vocals to make them more melodic, this time I thought I'm going full-on. You end up playing around and shouting things in the moment onstage because it feels good. I thought I'd bring that into the studio.
SWINGING BETWEEN THOSE JUXTAPOSITIONS, THERE'S THIS PART ON "ONE TRUE PRINCE" THAT HAS THIS UNEXPECTED, AND MASSIVE, POP-BALLAD KEY CHANGE. THAT FEELS LIKE AN ARENA-SIZED MOMENT.
That was a real point of debate for us in the studio. We'd never done a key change before. Growing up, there was this band called Westlife from Ireland, this boy band where pretty much every song, on the final chorus, they'd get off their stools, stand up, and belt out that final chorus as a key change.
I guess we'd always shied away from the obvious route. We definitely like taking people by surprise with our music; we like pulling the rug out. We're weary of doing the obvious, so we thought, Does this sound cheesy? It was our producer Jason [Perry], who really pushed it. "Guys, have faith. I know it'll sound good!" Once we heard it with the drums, it just felt epic. It feels good! I can't imagine the song without that final climax. I'm happy we went with it.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SPECTRUM, "BRUCE WILLIS" BEGINS AS A PIANO BALLAD BEFORE GETTING INTO THIS STRANGER, SAMBA-METAL CRUSH. YOU ALSO TAKE YOUR VOCALS TO SOME STRANGE PLACES — YOU'RE USING A CROAKY, ALMOST DRACULA OR RAMMSTEIN-LIKE WHISPERING EARLY ON IN THE TRACK BEFORE YOU DIAL UP THE AGGRESSION.
Whenever we start the writing process, we just want to do the wildest shit we've never done before. Keep it super fresh; tear up the rule book. From my perspective, I'm just going to make as many weird sounds as possible. I must've recorded 100 different vocal parts for this song. I just loved the riff so much, so I was just vibing off it. I spent three days recording hundreds of parts — you get a bit crazy after a while, you know? It gets late at night, your voice is going. I was just talking in this weird voice and it got me excited. I'd never delivered any lyrics like that before.
It felt like the song wanted this progression of vocal ideas. For me, it feels almost like some rap songs where they might have a few different featured artists coming in and doing different bits. In a way, I'm doing these different personas as I'm taking you through the journey.
The best thing about it is that Bruce Willis got to hear it a few weeks ago. We had some directors get in touch with us about potentially using some of our music in a movie they're developing. They happened to be on set with Bruce Willis at the time, and we were like, "This is mad, we just wrote a song called Bruce Willis. Please, you've got to play it to him!" Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that it'd get to him. They played it to him on their phones and apparently he was really confused, like, 'I don't understand what's going on, but go with it.'
AS YOU SAID, THE SONG HAS YOU CHANNELING THESE DIFFERENT PERSONAS. WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO CHANNEL DIE HARD'S JOHN MCCLANE BY SINGING THAT ICONIC "YIPPEE-KI-YAY, MOTHERFUCKER"?
Honestly, it felt so good. I couldn't believe that no one else had included it in a heavy song before. It feels so good to shout, it's probably one of the coolest collections of words you could say, at least since the release of Die Hard. I wrote it down ages ago as an idea while watching Die Hard, like, Surely someone has used this? Maybe someone has and I just haven't heard it, but I did a quick Google and no one else seems to have claimed it yet. So, we're taking this! Once we get back onstage, shouting that out to the crowd is going to be the best feeling ever. I can't wait.
WERE YOU TO MAKE A VIDEO FOR THIS SONG, DO YOU THINK YOU'D ASK BRUCE WILLIS TO APPEAR IN THE VIDEO, OR WOULD YOU PUT THE CLONING MACHINE TO USE, LIKE WITH "MANCHESTER SUPER REDS NO. 1 FAN"?
Now that we've got the inside track, we would have to ask him. That would be next level! I'm sure he'd say no, but that would be the first protocol. And if he says no, we'll have to get that cloning machine out again. That's Plan B.