After playing ping-pong, taking advantage of the indoor swing and eating copious amounts of free Muller yoghurt, it was time to sit down with two of the four-piece alternative rock band, Don Broco. Inside the Red Bull Studios HQ, I sat on my very own drum stool and got into conversation with the boys about everything from Mafia dons, to One Direction.
Where did you come up with the name of your band, bacause I know you’ve been called quite a few things before…
Matt – Yeah I mean, this is like the question that we wish we had a better answer to because it’s really boring. But, I have made up weird and elaborate lies in the past so lets go with one of them. Erm, Robs from an Italian family. Okay so…
Tom – With quite a bit of heritage, shall we say…
Matt - Oh, shall we say, yeah heritage. We don’t talk about it much. I think there’s a dark past?
Tom – Very respected members of society, you know, like you wouldn’t say a bad word about them
Matt - They’re very respected in Italy like I mean, so he says ‘oh I’m going across to see my family in Italy’ and I’m like ‘oh okay I’ll come I’d love to meet them’ and he’s like, ‘NO.’ Like it’s a secret society. But once in England, in Bedford where we’re from, he was having a family barbecue and I got talking to his uncle, and he was telling me about the great, great granddad, who’s a very well respected man. He didn’t say he was a mafia don, but, it was implied.
(Tom starts laughing)
Matt - Erm and, his middle name is Broco but everyone called him Don Broco.
It’s like a tribute band for the great, great grandfather then, technically?
Tom - Yeah! Essentially.
Matt - This is it, he’s the most feared man in Italy.
How true is this? Because this is quite interesting
Tom – Erm, Rob’s Italian. He has an Italian heritage.
Matt - Yeah, that’s as real as it gets. And the reason you can’t find any literature to show that he ever existed is because he’s so dangerous a character it had to be…destroyed.
Tom - So there we are!
Matt - His crimes were too great.
Moving on to something more honest, how did you guys form Don Broco. How did you meet?
Matt – Well, myself, Rob and Simon went to school together and we just sort of were around the age of maybe 14, 15, we all just started to get into music at the same time. You know, the sort of age where like you would go into London to see gigs and I remember going and watching like, loads of bands that I still love now. And so yeah, at that time we all wanted to learn instruments and try and do the same, and sort of emulate the people we were watching. So obviously we were terrible, and we sucked. But yeah, just ’cause we all started learning instruments at the same time and we were in the same group of friends, obviously when it came to like jamming we would always jam together and then throughout school under different guises and setups we were in little school bands. We didn’t ever take it too seriously, but we were like, ‘it’s all good practice’ and many, many years later about three years ago we decided to start taking it seriously. We were at Reading festival actually and me, Si and Rob were volunteering for Oxfam at the time cause we couldn’t afford a proper ticket to the festival (laughs) and it was afterwards because you have to stay like two to three days afterwards to help clear up the disused tents?
Matt – Yeah, I mean you do find some gems people actually leave behind some really valuable stuff and are never coming back for it, I think Si got a pair of trainers once, which is kinda cool.
Do you think he washed them before he wore them? Or?
Matt – Erm, I’m not sure I think he wore them home (laughs). That doesn’t paint him in a great light, sorry! Erm, but yeah we got the opportunity to…we were behind the main stage and the artist village and we got to walk out on the main stage and although it was an empty site it was still like…looking at the amount of space you had to like run around and, you know, just imagining playing to a full field, and we were like ‘yeah! Lets do it boys’. So we did it, and we’ve never looked back really we’ve been touring pretty much constantly ever since. And erm, we toured with Tom’s old band in 2009, and when we finished the album and our old bassist left, there’s only one person we were gunna go to. Tom’s it, he’s top of his game. Very respected in the bass world.
Tom – Thank you very much! I try.
In a previous interview, you spoke about recording your album whilst on tour. Sounds pretty stressful?
Matt – Yeah i mean the finished, finished article wasn’t recorded on tour (laughs) but yeah we were recording ideas and erm it really does sneak up on you. Like, when you’re touring a lot and you’ve got a rough idea of in the future we’d like to record an album around that time, and then suddenly last year we were like ‘oh damn, when are we going to find time to write it?’ So we were on tour in May last year, and erm, we took all the seats out of the back of the van and put amps in underneath. Turned them upside down so you could reach the controls, put the seats back in, so the guys could sit in the back and like just jam riffs on journeys because we were just, we were booking our own tours at the time and as you can imagine they weren’t the best routed so, long drives
Tom – Yeah, like seven hours in one day
Matt – Yeah, ’cause you know, we’re not booking agents. As much as we tried (laughs) erm, so we thought we would be productive with that time so we’d do that and me and Rob would be up front just sort of like singing vocal melodies and stuff. We’d always record the ideas and we got like a bunch of ideas to work with and at least every song on the album at least started in the van in some form. Get home and then we’d properly demo things and…but yeah…basically wrote an album in a van. Pretty cool.
But how would you say this album, ‘Priorities’, is different to your ‘Big Fat Smile’ EP. I mean your previous project got a lot of attention. NME, Kerrang, Radio 1…
Matt - It was cool, yeah
Oh yeah, it was cool, not bad…
Matt – (laughs) it was amazing really looking back on it cause we did absolutely everything ourselves, like completely self-funded, self-released. In terms of how it’s different I guess is that we, we’ve improved our songwriters and we’ve taken more care over it maybe. Because the ‘Big Fat Smile’ EP was great for what is was but we had to rush it by virtue of not having enough money to just buy enough studio time. So we went in and we came out with songs that were exactly the same as when we went in, just recorded to a good standard. Whereas this time we got to go in and experiment and stuff. In terms of like the end sound, I’ll let you tell that Tom. It would be interesting to hear your perspective. How does it differ?
Tom – How does it differ? I think it’s more mature. I think it’s more varied potentially. Erm, I prefer it. As an outsider, having been on the outside and now being involved, I prefer the newer stuff.
Matt – Give it like, a numerical scale
Tom - Nine out of ten
Matt – A numerical scale of maturity. If ‘Big Fat Smile’ was a ten year old, how far has it matured?
Tom - I’d say this one has been through school, and university, so it’s been well educated. And it’s also doing like a postgraduate course, maybe a doctorate. So I’d say 26.
Matt – And a gap year in South America
Tom – Yeah, so 26. Although that’s a quick doctorate I think, I think that takes like years doesn’t it.
Matt - But it’s that good
Tom – It’s still young and full of energy
What would you say is your personal favourite track off of the new album. Which track would you recommend to your fans?
Tom – I know the first one that I latched onto when I first listened to the album, cause obviously the guys sent it to me like, you know, ‘you’re going to be playing this soon’, (both laugh) ‘so I hope you like it’, and the first one I latched onto was a track called ‘Whole Truth’, because it was just instantly catchy, great chorus, really interesting verse as well. Since then I’ve developed through and listened to the other ones and got favourites but, yeah, whole truth.
Matt: And for me, it’s a track called ‘Here’s The Thing’, it’s because it’s a slightly different vibe, slightly different approach to anything we’ve ever done before so it’s like trying our first hand at a real sort of slow build up as a song and I just was stoked with the way it turned out. The other songs are all great of course don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of up-tempo, up-beat, energetic songs and we did a lot of that on our EP as well, obviously with progression they have got better, but obviously this is like a brand new area for us so, I just really enjoy it.
Being a band, obviously you’ve had your influences and you’ve toured with some really cool people in the past, but who would you say influences your sound? Or would you say you’re quite, unique?
Matt – (laughs) We are just, undefinable. No, honestly, yeah we’ve taken a lot of influences. I think one of the great things is that we don’t always agree on music. There are a few bands that we all agree on like, Biffy Clyro, Reuben and Brand New from the top of the rock world, but then I think beyond that we’ve all got different tastes when you move into sort of like, softer music. Western, country, pop, r&b and stuff. And we’re all bringing different things to the table like, Tom is a massive John Mayer fan. And for example before Tom joined the band I hadn’t really heared much John Mayer in all honesty, but now I absolutely love what he does. And we’ve always listened to a lot of pop music, I know myself and Rob are like, huge pop fans, and we appreciate a good melody…
Matt – I think I meant pop in a slightly different sense (laughs) nineties boy bands is where it’s at, the first single I ever bought was ‘Backstreet’s Back’ by the Backstreet Boys.
Tom – mine was Spice Girls ‘Wannabe’ – so there you go.
Matt – Yeah! That’s our roots, that’s where we’re from. So sticking to it, i’d like to attribute a lot of the success of this album to Professor Green and Usher, so there you go.
So, talking about being pop fans, would you say you’re a fan of current bands like One Direction?
Tom – Hell yeah!
Matt – I mean, why not? Absolutely, I mean I don’t understand why so many people give them hate, they’re just doing what anyone would have done in that position. They’ve been given this amazing opportunity and the songs aren’t bad. Like catchy pop songs.
Tom - Yeah, the songs are great
Matt - I mean, everyone likes them deep down I think and if you were on a night out and it came on in a club you’d sing along so…and that’s the test of a good song.
Yes, I think that they’re one of those bands people choose to enjoy in secret instead of preach their fandom to their friendship groups.
Tom – So my ‘hell yeah’ was a bit over the top then….
No, you’re proud! It’s good to be proud of pop music. You could be known as the ‘Directioner’ of Don Broco.
Matt – Yeah, like 1D Tom, @1DTom on Twitter
But obviously they have had a lot of success in America. You’ve toured with a couple of American bands this year too haven’t you?
Tom – Yeah we started with Four Years Strong in January, then Demuse at the end of April
So would you say that you’re looking to expand and ‘break America’ in the future?
Tom – One step at a time
Matt – Yeah, the plan is of course we’d love to do some shows overseas just because a lot of bands who are similar to us have gone out to Europe before, but we’ve always been under the opinion that we’d like to try and make a name for ourselves at home before we try and spread our wings elsewhere. Hopefully that will mean that when we do get to do things elsewhere, we’ll do it properly. I mean Australia and America are two places I’ve never really been to properly, so I’d love to get the opportunity to go whilst doing something I love. That would be absolutely amazing. And in terms of “breaking America” or being successful, we’re just taking it as it comes.
What would you say has been your favourite gig to do so far? I mean you’re going back to Reading and Leeds this year and actually performing on stage. That must feel incredible.
Matt – Yeah, in a couple of weeks we’ll be playing Reading and Leeds. I mean my favourite show that we’ve ever played was last years Reading and Leeds festival, we played on a BBC introducing stage, we all spoke about it afterwards and I remember we had like ‘the moment’, like halfway through your set when your adrenalines running around your body and you actually realize where you are, and you start to take it in. Because like the first bit is a complete blur, the first two and a half songs. And we all had that moment where you’re just like, ‘wow, we’re actually playing here’, because that’s the festival we always went to growing up. It’s the closest one to us, so it was a really nice moment. But this year to go back and do it on a bigger stage, I think it’s going to be insane. Like especially to go back now that we’ve developed a fan base and we actually have an album out that people can buy, and hopefully sing back the words.
’Priorities’ is available to buy on iTunes now.
Interview by: @tiffanycalver