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Don Broco

+ Mallory Knox + Hey Vanity

Opting for a bark over a bite is the trap that most rock bands fall into. But turning up to 11 and high-fiving your bandmates as you blow another eardrum is rendered pretty [ketchup] pointless if your chorus hits home like a Boris Johnson bellyflop. The loud/louder/REALLY LOUD dynamic can only ever be as good as the song allows it to be.

It’s an approach that Bedford four-piece Don Broco are keen students of. Having formed officially in 2008 after a number of years playing together, and in various other bands, at Bedford Modern School, vocalist Rob Damiani, guitarist Simon Delaney and drummer Matt Donnelly have honed the art of rock music with a gloriously melodic edge. Joined by new recruit Tom Doyle on bass, the quartet’s debut album is one of the most adrenaline-veined, hook-heavy rock debuts of the year.

“Our beginning is kind of a bit murky,” says Damiani. “We’ve all been playing together in various guises since we were 15. We had our first school gig when we were doing our GCSEs.” “All our songs sounded like different Lostprophets and Incubus songs mashed into one,” interjects guitarist Simon Delaney. “It was very all over the place, as you’d expect. We didn’t take things that seriously then…”

As the bandmembers trundled off to various universities across the country – Rob and Matt to Nottingham, Simon to Norwich – with it came the pact that, whilst their ‘band’ might not have had a name, it was “what we wanted to do, and wanted to do properly.” They wrote Whatcha Gonna Do, a song that set their sound in motion, and, as Rob puts it, “we said, ‘right, this is a cool song, let’s write more like this’. So after we all graduated, we wrote a few more and booked a load of gigs.”

Therein followed a determined DIY push at doing the band “properly”. In between extensive gigging, including an appearance at Download and a support slot with Enter Shikari, they released the self-recorded single Dreamboy in October 2010. It was at this point that they realised the momentum, propelled by putting songs online for free download and selling EPs at their increasingly-attended live shows, was pointing towards a more substantial release, resulting in the 2011 mini-album Big Fat Smile. “Writing that was when we decided what we really liked about our sound – the idea that we keep things quite fun and hi-tempo, keep the lyrics simple and tell stories.”

Big Fat Smile was well-received in the rock press and their fanbase was ever-burgeoning. “At that point, it definitely started to feel like people were latching onto it,” says Simon. “Our fans were just people we’d picked up at live shows,” adds Rob. Matt sums up their charge: “Even at the time we were writing and recording the mini-album, we just never stopped touring. There’s no substitute for playing live. It made us feel more polished and professional.”

As people outside of “their little bubble”, as Simon puts it, began to take notice, so they turned their sights to making their full-length debut. “By the time we finished the mini album, the main thing we were concerned with was that we had a buzz,” says Simon. “So it was like, ‘this is happening, we need to capitalise on it’. We were determined to get something good out and quickly – it was like, ‘let’s make some sick songs and bust it out NOW!’”

Their approach to writing Priorities summed up their waste-no-minute declaration. In an inventive move, they tore all the seats out of their tour van, put small amps in under the seats (“upside down, so you can still reach the controls”), put the seats back in and, voila, they had their very own portable rehearsal studio. “All of the songs on the album were born in that van,” smiles Matt. “It was incredibly uncomfortable. The seats weren’t built to sit with a guitar for 5 hours!” laughs Simon. A lot more thoughtful in their songwriting than they had been before, the songs went from the van to the demo studio, from the demo studio to the cutting room floor and back again. More than they had on their earlier releases, vocals and melody became the focus. “We’ve always been about the melodies,” says Rob. “We tried to prioritise our hooks on this album more than we’ve ever done before.”

By the time they were ready to enter the studio with producer Dan Lancaster, they’d whittled their ideas down to 12 core songs. What emerges, says Rob, is an album that “sounds part of the whole, but the songs have completely different vibes.”

The point that’s underscored through the whole thing is that this isn’t a rock record made for a rock audience. Don Broco are a band with much broader horizons in mind. “I probably listen to more pop music than rock, to a degree,” says Rob, “and we wanted to bring that across in the album.” Indeed, the balance between indelible melodies and raucous riff explosions is perfectly pitched. Kicking off with the title track is the perfect set-up, Damaini’s anti-hero charisma sparring with a spiky, punchy riffola. From there it rarely lets up; the racing groove and shrill guitars of Hold On is armed with a chorus of effortless simplicity, whilst Yeah Man comes across like a punk-rock campfire singalong, a synth breakdown giving way to its melancholic, mesmeric chorus. The anthemic FM punch of Whole Truth is underscored with Damiani’s trademark playfulness (“the lyrics on this album are about the decisions you have to make – whether that’s being in a band and not earning any money, being poor and having a good time, to getting out of a relationship. Lyrically, I was in the zone, it’s darker and more honest than I’ve ever been before,” says Damiani) and the sleek dynamism of Here’s The Thing, Fancy Dress and Back In The Day, which leap from muted menace to bulldozing choruses, encapsulate the band’s songwriting progress from Big Fat Smile. The first half of You Got It Girl, too, demonstrates the experimentalism that went on in the studio, using atmospheric, electronica soundscapes as a springboard into its distorted, juddering climax. The aggressive stomp of final track Actors is a fittingly frenzied closer, a short, sharp burst that, like many of the songs that makes up Priorities, leaves you punch-drunk but ready for another round.

With the album scheduled for an August release, Don Broco look set to emerge as the bright, brute new force in British rock – and beyond. “We wanna be known as a good group that write good songs. We don’t wanna get pigeon-holed.” True to their word, Priorities defines this quartet as a band determined to exist in their own thrilling right.

Don Broco - View

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Hey Vanity

Doors 7:00PM, age 14+


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