An Interview with Rob Damiani of Don Broco
Splice-magazine had a chance to sit down with Rob Damiani, the lead singer of Don Broco. While you may not have heard too much about them, other than they are a support band for Mike Shinoda on his latest tour, and they were one of the acts on the final Warped Tour. They are very well known in the UK. With three full length albums under their belt, including their 2018 release Technology, they also have several EP’s as well. They have headlined arena shows and have appeared on some of the biggest festivals in the UK. So now it’s time for them to come to our side of the pond and show America what they are all about.
How has 2018 been for you?
Busy! Looking back over the years we’ve had quite a few tours. We’ve been on the road for a couple months at a time. We checked the calendar and we found the number of shows we’ve done this year. It looks like we’ve done a show every two days, every second or third day. We love playing. This is what we do. We love to play live and any opportunity we get a chance to play to new people we jump at it. A lot of support shows in America and get the name out in America. A few people have heard of us before last year. Without releasing a record here, it’s so many bands going on it’s a real pure word of mouth thing. If you don’t have a label releasing your record, it’s very hard to get in front of people. So, this year releasing our third album Technology with an American label was the best thing that could ever happen to us. Compared to UK and Europe, where we’ve been a band a lot longer, it took a lot longer for people to get our sound and understand us. The American crowd is a super kind of welcoming, up for embracing the Don Broco sound. The American listener gets us. It’s great being able to tour so much.
So how grueling is that schedule on you playing a show nearly every other day?
We were really lucky to have some time off last month. The Warped tour finished. The Warped tour is hard enough in itself. We were told how tough it can be. This one, there were no days off in the second half of the tour. It was three weeks without any down time. We finished the feeling absolutely exhausted. But we had Reading and Leeds festivals back home in the UK. We had a week to travel back to the UK. We went straight into the studio. So we didn’t really get any chill time. We were penning a song during warped tour, hoping we were going to write more but didn’t. We wanted to get this idea down straight away. Potentially, and foolishly we had the studio time booked. So there was no rest, straight into Reading and Leeds festival. Literally as we packed up our stuff in Reading. We had a show in Germany with 30 Seconds To Mars. So it was across the channel and straight into Europe. We had a load of shows with 30 Seconds To Mars and Mike Shinoda. We thought this would be the end of this heavy touring schedule this year. We had some Asia dates which we are about to announce. We thought this month (October) we would spend time with our loved ones. Actually, see some family and friends, and maybe start writing the next record. The final show of the Mike Shinoda dates, he asked what are you doing next month? Do you want to come back to the U.S with me. We were like hell yeah! We are absolutely huge Mike Shinoda fans and Linkin Park fans. Despite us wanting to have some down time, opportunities like this don’t come around very often. The honor of being asked by Mike Shinoda to do this was just incredible. That doesn’t usually happen. Usually what happens is you go on a few shows and you wonder if the band will dig us and we’ll get to tour with them some more. Most often it doesn’t happen. To be asked and for it to turn around so quickly, within a couple of weeks to be back out touring again back on a heavy schedule. It was very cool. But ya, we will appreciate Christmas when it comes around.
So that is how you met Mike Shinoda?
We did some shows in Germany and Austria, and getting to hang out with Mike Shinoda. They were insane. They were incredible shows. The Post Traumatic album is amazing. It’s incredible what he’s done. Such an emotional and musically exciting album as well. To watch that show every night in Europe. We were just blown away. It’s either fate or luck. It just happened that he didn’t have anyone booked in to do the run. For us America is this exciting place for us. It’s early days for us here. Most of the crowds we are playing to are completely new and haven’t hard of us before. To get an opportunity like that to play to Mike Shinoda fans, it’s a bit of a dream come true for us.
You only have one album out in America out of the three Albums and four or five EP’s?
Yes. The one record Technology was released this year. Our second album Automatic also got released in America. I’m pretty sure our first album Priorities is now available in America if you look carefully. It’s all on Spotify and online. You can check it out there. If you want the physical album it’s just the last two albums that got released here.
You switched from Sony to Sharptone. What brought that switch about?
It was an interesting switch because Sony is such a huge company. We were signed to Sony worldwide, but signing to Sony in the UK proved difficult to get out of the UK. All the UK labels have I guess an inward-looking perspective. It’s definitely not as global as our limited experience with one album on an American label, Sharptone. I think America really looks to the world. When America releases music, they really do release it worldwide. They are champions of new music. They are prepared to really push you on a global level. Our experience with Sony in the UK was “things are going great in the UK. Don’t worry about the rest of the world.”. The UK is a great place. There is so much amazing music there and there are incredible places to play. But it is very small. People forget how small the UK really is. You come to America and it is so huge and so many people. So many cities and states to get to. For us to get an opportunity to get signed to an American label. It’s crazy comparing the lengths of tours you do. America really is this land of opportunity especially for musicians. You can reach so many people. A lot of bands can just live in America. You can sustain your career just touring America. You can’t do that in the UK. Maybe you can scrape a living, but with the state of the music industry, no one knows what’s really happening. There is no money to be made with record sales. It’s all about the live show. In the UK you’ll do maybe a week or two weeks max for a tour. It’s a tough business. In the states you can do a four- or five-week tour.
What do you think about touring in the states as opposed to the UK?
We’ve had some incredible tours for us we’re still like tourists. We love exploring new places, any opportunity to visit somewhere we haven’t been to before. (laughing) People can spot us a mile off, we are looking around all wide eyed. We got to see the Grand Canyon. We’ll see any kind of landmark. The geography here is insane. We love the city life as well. We were lucky enough to finish off in New York after the first tour we did. We had a week or two afterwards and we brought our girlfriends and enjoyed it as pure tourism. You can never do everything as there is so much to be done. In the real nitty gritty of tour life, we’ve been lucky enough to build up our career to a point where we are touring in buses. You are waking up in each city and are able to explore. Touring in a van, which most vans do, we started out in vans in the UK and Europe. You’re driving a lot and you’re not sleeping much. You’re taking turns driving. You don’t know where you’re going. It’s all very scary sometimes. We missed that step in America. A part of me wishes we could experience that. It’s hardcore. I have a lot of respect for American bands that do it the hard way. Like we did in the UK and Europe. In America it’s a different kettle of fish. The resilience and stamina that you have to have, especially if you are offered an awesome support opportunity like this, where the headline band is in a number of buses and you’re following them around in a van. We’ve done that in Europe. You’ll be clearing your stuff offstage, then jumping in the van and driving two days non-stop. Taking turns driving, taking turns sleeping. You get there just in time to the venue. You set your stuff up on stage. Do your thirty-minute support set. Then you pack up and start driving to the next place. That is tough, while the headline band will be waking up there the next morning. We’ve done a few tours like that in Europe, but the proximity of the cities are a lot closer. A lot of our friends’ bands that were doing warped tour were doing it in vans. When you’re driving around in American summer with no A/C it’s tough. I have a lot of respect for American bands.
You’ve been around for ten plus years and have built up your career. You have a good solid following in the UK. You play festivals and headline shows there as well. Now that you’re in the States and you find yourself in a supporting role. How does that feel downshifting into that role?
We are grateful to do both. Part of what I love about what we do, being a musician is the variety of what we get to do as a band. Somedays you’ll be on tour. Somedays you’ll be at home writing. Some days you’ll be out shooting music videos. There are different aspects to all of those. It’s creative, it keeps you on your feet. When it comes to headline shows, and support shows it’s a completely different kettle of fish. If you’re doing a headline show there is this extra pressure that we all feel. All these people are here to see you. You really don’t want to screw up, especially if it is a big show. I don’t want to say we get nervous, but we do feel the pressure. Me personally as a singer I want to put on a great vocal performance every night. I’m not having as much fun as I might have. I’ve learned my limitations of me as a human being. I can’t go out and be drinking or smoking and doing what some people do. It can be kind of a lonely experience. I’m on vocal rest and I am using hand signals to let people know what I want because I don’t want to lose my voice before the show. It’s a lot of high stakes. You come back and do a support show and it is a different experience. You’ve got not as long to play. You’ve got a half an hour, maybe forty-five minutes. That is the opportunity to win the crowd over. The crowd might not have ever heard of you before. It’s a completely different ballgame. The chance to win new fans is a really exciting aspect of the support show. I love the thought of a room full of people that don’t know who you are, and by the end of it are going to be singing your songs and checking you out and coming to your next show. I really enjoy it and think it’s a good thing. I like going around to places where they don’t know who you are. You are starting from the ground up. It’s that kind of excitement of okay you really have to do something here.
How do you feel that the crowd in the States is reacting to you?
Honestly, it’s the best reaction we’ve ever had. In the UK it took a lot longer for people to get us as a band. Ya, I think giving you the benefit of the doubt when you’re hearing music that you’ve heard before. You’re thinking what is this? Is this rock music? Is it pop music? We throw a lot of genre’s and a lot of influences into the mix. In the UK it was definitely a few years before these guys are doing something. The crowds in the states are some of the most welcoming crowds, and energetic crowds. Doing Warped tour, seeing the crowds grow throughout the summer. That’s the beauty of word of mouth and social media as well. People can talk about you and you find bigger crowds throughout the tour.
Has social media been kind to you?
It’s been great. That’s where you really see it take full effect on something like Warped tour. Where a lot of the people that are going to a festival like that, will be talking about you afterwards. When you have a festival where there are so many bands to see, and so much downtime where you’ve got your eye on five or six bands you really want to catch. Then you’ve got some free time “what do we do now?”, they think “we’ve heard about this Don Broco band we’ll check them out” and they come to show and check you out.
If you could collaborate with anyone outside your genre who would it be?
I’d say one of my favorite producers, who I actually got into, you could almost say, you know originally one of the bands could that got me into rock music and energetic genre blending vibe I loved about Linkin Park and Deftones. Bands that took rock music but injected this melody and intrigue. A band that I haven’t heard anything like this was N.E.R.D. It’s a Pharrell Williams group. Their album In Search Of was this real hip-hop rock fusion. I believe they recorded it and then got this band to basically replay all the parts live in a studio environment. It sounded so groovy and heavy. I loved that album so much. I loved all their stuff. They were constantly evolving and redefining who they are as a band. Pharrell as a producer has made so many hits, so many bangers. To think he is the guy that wrote happy, this huge worldwide smash that is such a different sound than what he was doing back then. I feel like there is nothing he can’t do. It would be a real different experience for us as a group. It would be scary, he is such a legend that I’ve loved for so long. His kind of pop sensibility, his song writing. Plus, all the cool production stuff that he does; chopping up music, coming up with catchy instrumental hooks. Ya, I think he is amazing. That would be a cool collaboration. I would love to see that one day.
Thank you for your time and I hope you have a great show tonight!