Don Broco release new album Amazing Things as tour heads to Portsmouth Guildhall
Manchester Super Reds No1 Fan is one of the stranger music videos you’re likely to see this year.
A recent single from UK rockers Don Broco, it previews their fourth album, Amazing Things, which was released this week.
While the song is a wry commentary on the obsessive nature of fandom, the video is a sci-fi pastiche featuring cloned David Beckhams, climaxing in a space battle with the footballer’s giant disembodied head. Really.
‘That was really fun to make,’ laughs frontman Rob Damiani on a Zoom call with The Guide, ‘just a mad day, it is the most bonkers video concept we've ever had.’
Rob explains the idea behind the song: ‘The idea of the song had already been born with these super-fans who go a bit far. Then I found this keyring at my parents' house – they'd been tidying through all my stuff from when I was a kid.’
It was a leftover from a childhood phase as a supporter of Manchester United, and this piece of unofficial merchandise had the slogan ‘Manchester super reds, number one fan’ on it. Rob thought it would be fun to give it to the band’s drummer/vocalist, Matt Donnelly – who is a Man Utd fan.
‘We had two sections of this song which didn't fit and we didn't know how to piece them together, so I thought, I'll just shout something, it will be fine. I pulled out the keyring and shouted that slogan as a placeholder vocal.
‘But then we thought it sounded awesome and it took the life of this more open-ended song – it's not just music fans we're talking about, it could be fans of literally anything.
‘It's a song about where the passion for something becomes too much, and then the judgement they will enact on their heroes. ‘
Is this something they’ve experienced first-hand?
‘We've had a few real hateful comments sometimes – classic taking the mick out of my hair or how I dress. Or the music – a certain way we've taken a new album. But we've never had anything too horrible.
‘We're quite sensitive people anyway, and even that stuff gets under our skin!
‘But I’ve seen some real horrible things about bands we've been on tour with where it makes you think, how can someone who loves this band so much…
‘There was a band – I won't name names – who went on tour with another band which the fans didn't approve of.
‘You could maybe be annoyed by that, or you don't think they're the right band for them to tour with, so you won't go see them. But instead it turned into this huge thing where they were getting very personal. It's crazy.
‘Maybe this is something that's always been the case, but through the vehicle of social media, it just feels so much more in your face, and it's so much easier to see these things and let them bring you down.’
He gives another example with the Game of Thrones finale, which left many fans disappointed.
‘It's something I wasn't satisfied with, but I would talk about it with my friends – it's a topic of conversation.
‘But you'd see these messages targeting the writers and the director – they were getting death threats.
‘Even though they can hopefully compartmentalise it, and these people aren't really trying to kill me – but when you're getting hundreds of messages like that, it's hard not to be affected by that.’
The four-piece, originally from Bedford have been easing themselves back onto the promotional treadmill after using the lockdown to take their time writing Amazing Things.
Having only finished touring album three, Technology, in October 2019, the original plan had been to spend three months writing and recording the new album in early 2020 before headlining alternative rock/punk festival Slam Dunk in May to launch the new album. Covid of course put paid to that plan.
‘It was stupid, crazy. I'm glad that didn't happen because the album would have been rubbish!’
So the band went back to the drawing board.
‘It was nice not to have the crazy pressure we put ourselves under, with a planned tour or a festival appearance, where we have to have the album finished by this specific date or otherwise we're kind of screwed,
‘Not having that meant that we could write the album in a more relaxed way and have a bit more time to ourselves.
‘After the initial horror of lockdown and what was happening in the world had sunk in, once you got into the flow of it, from the writing perspective, it was actually quite good.’
The band played surprise sets at this year’s Reading and Leeds Festivals in August before finally getting that headline spot at Slam Dunk last month. For the band, sharing the experience with their fans was paramount.
‘That was amazing – that's the thing that makes it all worthwhile.
‘Getting to play all the new songs you've been sat on for so long now, and for a lot of people it was their first festival back too, so having that release of people so happy to be in a field again, having a few beers, seeing bands.
‘It was just a really good positive place to be in. We were all so happy.’
The new album was recorded last September at a studio in rural Suffolk when restrictions eased.
‘We'd been writing completely over Zoom and been sharing ideas, and chucking things over on the internet and building it up, so going in the studio for the first time and seeing each other…
‘Knowing we were all Covid-free and as safe as we could be, it was like being on holiday, actually, because I'd been stuck in the flat for so long.’
Amazing Things is a totally of the moment album, touching on a number of current hot topics – from climate change in Swimwear Season, to casual racism in Uber (inspired by a string of unpleasant cab rides in America), via the toxic nature of social media in Gumshield.
The anthemic final track, Easter Sunday, even deals with the human cost of the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘It was just anything that was going on in my brain over this last year,’ says Rob, ‘the way I'm processing is that I've maybe had more time to think.
‘It was very hard to ignore so many major stories.
‘It was a huge year of social and political movements that definitely changed the way people thought in general – or opened their eyes to a lot of things, or things which had always been bubbling away had been brought to the surface.
‘I don't usually think: “right: I'm going to write about this”. I have a notepad of musings and thoughts, and stuff I'll jot down, but I'm probably not even going to write about this, but get it down on paper and see if it spurs any ideas.
‘Usually when the music's there, that's what dictates the feeling and I think: “Ah, this could be cool... and a certain lyric might pop out.
‘I definitely didn't set out to write a particular album or selection of songs, but that's what's happened.’
Gumshield deals with something many of us will be familiar with – the polarisation of views on social media and how easy it is to get sucked into an argument where no one will change their position.
‘I'm too afraid to get involved with it!’ says Rob, ‘and that's where the song comes from.
‘There's been moments where I've seen friends on conversations on a post, and you'll see people weighing in, and I'm tempted to say something, I've even written something and deleted it because I can't deal with the emotional energy it take to go back and forth. I get really sucked into reading other people's conversations.
‘Just being interested and a bit of a voyeur – I do find it interesting, but then it drains me as well. It's very hard in social media, and Twitter in particular where you've only got so many character to really be gong back and forth and having a productive debate.
‘Nuance goes out the window and emotions are running high – I find it quite stressful reading it, even though I'm addicted to reading it.
‘I can't remember the last time I went back to someone with a reasoned argument, because I know they're just going to come back with something else and it just keeps feeding the beast. That song is about the anxiety it creates with in that world, and the by-product of that is that I keep away from it!
‘It feels like if you're going to go that way, you really have to commit. This could be something that will take up the rest of your evening – the rest of your week, even!
‘If you've got something to say, you've got to say it as best you can. Even when you're saying something you believe in, and have a clear idea in your head, there's still a lot of translation to do from what's in your head and trying to articulate your point.
‘Unless you're a talented writer it's so easy to misquote yourself.’
Don Broco are at Portsmouth Guildhall on Sunday, October 31, doors 7pm. Tickets £36.75.
Go to portsmouthguildhall.org.uk.
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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