Interview: Matt Donnelly from Don Broco

Prior to their show at Exeter’s Lemon Grove last week, Razz’s Owen Bell had the privilege of a sit down and a chat with Matt Donnelly, drummer to Don Broco.

See Owen’s review of the gig here Review: Don Broco @ Lemon Grove

Owen Bell: What on earth happened in Oxford, at your previous gig? How on earth could the toilets leak that badly?

Matt Donnelly (Don Broco’s drummer): Very bizarre. Not a show I’d ever forget, I don’t think. The band before had just played. We were about to go on stage. A member of our management, who happened to be at our show, came into the room and says, “lads, hold your horses. This show might be off.” We asked why. He said, “you won’t believe this, but the toilets in the venue have exploded! They’re leaking. Human waste is seeping into the venue. And there’s a big health and safety risk.” So, we had to wait a little bit, see if the situation could be resolved. But unfortunately, cancelling was the right call. People were standing in a venue which was getting a bit flooded. And people at the front didn’t seem to realise what was going on because the toilets were towards the back. Everyone at the back who did realise what was going on was trying to step away. Everyone at the front was getting a bit crushed. So especially with the wet floor, we decided it wasn’t safe. It was very disappointing, especially for the people in the front who had seen two supporting bands and didn’t understand why they had to leave. But we will be rescheduling the show and announcing the new date very soon.

Owen Bell: In the song, ‘Technology’, there’s a great line, “I had a friend, can’t put his camera down.” Considering the recent Facebook scandal, do you think technology’s become too prominent in our lives?

Matt Donnelly: There’s definitely an element of that in the song, you could make a real argument for that. I think everyone’s relationship with technology and social media is unique. Some people handle it a lot better. Some people get too involved in it. They find it a bit too addictive. And it can have a real negative impact on our personalities. But I wouldn’t say that’s across the board. It varies person to person. And that line isn’t about a particular person, it’s a general observation of lots of people.

Owen Bell: My favourite song in the new album, ‘Everybody,’ seems to talk about a guy who’s had a mental breakdown. Any chance this was written specifically for students? Breakdowns like the one described in the song are sadly very common on many campuses.

Matt Donnelly: It’s great that anyone can relate to it. That line is about an experience Rob (Don Broco’s lead singer) and I had. And it’s actually about the way I was responding to a certain scenario. We slightly embellished it and exaggerated it. But it was probably the most difficult time for our band in our history. We had got to the end of our second album. It became clear we were about to leave our label, Sony, ahead of schedule. We felt a little bit directionless. We weren’t even sure if we wanted to carry on. It got to the point where it stopped being fun. Being in the band, there was so much worry about the future and so much pressure on ourselves. We just stopped seeing the fun side of it. We were on the way to playing a festival. We were driving ourselves there. And there was a road closure. I was very stressed we were going to be late. I can’t remember the exact scenario, but we saw an accident or a near-miss. That’s what the song’s reference was to.

Owen Bell: Thank you for sharing that. The new album ‘Technology’ is quite a contrast with the previous album, ‘Automatic.’ Have you noticed a different crowd since the new album was released, one attracted by the heavier sound at your gigs? Particularly since you’ve toured with Bring Me The Horizon and 5 Seconds of Summer.

Matt Donnelly: I would actually have to say no. The hard-core fan base that we’ve built up have always been there, through all three albums. And obviously, it’s grown too. And apart from that, just the general vibe in the room, in all our shows, have had the same dynamic. It’s very fun. It’s very energetic. And it’s very involving. I wouldn’t say I’ve noticed a change in that. It’s about 50/50 boys and girls. It’s awesome.

Owen Bell: After Exeter, you’re going to America. What’s it like touring in America as a British rock band? Is it quite different from the UK?

Matt Donnelly: It is in the sense that it’s so big. But apart from that, it’s remarkably similar. We’re playing at smaller venues in the States, playing club shows. It’s like playing in Britain a few years ago for us. It’s just the sheer distances between the shows that is difficult to get your head around. But the shows have been amazing. People have been so responsive. They’re so eager for new music. They’ve been so warm to us. We have an American record label as well.

Owen Bell: In the summer, you’re playing at Reading. Do you prefer playing at festivals or at gigs?

Matt Donnelly: I think the balance is right. Festivals are amazing. But they wouldn’t be so special if you were doing them every week. But they’re definitely the highlights of the year. There’s something nice about doing your own tour. You’re in control. You can fit in more songs, you can do what you want. You can make it look the way you want, and the way you want it to sound. In festivals, there’s immense time pressure on the day. You can imagine all those bands sharing a stage. You’re short of time and you have to make it work.

Owen Bell: There’s quite a bit of difference between the festivals. You’re playing at Reading but you’re also playing at Rock am Ring as well, the two are quite a contrast.

Matt Donnelly: Yeah, Rock am Ring’s awesome, although I feel Reading will always be our home. It was the festival we all went to as kids, when we were growing up. In the summer holidays, we saved up our money, we could only afford one festival, and that was the one. We went every summer. And eventually, we played there. When we played for the first time, I think it was 2010 or 2011, that will always be my favourite show, ever. Just because playing there was such a dream come true. It was a rite of passage for us.

Owen Bell: Do you find touring a bit much sometimes, particularly the long tours away from home?

Matt Donnelly: It can be, but I wouldn’t say so. There are so many jobs which could get you a bit down in the dumps, or you feel the pressure of. I think touring is quite a privilege. It’s a very fun job. The only difficulty of course is being away from your family. But if you can find the right balance, make use of technology to keep in contact with people, and make the most of the time you have at home, then I think you can make the best of it. And it’s a great thing to do.

– by Owen Bell

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