Interview by Adrian Hextall:
Back in 1990, at Castle Donington, before Download, there was ‘Monsters of Rock’. That particular year a rising band called Thunder opened the day. Thunder did very well that afternoon, it was the slot that usually saw the band bottled by the partisan crowd, not because they were bad but because, well, that’s just what was acceptable. But in 1990 the crowd went bananas over them. That feat and recognition has yet to be repeated but one band in with a shout to make it in a similar fashion to Thunder are Stone Broken. The second year in a row at Ramblin’ Man, something that promoters usually avoid but in the band’s case, they return for the best of reasons. In 2016 they played the Rising Stage, named as a launch pad for upcoming bands to show off their wares, and got a great reception. So much so, they returned this year as the opening act on the main Planet Rock Stage.
We caught up with Rich (Moss, Vocals / Guitar), Chris (Davis – Guitar / Vocals), Kieron (Conroy – Bass) and Robyn (Haycock – Drums / Vocals) backstage after their set to talk about a phenomenal 12 months, what’s next and why practising in front of the mirror is still the right way to do it!
AH: Opening in the main stage today. You hear all these historic stories about bands like Thunder, they open the festival, they were launching the stage that day, best thing ever. What was that experience like for you at Ramblin’ Man?
Chris: Mind blowing.
Rich: It was. We were feeling nervous a bit just before we went on stage. But as soon as we got on there and seeing all the crowd. We thought it was a good sized one.
It’s the size of the stage I mean, you walk out there and it’s quite–we watched last year. Side of the stage. Blackstone Cherry. Decided to be where they were–a year later. It’s quite daunting. But as soon as you start playing, that all goes away. You start enjoying it. The stage just becomes the platform.
Chris: We need to able to move around and not have to go about smacking somebody in the face [laughter]
Robyn: Yeah, it’s a big enough stage.
Chris: Yeah which nearly happened.
AH: I was going to say you’ve obviously played those gig where its a corner stage, a triangular thing.
Kieron: Oh yeah.
AH: You are crumbled into the back corner just to primed by the drums. That must have been, blissful, really around space.
Robyn: It was a breeze. [laughter]
Rich: It was great and just you know, last year we played this festival but on the rising stage. And this year we are invited back to play the main stage. It’s just, it’s a testament to what not just what we need to do to do what our fans done for us. The support, the media, everyone, they’ve got us to where we are in the space of a year. It’s brilliant.
Robyn: We’re lucky that we have such die hard fans as well. They’re just really invested in the band and they will just travel anywhere they’ll go any lengths to support us.
AH: And willing to spread the word as well.
Chris: Oh yeah clearly.
AH: that’s clearly made a big difference hasn’t it?
Rich: We get people either message us or call out to us saying I went to see such and such the other day and I saw so many Stone Broken t-shirts. And it gets people talking about us and it’s all good promotion for us. So we’ve got the best fans in the world. Definitely.
Rich Yeah, I know every band says it but we truly — we actually do have the best band.
AH: To be fair though, I mean obviously they were coming in because you were due on stage. But there was a sea of Stone Broken t-shirts just traveling towards the stage wasn’t it?
Rich: Yeah, along the front row. There was quite a few on there.
Chris: I think everyone in the front row.
AH: Yeah, I mean that black and gold’s quite distinctive isn’t it? And to see all of that coming towards you, you think blimey!, Fair play.
Rich: Yeah it takes your breathe away some times.
AH: Especially when it’s a festival, because naturally a lot of people gravitate towards the festival shirt with all the bands playing on the back.
Chris: Exactly. And because there’s so many bands on, people wear, like you said, generic t-shirt or the festival t-shirt because they don’t want to kind of favour just the Headliner.
Because there are so many bands to choose from. So everyone that shows our support by wearing our t-shirt works out in the festival is just crazy.
Now, Stone Broken are known to look after their fans. Whether it is a simple birthday card sent to a member of the Broken Army or whether it’s a comp to win a signed picture or going so far as to look after a fan with a pretty serious illness to make them feel really special and lift their spirits… there’s a sense the band go above and beyond. As such they were quite happy to entertain some questions from my daughter, Sophie, stood next to me during the interview, who, at 11 years old and a budding guitar player, threw in a question to the band about playing technique.
Sophie: Well, I just liked how you play the guitar and because I’m playing acoustic guitar, I wish, I can’t actually play well standing up. So I’m trying to but I can’t quite get there. So I think it’s like really good how you play the guitar standing up.
Rich: Best thing to do is in front of a mirror, it sounds really vain, but honestly if you stand in front of a mirror try to start playing the guitar. Have it high up first. If you got a strap on it. And then every now and again make a little lower, a little bit lower, until it’s just nice and comfy. Best thing to do.
AH: There you go.
Rich: That’s my idea.
AH: So it’s exactly like mum when she has got the hair brush and she is singing in front of the mirror, yeah? You need to try that just for the guitar? If that works.
Rich: Yeah that’s exactly it.
AH: Now, you’re obviously picking fans up from a young age. You’ve elevated apparently to second favourite band. [Nods towards daughter Sophie with a smile].
Robyn: Oh wow.
AH: You got a little bit to do apparently to get above Green Day. So that’s right, isn’t it? (A nod of embarrassment and a look that says “Shut up Dad” follows….)
Chris: [laughter] I am extremely happy with second against Green Day.
AH: Well, you know, you could also be headlining British Summer Time at some point. That would be pretty cool wouldn’t it?
Rich: That would be nice yeah.
AH: How do you handle such a rapid acceleration in terms of the career? Because that’s, you suddenly find yourself, we got to do this. Now we need all this press, now we got to do this, the spotlight’s on.
Chris: You just come on and hope for the best. There’s nothing that will prepare you for it.
AH: It is a roller coaster?
Robyn: It is.
Kieron: It is definitely, I mean, each day is different.
Rich: It’s a roller coaster without the restraints, there’s no safety harness, there is no anything. If you make a mistake you make a mistake and it goes down. In the book you know. But you can try and do as best as you can hope for the best because like you said there is nothing that will prepare you or train, there’s no training. There is no class that you can take. So it’s, you just got to be I mean to be fair I think of this as the same band that we were when we started. We just get to play in front of more people now. Yeah, and for me, that’s the way it is, you know. People said now that we’ve grown and we have, but really we’ve still got a job to do and we go out there to entertain people and that’s what it’s all about.
Chris: I think as soon as we hit the stage is when we feel the same as what we did like three years ago when we played our first gig. We enjoy it, we love it, we love playing in front of people so that’s my thing really.
Robyn: I think that’s probably the key to longevity. If you don’t like what you do, you’re not going to do very well.
AH: It’s very true.
Robyn: We go up there every single time we play a show and we love it. and that’s what it’s all about.
AH: And if you had to provide that sort of advice for another band starting out same sort of space and time as you guys, presumably you’ve got to have the right team behind you as well to make this all come together. Right, so what works behind the scene for a new band that is getting a bit of a following but needs to make that next step up. What’s there in the background that helps you?
Chris: I think first and foremost is try and learn new skills yourself. Because it can be very expensive. I mean if you can’t do them, then do get someone else because there’s nothing worse than a jumped on adelade[?]. But if you can do it yourself then do it yourself in the interim until you get to a part when you think that can listen to the managers and get a book on managing. And that it takes a lot of stress off yourself and you just concentrate on going out and playing the shows.
AH: Got you.
Rich: We now have a great management team. A great booking agent, and an awesome road group. We got a tour manager in the same day[?]. And it’s those four people, well five, we got two managers. It’s those five people that sort of keep the gears of Stone Broken going and we just go along for the ride. [laughter]
Robyn: I think you just have to pick the right team. You want to pick guys that can do the job but also guys that — because they represent you at the end of the day. They go now and you need, they need to be like thinking right or you’re thinking as well in an active way.
Chris: And I mean in this day and age as well social media plays a big part of it as well. So I mean it’s relevant and you have to update it and you have to be on it. And that really just helps spread the word. There’s everyone sharing it, everyone’s liking it.
Rich: We still do a lot of air around it, the online store, Robyn sends out all the, I design all the t-shirts, and the social media, we got a strong team. Both in rehearsal space, we all [inaudible – wind blowing] If you can really just get prepared.
Robyn: I think the most important thing is just don’t keep yourself far form your fans as well. Always just talk to your fans after shows going like road shows. [cross talk]
Rich: After a show go out and speak to the guys that have come to see you.
AH: But that’s one of the reputations you guys have got there I mean birthday cards, messages, shot outs, competitions, anything to keep them engaged. And keep getting that personal touch makes all the difference, isn’t that?
Rich: It’s what it’s all about. Looking after the fans, they look after us. They buy our merch, they do every thing else for us so.
Chris: They’re kind of most important aspect of a band because without your fans you’ll just be playing in your basement with [laughter] so you got to look after them and treat them good.
Robyn: And we’ve got the Broken Army. The Broken Army really is the family. It’s the core of what we are. So we — every show we play for them so.
Rich: Also, Paul Anthony has been so good to us.
Chris: He’s been an absolute diamond, he really has.
AH: And has he sort of come forward and said , “right this is what I really like about you guys. This is why we keep not giving up on you?”
Chris: Yeah I mean he comes to speak–he speaks to us very, very regularly. Which is great to have that sort of relationship. And I mean one good thing about Paul, there is many good things about him, but one good thing is that he will tell you honest opinions. So we played a show in London and the next morning he called me up and he said guys want to chat there last night and he gave me pointers of what worked and why he felt it really worked. And then we, you act upon that and he was right you know. I think that’s the most crucial thing, to listen to people.
AH: Those people that have seen thousands of shows.
Robyn: Yeah, and if we listen to some advice and it’s not the right advice, then we would put it aside. But there’s lots of good people out there who just want to know good things for you so….
AH: Well you move. You actually use the full capacity of the stage when it’s available to you.
Chris: Oh, yeah. Try and stop us.
Rich: You know what? We’re at level where we haven’t got production, we haven’t got lights, we haven’t got smoke canons, we haven’t got pyro. We are the fireworks, you know.
Robyn: We have to try and improvise the best we can. Like you say it’s moving.
Kieron: You can’t just go out there and play songs, you got to put on a show.
Chris: And to be fair when you playing songs you get into it as well. So I mean.
Rich: We cant control it really.
Chris: Yeah I just wanted to move up and down real excitement sometimes. But.
AH: And that’s the trick isn’t it, you’ve got to still enjoy it. You’re not just doing it because you’re getting a paycheck at the end of the day. You’ve got to enjoy it as well.
Rich: We said when we wrote the first album, we need to write songs that we love listening to because we’ve got to play them for a long long time. And I still enjoy playing every single one of our songs.
Chris: Oh yeah definitely.
AH: You’ve got to be able to fasten on to that song that your fans are going to expect every single show.
Rich: And I think the ‘Wait for You’ has a really deep connection with our fans.
Chris: I think ‘Wait for You’ is our scores there really. I think that will feature in all of our sets pretty much.
AH: You’ll soon find out because if you ever drop it, and then you get the social media feedback then you’ll know.
Rich: We saw Extreme, they did like a little acoustic. And you know that’s about because they dropped More then Words for a couple of shows. They were supporting Aerosmith at the time. They walked off stage and written on the wall in black Sharpie was “Play the F&*king song!”. That was written by Stephen Tyler. [laughter] He told them to put ‘More than Words’ back into the set. I think they played like two shows without it.
Robyn: You can’t do it. You can’t do it, that’s what the fans want.
AH: Absolutely. Well good excellent. You guys thank you so much for your time, great set today, best of luck for the future.
SB: Thank you.