Professing a love for UK bands such as 3 Colours Red, ‘A’ and The Wildhearts (of whom they’re shocked to see a poster of an upcoming gig for, clearly not informed of their 33rd reformation) they’re a band who’re obviously passionate about music, displaying an eagerness to perform that could mistake them for a teenage punk band about to play their first gig out of town.
That is, of course, were it not for their astonishing Burning Heart debut ‘Pocketrock’. Wrapped up in a sugary pop-punk shell it’s an electrifying disc that feeds heavily on a rich melodic-punk template, but refuses to lose sight of the ‘punk’ aspects. Blessed with the most hook-laden of songs Donots meld deep crunching riffs with heart-wrenching melodies, taking you to an exclusive new dimension of the genre that’ll make you wish you had a residency there.
But, lets go back to the start. Donots began life in the small town of Munster, Germany, playing metal covers, eventually venturing into a barn for their first gig in Ibbenbüren in ’94. Over subsequent years they began to experiment more, as anyone who’s had the misfortune to hear their first self-released album, ‘Pedigree Punk’, will testify. “It sounds so awful”, sighs Alex. Thankfully, their perseverance paid off and they found their niche in high-octane punk rock, their second self-released album finding itself in the sweaty palms of a certain Samiam guitarist, who gave them their first big break. “We were really lucky”, explains Alex. “We’re all big fans of Samiam, and suddenly I receive an email from Surge asking if we wanted to support them on their tour.”
And it paid off. Burning Heart noticed the talent in this smart new, unsigned, German outfit but, bizarrely, at the time the band chose to carry on their search for a German label, deciding a Swedish label would prove too much of a problem.
“We sold a thousand copies of our first CD at concerts and stuff”, continues Guido. “And yeah, it was pretty good to be a kind of name in the local area. And then we got bigger & bigger and we made the second CD which was way better and which was also a thousand copies, but we made much money, something like 6,000 bucks. That was really good and we got in a German magazine called ‘Visions’ and got a track on it. Then we played the Bizarre festival because of that and that was really good because at that festival our record label saw us & afterwards the boss of the record label talked to us and asked us if we wanted a deal.”
This record label was Gun and home to the likes of Clawfinger, Ignite and Guano Apes, amongst others. An independent label with a work-force of 8, it happens to have major distribution with BMG, enabling the band’s first properly released album, ‘Better Days Not Included’, to be heard all over the GASP territory (Germany, Austria, Switzerland & Portugal). Their surge in popularity resulted in them being asked to provide the official anthem to the European Snowboard Cup in Fiebebrunn in 1999. Considering none of the band snowboard or are into skateboarding like Millencolin, how did this come about?
Alex: “Well, Guido and I skated when we were 15/14 or something, not so we were skate-punk or anything…”
* At this point a very loud-spoken promoter brings in the band’s plentiful rider supplies to which the band jump up to inspect like a group of schoolkids at the tuck shop, clearly not accustomed to such bounty. “Wow”, exclaims Alex at the huge multi-pack of crisps.
“Prawn Cocktail???” questions a bemused Guido.*
So... err, ahem. The er, Snowboarding Cup song?
“Yeah, we err, told them”, Alex continues in-between mouthfuls of sandwiches & crisps. “We won’t make a snowboard song; we’ll just make a Donots song and they can take it if they want. That was the thing we said.”
Your songs seem quite accessible to that kind of crowd, and also the MTV pop punk generation. How would you feel if you suddenly took off like Blink 182?
“Actually, in Germany we are on MTV,” remarks smart-alec Purgen. “But the thing is, it doesn’t change anything, apart from more kids coming to your show. I mean, we’ve been doing this for a few years now and it’s got bigger and bigger in Germany and now we’re trying to reach a few people in the rest of Europe. But we don’t freak out about it or anything.”
Guido: “We just play our music and if people like it… We never plan on anything. We just play and it got bigger & bigger on it’s own.”
Alex: “We’re just there in our rehearsal room having fun and writing songs.”
I guess another reason I ask is because I read a review of your album recently where the reviewer only listened to 3 tracks before dismissing you as just wanting to emulate Blink 182 and be on MTV.
Purgen: “No, because we made this type of music before… like, a long, long time before Blink 182.”
Alex: “Plus, I think we’re very different from Blink.”
I’ll say. Donot’s have better songs for a start. But then that could have something to do with their influences, which range from Metallica to Hot Water Music to EMF. “Hey, I liked EMF like, 15 years ago!” Shrieks Purgen. One thing’s for sure, Donots prove that those of you who’ve found yourselves gradually disowning the pop-punk genre due to it’s conveyor-belt of clones now have hope that there are still bands out there with the classic songs and lasting impact to take over from the likes of Green Day and MxPx.