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December 2020 / January 2021

Boy Azooga: "I’ve always been obsessed with the afterlife… but not in a weird way"

Boy Azooga's Davey Newington knows how to pen a bloody good tune, and their debut album may just be one of the underground hits of the summer.
Published: 9:48 am, June 12, 2018
Boy Azooga: "I’ve always been obsessed with the afterlife… but not in a weird way"
Rather than following the more traditional route of forming a band and then recording an album, Cardiff's Davey Newington flipped that idea on its head for his shape-shifting Boy Azooga project.

Having grown up with classically-trained parents, music has always been a big part of his life: "Right from the get-go, really; my dad got me into Queen when I was super young - I used to play along on a biscuit tin to the greatest hits video," he laughs.

And it was that formative experience as a child that gave Davey his first introduction to the drums; his mum and teacher even arranged a day off school when his kit arrived. Soon taking up lessons inspired by his jazz drummer granddad, Davey then got into guitar at the age of 12 or 13: "I've always been obsessed with music", he enthuses.

As a teenager, he'd accompany his parents when they'd perform in the National Orchestra of Wales. "I used to love going to those concerts because it's so different to the stuff I'm used to," Davey recalls, talking to Dork from his bedroom at home in Cardiff.

"Your body absorbs all the sounds, and it's a wicked atmosphere, but people can tut at you if you're moving too loud. It's a lot more formal – there's no crowd-surfing at my dad's concerts - that's for sure," he laughs.

"pull" text="My dad got me into Queen when I was super young, I used to play along on a biscuit tin

During his school years, Davey was a part of a number of orchestras in Cardiff, went to a percussion club on Saturdays and then did his first proper rock gig aged 13 with a band made up of schoolmates.

But it was going to see The Darkness perform that made up Davey's mind. "That was a ridiculous first show to see because it was so over the top, but it was amazing. Justin Hawkins came out on a white tiger above the crowd, and I remember being like ‘I'm gonna be in a rock band now'."

It's this genre-hopping musical upbringing – which also includes a stint as Charlotte Church's Pop Dungeon drummer ("those were some of the most fun times I've had, even though it was a challenge musically") that has led him to release such a diverse record with Boy Azooga.

More of a mixtape of sounds and styles than one succinct collection of songs, Davey says the tracks took the shape of an album as he was recording them. Without a record label breathing down his neck pushing for a quick release, it allowed him creative freedom.

"If you can record without worrying about time or money you can perfect it a bit more, but then on the flip side spending just three days in the studio is good because of the pressure," he considers, concluding that the first way of working - without constraints – suited him best.

With some of the songs written almost ten years ago, including one when he moved out, it's a vast collection. Expectedly, then, each song sounds different from the last.

"I think the blink-y interludes and skips allow you to be a bit freer - whereas if it was just song, song, song it might be quite jarring."

That's not to say Davey is ruling out a more ‘traditional' album format in the future, but for now, he's happy that Boy Azooga's debut "feels like a lot of thought has gone into it and that it takes the listener on a journey."

Although there's not a particular overarching theme or concept to the album, the main idea that springs to Davey's mind is… death. It's not what we were expecting, but it makes sense – especially on tracks like ‘There's A Taxi To Your Head'.

"It's more of a party song," Davey says, "but it's got darker tones, and it's about the afterlife. I've always been obsessed with it… but not in a weird way," he reassures; "I'm just very interested in it".

Aside from death, there's a song about his dog ‘Jerry'. Overall though, while there isn't a specific subject, Davey knew he wanted to make the record flow in terms of the music: influenced by The Beach Boys, choruses overlap in different songs and interweave.

After completing the album, he decided it'd be fun to play the songs live. And, simple as that, Boy Azooga was born.

"I had a bunch of ideas of what to do in a live gig – I wanted it to be quite percussion-heavy," he considers. After having a jam with them in his flat, Davey recruited friends Daf Davies, Dylan Morgan and Sam Barnes to form the Boy Azooga live quartet.

When Dork calls, Davey is still reeling from playing one of their best gigs yet at Clwb Ifor Bach – the same venue where the band played their first gig.

"We did five dates last week across the UK and then in Cardiff a lot of the crowd got onstage, it was really fun," he says of their successful return a year later.

"That really was energetic - we encourage a party atmosphere and a bit of crowd-surfing," Davey says of the vibe at their live shows, though he still can't believe they're selling out venues.

"It's still a shock and flattering when people come down to see us. I think because we've had such a long time of doing the slog in other bands, we're super appreciative of the fact that people are into it and coming along. Whereas if people had started coming to my gigs when I was 16 or 17, I wouldn't have been that…" he pauses. "It's good to have a bit of perspective."

As a four-piece, Boy Azooga fuse pop hooks and indie guitar riffs with infectious choruses.

"It's weird because the album was meant to be a celebration of all the stuff I'm in to," Davey continues, "so I can't really think of it as one thing. It is basically pop music, they are pop songs, but I'm into lots of different stuff."

At their shows, Davey wants people to feel, quite simply, happy. Bringing a rave-y atmosphere to venues up and down the country, his inspiration for hedonistic gigs came after watching Ty Segall play Primavera festival at 3am.

"It was just completely mind-blowing, and I was like, ‘I need to write some more up songs', because it was just non-stop adrenaline."

Having formed the band after writing an album, Davey agrees that it was quite an unusual process. But for Boy Azooga's second album – yes, they've started working on it already – the quartet is coming up with ideas and songs together for the first time.

"You have those voices in your head saying, ‘You need to think about making it more energetic and lively', because it's going to be performed," Davey says of the new creative process. "Whereas when I was making the first record, it was literally just me, my mum, my girlfriend and some of my close mates that I would play the mixes to.”

And what does the future hold for Davey and Boy Azooga?

"I'm not sure really, I want to play more shows, travel a bit more, release loads of music and I've got some ideas for side projects; making and creating loads of things because, having been in lots of bands before, that's what I've always done."

Taken from the July issue of Dork. Order a copy here. Boy Azooga's debut album '1, 2, Kung Fu' is out now.

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