Boy Azooga are a lot of things. A solo project and a band. Influenced by William Onyeabor and by Black Sabbath. By Run DMC and Caribou. Band members have played in various Welsh bands from the afrobeat vibes of Afrocluster to the genre-bending weirdness of Charlotte Church's Late Night Pop Dungeon.
What began as a side project for multi-instrumentalist Davey Newington - he plays every instrument on debut record '1,2 Kung Fu' - has rapidly developed into one of the most exciting young groups in the UK today. Signed to the legendary Heavenly Records before releasing their debut single, Boy Azooga have gone from strength to strength, with their first two tracks - Face Behind Her Cigarette and Loner Boogie - settling nicely into the playlists of Radio One, as if they'd always been there.
Newington drafted in the help of some friends from the scene in Cardiff and together they've been selling out venues and wowing crowds at festivals for the best part of a year. They come to Ireland - Dublin and Limerick specifically - in October and we got the chance to catch up with Davey before they performed their biggest show to date at Green Man Festival in his native Wales.
<<<GP>>> You're about to take to the stage for what is your biggest show to date, what does Green Man mean to you?
Green Man is a huge one, I've been coming here for years with my girlfriend and my friends. I remember when I first heard about it, it was such a surprise to see these international artists so close to home. 'Cause Cardiff, while it has picked up a lot over the past few years, it's a city that bands don't always tend to come to. It's weird. I remember seeing Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks playing here, in Brecon!? That's mad. It's such a surreal thing.
So yeah it's a dream to play here now. I've played it with other bands over the years but it's always been at the back of my mind that I'd love to do my own thing here sometime so it feels great to finally be here.
<<<GP>>> A lot of your label mates are playing here this weekend. The likes of Amber Arcades, Baxter Dury, the Heavenly DJs and of course King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard. Where's the party?
That blows my mind, you saying label mates and then mentioning King Gizzard. That's sick, the dream! I think it's just one big continuous party with them. Since the first time I met them, it's very much a party vibe. I've been really boring this year though. I think if I was drumming it'd be different but I'm still getting used to being a frontman thing so I'm trying to not mess my voice up. So all my mates have been getting on it, staying up until all hours, while I've just been going to bed with my bloody face mask on, I dunno what I've turned into.
<<<GP>>> How has it been with Heavenly so far?
Oh man, it's been amazing. I don't want to be too cheesy, I'm cheesy anyway but they were the dream label for me. There's a strong Welsh connection there, with Gwenno and a few others. I've been playing in bands for years and have had a few experiences that made me sceptical of record labels, which is more down to the current musical sphere. But Heavenly always struck me as being music lovers first and foremost.
<<<GP>>> The Confidence Man guys told me they're the most welcoming bunch they've ever met.
Awh man, I met Jeff, Danny & Katherine and Daisy and everyone the first time I went to London. I got to the office with my shirt on, tucked in y'know. And Jeff just offers me a beer and puts a tune on, it's Confidence Man actually, I'd never heard them before and he was dancing around the office, it was wicked. So I was like, when are we going to talk? But another tune went on and another and another for like three hours. And I was like this is exactly what I dreamed of, no bullshit.
Jeff is so infectious, he's so passionate, not just about music, but about literature and film. He just fuckin' knows everything. It's inspirational to be around him, you wanna do good things as a result.
<<<GP>>> What was it about Boy Azooga that meant they approached you?
I think, hopefully, they were just into the songwriting. I spoke to a couple of other labels and they were lovely but when I spoke to Heavenly, Jeff was picking up on songs, there's a song called Hangover Square on the album and it's not a single, just an album track and he was saying how much he loved the lyrics. That turned me on to the fact that he was just into the music, not just the potential of it being a commercial hit or anything.
There was a really cool moment where he was on a train to go see King Gizzard, and in that song it says "on the train to Brighton" and he rang me up to tell me that I had just sung that line while he was on the train to Brighton and he told me there and then that he wanted to put the record out. It was nuts.
But yeah, they're just music fans. They work so hard, like, I went into the office the other day and Jeff was there packaging up the seven inches for a band, which is cool, he could just be sat there in his armchair counting the cash, but he isn't. It's great to be a part of.
<<<GP>>> Your debut single Face Behind Her Cigarette got some traction but it was Loner Boogie that really kicked things into gear. What is it about that song that it resonated with people, given its barely two minutes long?
I think it's that thing of it finishing before you realise, which can make it addictive. Genuinely though, the idea of 'singles' was such an afterthought with the record. At no point did I think any of the tracks were going to be on the radio, or anything like that. I was just doing it in my spare time while I was drumming with other bands. I thought the songs were a bit too different for radio play. I knew my mates, my parents, girlfriend and my dog liked them. But yeah, when it came to picking singles, I was a bit useless, 'cause I wanted to do Loner Boogie first but everyone said to save it, as it's the best track on the record. But yeah, I really don't know why it was picked up, especially by Radio 1.
<<<GP>>> When you say you did the album in your spare time, was it a long process?
In terms of actually doing it, it wasn't much longer than your average album. It wasn't like My Bloody Valentine's second record or Chinese Democracy. But because myself and Eddie, who I should give a shout out to because we wouldn't be doing any of this without him, he's in his own band and I was playing in about six bands at the same time. So it was in my spare time but all of that spare time was dedicated to it. I'd come back from a gig at midnight and head to Eddie's and record into the wee hours.
<<<GP>>> You played every instrument on the debut record, will that be the case again with the second album or will you make use of the full band?
There are five or six tracks that I definitely want to do as a band, ‘cause it’s just amazing having the guys. Sam's in a band called Shoebox Orchestra, which is incredible. Dylan is in a band called DD DarilIo, which he's just started recording and Daf plays in Afrocluster. They're all amazing musicians, I kinda handpicked them for this project. I’m a big fan of capturing the sound of a band in a room, there’s something different about it.
It’s a weird, magical thing that you don’t get when you layer it up on your own. So yeah, I’ll probably do five or six with the boys but there a few I want to do on my own ‘cause I do like the self-indulgence of that too!
<<<GP>>> Did you find it hard to let the band take control in the live show and will you find it hard in the studio?
Yeah, it was weird but luckily the boys have no ego, they just liked the tracks so they tried to have fun with it. We've all been in bands for years, so we know that you can't do it unless you enjoy doing it.
But yeah, for the first record and the songs I've written for the second, I do come in and say "this is how it is done", but everyone brings their own flavour to it. Like Daf, the way he plays the first record, he's learned how and he can play it the way it is supposed to be played but when we're playing live, he just does it the way he feels at the time. I wish I had his arms.
<<<GP>>> You've obviously got plans in place for the second album. When can we expect to hear it?
I thought I had it down earlier in the year but then you go to places like Green Man, see someone like The Lemon Twigs and you’re like ‘Aw man, I want to make a record like that now’. But yeah I don’t want to wait too long, so June is what I’m aiming for.
<<<GP>>> You're coming to Dublin soon and have also made the decision to play in Limerick, which not many new bands do. Why was that?
To be honest, no. We got the offer to do the show and just did it, that's it really. I played there years ago, and in Kilkenny and Waterford. I've always enjoyed Irish shows, so no there was no particular reason, we just want to play everywhere. The more we see and do the better. A pint of Guinness would be nice.
You can buy Boy Azooga a pint of plain at The Grand Social in Dublin on October 5th or the Kasbah Social Club in Limerick on October 6th. Tickets available here and here, priced €13 and €10 respectively.