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Timing Is Everything: Davey Newington Talks Boy Azooga's Debut LP '1,2 Kung Fu!'

Wednesday, 06 June 2018 Written by Laura Johnson

Photo: Stella Gelardi Malfilatre

More haste, less speed. It’s a lesson a lot of us learn the hard way, and one that has shaped Davey Newington’s trajectory with his latest musical project, Boy Azooga.

A musical career might have been considered a foregone conclusion for someone whose parents were both members of the BBC National Orchestra Of Wales, and who took up the drums when they were only six, but Newington’s first steps in south Wales’ alternative scene did not go smoothly.

“When I was 16 or 17 I was doing these folky songs,” he says. “I put them on Mypsace and I did a couple of solo gigs. I had a really bad solo gig where people were talking loads and I got really flustered and stopped, it was super awkward.

“I had to finish the gig and I was just like, ‘Ah man, I’m just going to wait now. I want to get it all together.’ I’m so into the drums and riffs and stuff that I didn’t feel like I was showing what I was about musically. So I just decided to wait for a while.”

More than 10 years on, Newington is poised to release his debut album with Boy Azooga, ‘1,2 Kung Fu!’. He wrote and recorded all the tracks himself, with the help of his friend and producer Eddie Al-Shakarchi, who has an in-house studio on a farm just outside Cardiff.

There, the weight was off his shoulders. They took hour long breaks after vocal takes to watch Spinal Tap. “I think that really inspired a lot of the record, the fact that we weren’t under pressure to get anything done,” Newington says.

It wasn’t until the album was completed that he made the decision to play live, drafting in drummer Daf Davies, Dylan Morgan on keys and bassist Sam Barnes. “I was playing drums in other bands for years and this was this extra sort of thing that I did in my own time,” he says. “It wasn’t ever really intended to be a band. I was just doing it because I really enjoyed going up to Ed’s and recording the tracks.

“It was circumstance that I was doing it all myself. I really enjoyed that process as well because I love multi tracking and having the freedom to build on tracks. You can do it with a band, but the whole thing is more of a studio, bedroomy type project. Now I’d say we’re very much like a band. On the next record - I’ve pretty much finished writing it - I’m still going to probably do some stuff on my own, but there’s definitely at least five tracks I want to do as a group and get that live feel.”

‘1.2 Kung Fu!’ drips with pop and rock influences from the ‘70s, but ricochets back to the modern day with samples and dips into hazy indie. These references are brought together beautifully as one cohesive piece, much like a film soundtrack. The songs are puzzle pieces that make sense when arranged correctly.

“There are certain songs where I knew I wanted it to change up quite drastically,” Newington explains. “I remember hearing this Ty Segall song, well Ty Segall and White Fence, called Time. It’s almost like a Neil Young, down tempo, ballad thing and then at the end it’s just goes into this Black Sabbath wig out. It just blew my mind. I was like ‘there’s no rules, you can do whatever you want in a song’.

“I love so much different music, the idea of there being quite a lot of contrasting styles on it excited me. I love the Beastie Boys record ‘Paul’s Boutique’ and I love that there’s so many different samples and sounds. They’re not afraid to cut stuff up. It should be jarring, but it never feels like it. It always feels like the right move.”

Newington credits the band’s buzz as the product of equal parts hard work and fortuitous meetings. It’s about being in the right place at the right time, if he is to be believed.

He namechecks Mark Thomas, of Cardiff-based band Islet, as someone who helped them get the radio play that resulted in Heavenly Recordings expressing an interest in the band, while their recent appearance on BBC 2’s Later…with Jools Holland, alongside Manic Street Preachers and Gwenno, is chalked up to an old contact their manager had.

From the outside, though, we can note the fact that they’ve been touring like men possessed and getting daily airtime play on BBC 6 Music. “We were pretty gobsmacked to be honest. It was amazing, we were super flattered,” he recalls about the appearance on Later... “I was also terrified and like ‘I really hope this is the right time and not a premature thing’.

“But when do you ever know? From the moment of being asked to the moment of doing it, though, that was the most nervous I’ve been about anything in my life. Even just making a cup of tea in my flat it was there in my head.”

When the cameras started rolling, the nerves subsided. They did all they could to enjoy the experience, sending an infectious sense of shared joy spiralling into our living rooms. Now Boy Azooga are attempting to do the same while on tour in the UK, delivering songs from the new record interwoven with jams and musical interludes. After all, this isn’t Newington’s first rodeo.

‘1,2 Kung Fu!’ is out on June 8 through Heavenly Recordings

Boy Azooga Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows

Wed June 06 2018 - MIDDLESBROUGH Westgarth Social Club
Thu June 07 2018 - LIVERPOOL Shipping Forecast
Tue June 12 2018 - CAMBRIDGE Portland Arms
Wed June 13 2018 - MARGATE Tom Thumb Theatre
Thu June 14 2018 - LEICESTER Cookie
Fri June 15 2018 - CARMARTHEN Parrot
Sat June 16 2018 - NEWPORT Le Pub
Fri October 05 2018 - DUBLIN Grand Social
Sat October 06 2018 - LIMERICK Kasbah Social Club
Sun October 07 2018 - BELFAST Voodoo
Tue October 09 2018 - BRISTOL Thekla
Wed October 10 2018 - BIRMINGHAM Castle and Falcon
Thu October 11 2018 - GLASGOW King Tuts Wah Wah Hut
Fri October 12 2018 - MANCHESTER Now Wave Venue
Sat October 13 2018 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Cobalt Studios
Sun October 14 2018 - LEEDS Brudenell Social Club
Tue October 16 2018 - NOTTINGHAM Bodega Social Club
Wed October 17 2018 - LONDON Scala
Thu October 18 2018 - BRIGHTON Green Door Store

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