The Unshakable Fearlessness of Boo Seeka
For the past two years, the Australian music industry has been all about BOO SEEKA. With airy vocals from Ben Gumbleton and meticulous production helmed by Sam Croft, the folk-tronic duo have taken the nation by storm with their array of fresh sounding music, blending the innocence and vulnerability of folk with the relentless energy of dance music and icing it with the coolness of pop.
Now, after making fans hang on to their every move for two years, the duo finally has an album coming out – Never Too Soon out via SURESHAKER on August 4th. We caught up Sam (Seeka) of the duo to speak about their unconventional way of doing things, why they tour so f*cking much and about playing their first show only two weeks after meeting one another.
Feels like I’ve been waiting an eternity to say this, but Boo Seeka finally has an album coming out.
I’ve feel like I’ve waited an eternity to say that we have an album coming out too!
How good does it feel to have it out in the public and especially with the album coming out in just under a month?
Yeah, it feels really good. We’ve been waiting for this moment for a really long time now. It’s finally here.
So have the rest of us! What I did want to know is that for the past two years, ever since ‘Kingdom Leader’ and ‘Deception Bay’ dropped and took on a trajectory that was just stratospheric, all I’ve seen is Boo Seeka are just touring, touring, touring. How did you guys even find the time to write an album?
We pretty much wrote the album on tour. We have a process that we’ve kind of adopted since day one because at the very start, Ben and I met and two weeks later we were on tour with Kim Churchill, didn’t even have a set. Every day, we were sound checking in bars or whatever and sitting there with a keyboard and guitar trying to write songs to play that night. That kind of got us started in this psyche of when we’re on the road, that’s the time to write music. You’re around music, you’re exposed to it, and you’re a new artist with new songs. We would write a lot of ideas on the road, in cars, in tour vans, in car parks, wherever. Then just when we got home after however long away we’d knuckle down in a bedroom or a studio and pump them out.
Oh sick, so I guess you didn’t really take the conventional route writing and recording?
Not really. I mean, you can do that. You can tour for six months then stop and record for six months. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s how Ben and I like to work. If we have too much home not touring, we get a bit antsy and we want to get out and play some music.
Yeah, of course. In records down the road, do you think you’ll try and follow that process as much as you can?
Well if we have too much time off the road, Ben’s face gets all pruney because he spends too much time surfing. I don’t know, maybe at one point we’ll take time off to record. We’d definitely like to do that as an experiment at some point just to see what we’d produce. It’d be really worthwhile and it would push us into a different direction, which is definitely cool.
It’s funny you mention that actually because the origins of Boo Seeka wasn’t really the typical way that some groups form together. I’m actually from Newcastle, so I’ve seen Ben as the lead singer in the band he used to be in – Benjalu. My mate and I really loved Benjalu and we saw that Ben had this new project called Boo Seeka and thought, “Oh I wonder if this will sound like Benjalu.” Didn’t – at all. And now I understand that you were producing under a different name prior to Boo Seeka as well. Do you find that you’re bringing different elements from two relatively different musical landscapes to make Boo Seeka’s sound?
100%! There are a lot of hurdles that come with doing things that way because we, for a long time, operated on two different wavelengths and we had different ideas on what a song needed to have. But that kind of gave us uniqueness and as long as we both opened ourselves up to the other’s way of working, we then adopted each other’s methods. We respect each other for what we do. That allowed us to create music that you could strip back to an acoustic guitar and they’ll hopefully be beautiful, from front to back just to listen to around a campfire. At the same time, the way that we produced them you can dance and move to them, the bass can hit you and that adds another whole level of emotion.
Do you mind taking me through what some of these creative compromises or creative differences were and how exactly did you overcome them?
Let’s say we have a song that’s front-to-back lyrics and chords done. For example, we had a song called ‘Bronzed’ which we still play live – it’s not on the album – and it’s pretty much a drum and bass banger. Ben was like, “let’s just keep it banging from front-to-back.” To which I was like, “Nah man, it’s dance music. You got to make the dance bit stand out by bringing it down. In the bridge, dip it down, let’s cut all the drums out to build it back up again. Let’s have some light and shade.” That was just where different worlds collided through different levels of understanding of different styles of music. How we dealt with that was we created about eight versions of that song over the period of about six to twelve months! Haha. We found one we were happy with so we kind of ran with that. In any scenario where we have differences, we’re really good at working them out together. At the end of the day, it’s us two in this forever. We just have to relax on it and compromise. It’s all about keeping things happy, positive and creating music that you love! Obviously with that ‘Bronze’ song we didn’t get one we were happy enough with to put on the album! Haha.
With those differences, do you think it ever stagnates the writing process?
It definitely can stagnate processes. There are times, and this probably goes both ways, when I present Ben something and he’s not as into it as I am. I’ll get a bit bummed and then I’ll drop that song for a while. We kind of got over that a while ago. Now, we’re just much more open to what the other person wants to do. We’ve realised that closing any door – no matter how bad you think it is – is just going to stop you from hearing a product that in the end could be great. We’re very open. Ben puts it well when he says “we’re like blue and yellow coming together and making green.”
That actually makes a lot of sense. Diversity in opinion when making any sort of project like this is really important.
Definitely. I think one point on that is that it stops our music from sounding generically folk or generically dance, which if we didn’t meet that’s perhaps what we would be making. It puts it nicely in the middle.
Yeah, that’s what I was thinking. Boo Seeka’s music taps into a lane that no-one else had tapped into just yet. It was fresh sounding, it sounded very modern and it sounded like right now. That’s really cool!
Yeah, thanks man!
You’ve been spending so much time on the road. When you were writing these songs for the record, was it all about encapsulating these experiences whilst you were touring everywhere?
Definitely. 100%. What we write about, especially lyrically, is experiences and what we’re feeling or what we’re doing. When we spend more time on the road than off the road, what we write about ends up being what happens on the road and those relationships you form there.
Well I guess every place you visit – no matter how many times you visit it – you’re never going to have the same experience.
You’re exactly right.
Fun fact – I actually saw Ben at a gig in Newcastle last night.
Was that the Horrorshow one?
Nah, it was Dope Lemon!
Oh, right! Fuck, he’s been to a few gigs lately.
I knew I was going to be interviewing one of you today. I saw him there and thought “we can’t both be hungover. It’s too much.”
Hahahaha! How was the show?
It was phenomenal. Angus Stone’s voice is absolutely mesmerising.
Yeah, it is!
But the point I wanted to note, just personally, is that Ben, and perhaps yourself, are quite good mates with Kim Churchill like you mentioned before. Just by those experiences, and everything else, it feels like the Australian music community is exactly that – a community. It’s not as competitive or dog-eat-dog as some people make it out to be. Do you think that’s true and do you think it’s sort of helped you flourish as an act?
I would say that’s 100% true. We’ve experienced that from going overseas and experiencing their music culture over there. Our music culture is smaller – there’s a lot less bands going around. We all tend to do a lot of the same festivals and all become friends. Having those positive relationships with other band helps you flourish because you go and support these bands. That lifts you up, and then other bands just starting out can go and support you. It just helps young bands like us flourish, as you said.
For sure. Alright, so let’s talk about the album. Never Too Soon – why that as a title?
That is the title because as we started out everything was happening very quickly.
Like you said, you were writing songs and then performing them the same night.
Exactly. We were really unprepared for it. So we adopted this attitude of nothing is going to happen too soon. It’s never too soon. So let’s just take it as it comes and take everything that happens as best we can. Make sure we get the best possible outcome. That came with tours and radio play and all that stuff. For us, that mantra of ‘never too soon’ encapsulates two-and-a-half years of Ben and I’s relationship so we thought what better name to give our first album?
Yeah, that makes total sense. Do you feel like not worrying about things happening too quickly is an attitude you’ll want to keep going as you keep making Boo Seeka albums?
Yeah, definitely. We have goals and we realised that the only way to achieve those goals is to have that attitude. If something presents itself to you and you hesitate, you’re wasting your time.
Now you say it, there seems to be a fearlessness, for lack of a better word, that comes with Boo Seeka as an entity.
Yeah we’re constantly running in the dark.
Well, exactly. I mean, how long did you say it was that you knew each other before you performed?
We knew each other about two or three weeks before we toured with Kim!
Yeah that’s absolutely outrageous! But you couldn’t have done that if you had inhibitions about doing stuff like that.
Some of that mentality, I think, comes from our label Sureshaker. Ben and I both knew our manager for a long period of time, and that’s how he works as well. He was like “now you two know each other, get in the van and go on tour. You don’t need a breaking-in period. You can break each other in on the road.”
Do you think that Neal (manager) and the Sureshaker label influenced that and helped you discover that trait in yourselves?
I think Ben and I, innately, are like that but Sureshaker facilitated that aspect to come out of us. If we were with another label, for example, maybe they wouldn’t have said go on tour straight away. Maybe they wouldn’t have said release a song a week after you’ve met.
It’s a risk. At the very base of it, it was a risky move. A risk that rewarded tenfold, it was remarkable. You guys took off out of nowhere.
It could’ve gone the other way. People could’ve thought that we were really unprofessional and unprepared. But I think there was something charming about the infancy of our relationship that people really connected with.
Of course, and like I was saying before, that’s something that a lot of acts don’t have. They don’t have that sort of a honeymoon period of their relationship before they release something. They know each other inside and out prior to making their music. Do you think that you and Ben, getting to know each other immensely during the process as opposed to prior to, allowed your music to develop as your relationship developed?
You’re hitting a lot of nails on the head, Jackson.
Haha, doing my best!
They’re good points I hadn’t really thought of before. It’s super true. I look back on the music we were making, and more specifically how we made it, as opposed to how we do things now because they’re worlds apart. That’s why we finally got this album finished in the last six months. We’ve been so productive because of our relationship.
So you’re embarking on yet another tour. Is there a pressure to change things up each time you go on tour? Because the last time I saw you was at Manning Bar this year, and it feels like every time I see you guys – which must be in the double digits by now – there’s always an immense amount of energy. You two are really animated and electric and it’s really exciting. Do you feel pressure, now with an album coming out, to try and keep the audience on their feet in terms of what you’re offering?
We want people to be turning up thinking the best of what they got last time, and we want to give even more this time. Every time we play we want to offer something more. Whether it’s production, whether it’s new songs, lighting, even just Ben and I’s interaction with the crowd and with each other. We’re always pushing.
On a final note, and on a personal note, what song that we haven’t already heard are you most excited for us to hear from Never Too Soon?
Good question! Okay, we’ve had this song that we’ve played live now for almost two years called ‘Calling Out’. If you’ve been to one of our shows, you’d know it as the song we’re Ben comes over to my side of the stage and we play it together on the synths.
When I was talking about your interaction, that is the moment that came to mind!
That song is the biggest song of our set, it’s the most dance-y song we have and it took us two years to figure out how to record it in a way that best represents it. I’m really looking forward for people to hear that one because we’ve tinkered with it a bit, we’ve made some changes and we’ve kept those core elements that we gathered people really liked. After every set, people would always ask us about that song. We need that song.
Words by JACKSON LANGFORD