Newcastle duo Boo Seeka enter "phase two" of world domination

Ben Gumbleton's singing career began the day he drew the shortest straw in a band at Whitebridge High School.

"Yep, the only reason I started singing is because everyone else said they didn't want to sing," he said, laughing.

"We all decided to draw straws and whoever drew the shortest straw had to learn how to sing - and that was me."

Gumbleton is one half of indie-electronic duo Boo Seeka, alongside fellow Novocastrian Michael May.

He started the band in 2015 with original founding member Sam Croft and their debut single Kingdom Leader was streamed more than 15 million times. Their 2017 album Never Too Soon debuted at number eight on the ARIA album charts and earned them coveted spots on festival line-ups Beyond The Valley, Groovin The Moo and Splendour In The Grass.

Kingdom Leader - Boo Seeka

Boo Seeka went on to sell out numerous headline tours across Australia, North America and Europe.

Croft left the band in 2018 to pursue an aviation career and May took his place.

May and Gumbleton have just released Take A Look, their atmospheric first song via Daily Nightly Records and under new management with Untitled Group. It's the lead track from Boo Seeka's eagerly awaited second album, which is being produced by Matt Bartlem.

The pair were due to fly to Queensland to start recording the day the state's borders were officially closed. Now they are playing the waiting game.

"It was an unfortunate situation in that we haven't got the record completely done but in saying that, a positive that's come out of it is that I've written another 20 songs and created more work for everyone," Gumbleton said, laughing.

"We will end up with more songs in the pile and it will be an even better record.

"We were supposed to be in Europe now, then America, come back to Australia and release the second single, go back around again and release the record. Everything has changed and we're just waiting to see where we're at and what we're doing in terms of what restrictions might be lifted.

"Lockdown has been frustrating but the best place to be in lockdown is Newcastle - you wouldn't want to be anywhere else. It's God's country."

FRESH START: Michael May and Ben Gumbleton of Boo Seeka, who have just released new single Take A Look. An album is to follow later this year.

FRESH START: Michael May and Ben Gumbleton of Boo Seeka, who have just released new single Take A Look. An album is to follow later this year.

BEING confined to his home has given Gumbleton a chance to reflect on the band's meteoric rise to fame. It's also been a time to plan for the future.

"When Sam and I started out everything just happened so quickly," he said.

"We put out one song and literally a week later it was on the radio and then a week after that we were on tour and did not stop for three years straight.

"We were going around the world and kind of picking it up as we went. Figuring out live shows, figuring out what the sound was that Boo Seeka was actually creating [laughs] ... I think we ran on pure adrenaline."

He pauses, thinking.

"It's probably taken until now to get a grip on what's happened. We'd literally be in Europe and we'd get a phone call from management going 'Hey I know you were gonna come home but you've just been offered a tour of the States, do you want it?' and we were like 'Yep let's go'. Having some time out, we've been able to reflect on the first album and figure out what we can do better for the second album."

Oh My - Boo Seeka

Gumbleton, you see, only met Croft 24 hours before starting the band with him.

"The day that I met him he was going to sign a cadetship to be a pilot and I changed his mind," he explained.

"That was literally it. He was a fan of the band that I was in, Benjalu, so he was like 'Stuff it let's give this a go'. His parents weren't exactly stoked about that.

"When Sam decided to leave the band to become a pilot - being the incredible person that he is - he basically said 'Let's not go out with a press release and make a big song and dance about me leaving. Let's just explain it if we need to explain it'.

"I wouldn't have cared if he wanted to go public about leaving the band, but he didn't. The funny thing was when Michael came in people were talking to him thinking he was Sam. But I think people know Michael as the other face of the band now."

BOO Seeka has entered what they describe as "phase two". May, who was a fan of Boo Seeka before joining the ranks, is helping to steer the duo's signature sound.

"He's been incredible. He is a big part of this next record and we're just really excited," Gumbleton said.

"The first record was really successful, especially because Sam and I didn't know what we were doing, but now Michael and I just want to get better at writing songs and really hone in on that sound that people know to be Boo Seeka.

"I saw a comment on our social media just before where someone said the new song [Take A Look] is the Boo Seeka sound that we know, only better. And I'm like 'Well, we're heading in the right direction'.

"I think people were waiting to see where the music would go now that there is a new guy. But Michael came in as a fan of Boo Seeka and said 'Let's keep it going, it's working and it's what people love so let's just keep going'."

The laidback Gumbleton says he isn't feeling the weight of expectation with album number two. Not even when album number one was such a runaway success.

"I have been such an overthinker my whole life, and with this record I am going back to basics," he said.

"I feel that there was way more pressure with the first record. Me and Sam had written four singles that went crazy on the internet and we were like 'Shit, now we've got to do a record'.

"We weren't going to put any of those songs on the record. That's where we felt pressure. Now we're just honing in on what we do and trying to do it better, basically.

"For a manager I'm probably a really frustrating artist to look after because I don't just sit down, nine to five, and write a song. Something has to hit me to write about it. It's not like 'OK, I'm staring at a cup of tea and I'm going to write about it'. That's not how it happens for me.

"There are some restrictions, like when we need to get the record out, but it really does have to mean something to me to want to write about it."

Take A Look - Boo Seeka

May and Gumbleton have both said new single Take A Look contains a message that serves as a reminder for them.

"Take a look at me now, Are you running the game? Never running away, Look at me now, Up here in the clouds .."

I ask Gumbleton what that message is.

"I promise I'm not trying to get out of answering the question, but when I write my lyrics - regardless of what it means to me - I really try to write quite openly to the point that I don't paint the picture for the person listening," he replied.

"This song is a strong message for Michael and I. The message to each other ended up being the chorus to the song. But we wanted to write the rest of the song in a way that people can interpret the lyrics in their own way.

"When I write music and lyrics I really want the listener to take their own message out of it."

As for album number two, it's "100 per cent coming out this year". And a hometown gig is definitely on the cards.

"The Cambridge is like a second home to me, you know," he said.

"I don't know how many gigs I've done there between Boo Seeka and Benjalu, there's so many. I feel for the venues. There is nothing we can do right now for them and it hurts.

"When it all started going down we heard that venues would be able to open for 250 people we're like 'Right, let's get in there and do what we can for the Cambridge and do four shows back to back and get people through the door'.

"And then they had to close. I felt helpless. I wish we could do more for every pub, cafe, venue - you name it.

"We would love to make sure our first gig back happens in Newcastle. If we could make that happen, we'd try to play at multiple places.

"I reckon it's going to be one of those iconic days that you look back on, like, 'Remember the day when everything opened back up?'.

"But when that's going to be is the big question."

This story Ben Gumbleton on "phase two" of Boo Seeka first appeared on Newcastle Herald.