Interview: AWOOGA

After debuting a hoard of electrifying new material at their spiritual home of West Street Live back in May 2016, it beggars belief that Sheffield’s resident space-rock titans AWOOGA wouldn’t release those asteroid-flattening songs on record for another two years. But you can hardly accuse the much-loved triumvirate of procrastination. Whether it’s marathon pre-pro sessions on the Spanish coast, or the small matter of a game-changing record deal, it’s fair to say that lift-off is imminent for the next chapter of AWOOGA: Conduit. Following the acclaimed V Column (2011) and Artifacts (2014) EPs, the band are set to release their first LP, Conduit, through Rockosmos on April 20th.

Rockosmos is the Brighton-based brainchild of Amplifier’s Sel Balamir, who recently launched the label to serve as a home for his own band’s fifteen-year repertoire, as well as a platform to showcase the country’s finest prog-rock prospects. But before Conduit finds its way into the hands of fans far and wide, AWOOGA will embark on a mammoth UK tour with idols-turned-labelmates Amplifier – culminating in a blockbuster hometown show at Sheffield’s O2 Academy on March 25th. No pressure then, guys.

I spoke to one half of AWOOGA’s power-sibling rhythm section, Tam Ali, ahead of what promises to be a defining year for the band.

Considering how much has happened behind the scenes since Artifacts was released, what does the AWOOGA landscape look like in 2018?
Hopefully it should be full of us doing more of the good stuff, like gigging and touring. We’ve got the tour with Amplifier in March and that’ll help in getting Conduit out there before we release it in April on 4/20 [laughs]. We’re looking to get into Europe at some point again as well. It’s on the cards so hopefully that’ll pan out, and then we’ll do some more gigs over the summer.

How fundamental has the tight-knit affinity with the core Sheffield fan base been to the band’s progression?
Really important. It’s the one place that we know we can play comfortably to people who know our tunes and it’s always a great reception. It’s kinda what’s kept us going and makes us do what we wanna do because it reminds us that the people are still enjoying it.

Operating within a pretty niche corner of the rock spectrum, is sharing stages with Amplifier all over Europe and being signed to their record label as good as it gets?
We’ve always set our goals high in that aspect. We wanna do this as a full-time thing, if you like. We want it to be our lives but we’re realistic in the sense that it is niche, so we’ve gotta aim for those areas and really look after those people who like what we do. And also be realistic in keeping it pure for us as a band so that we feel good about it, instead of jumping on anything that might be trendy or push us in a direction that would be more successful but end up harming what the band does. It’s those two main principles that we try to stick to.

In a way, did having so much time to write the album mean that you overanalysed everything?
Yeah, I suppose the time factor does contribute to the music you put out, but we managed to go to Spain and record, so as a band we pulled all the music apart to work on the best bits and get rid of all the rubbish bits. We also had another refining process with our producer [Iago Lorenzo] in Spain, so having all that time was good because there’s even material there for the next record. We’ve made good use of the time, so it has actually been quite advantageous as well.

How did the Spanish setting influence the material?
The place where we recorded was a northern part of Spain [Vigo] just above Portugal. It was sunny but it’s got a similar climate to the UK in some respects. It has mountains and it’s beautiful so it did change and influence the music quite a bit. One of the songs that isn’t on the album that’ll hopefully come out soon was rewritten there, but our producer added a lot just in terms of having a professional outlook. He could see things in the music that we couldn’t because we were too close to it. We were totally out of our comfort zone but it gave us the opportunity to do something we’d never done before, so we just stayed out there for a month and got stuck into it.

Mat [Hume, the band’s manager] said I should ask you about the ‘torture guitar’. Dare I ask?
Yeah, the torture guitar! [laughs] Iago is quite an aggressive guy and he likes to get the aggression out in rock music, so he was wanting some really violent guitar sounds. We’d just finished a session and we were walking past a pawn shop in Vigo. There was this guitar for about €30 so we thought we should just destroy that [laughs]. We all put in and it got some serious abuse. It got run over by a car in the end and you can hear it being mutilated on Bandit!

Awooga play 02 Academy Sheffield with Amplifier on March 25 (tickets here) and Conduit is released on April 20

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