Thursday, March 24, 2011

Beady Eye interview

Changing ‘Gear’
Beady Eye focuses on a future after Oasis

Few bands dominated British pop music and culture like Oasis did in the 1990s. The Manchester musicians racked up multiple chart-topping albums and top 10 singles in a spectacular run that lasted well into the next decade.   

They were initially successful here too. Despite diminishing sales, Oasis still managed to pack such large Stateside venues as the Hollywood Bowl. By August ‘09, tensions between constantly bickering brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher came to a head at a Paris music festival. Minutes before show time, a fight backstage prompted Noel - the de facto leader and principal songwriter/guitarist - to quit for the final time.

Soon after, the breakup was announced. Since the remaining members all still had a close musical bond, carrying on was a no-brainer.

“We never recorded an album with [’08 recruit and noted session drummer] Chris Sharrock; that was one of the main reasons why we wanted to continue,” explains guitarist Andy Bell, via phone from a tour stop in Manchester. 

“Three of us had been through so much together over 10 years of playing that it seemed like a shame” to call it off, continues Bell. “There’s no one else I can imagine wanting to play with. There were never any issues between us. It was always good musically, so it seemed natural to want to do something,” albeit under a different name: Beady Eye.

Instead of taking time off, the group went straight into writing and demoing and kept everything quiet. Bell says they used a local studio, “didn’t make a big fuss about it” and worked through the 13 songs in the order they appear on impressive debut effort Different Gear, Still Speeding - which entered the U.K. album chart at No. 3 last month.

Right after the split, producer du jour Steve Lillywhite (U2, Morrissey, Peter Gabriel) called the band’s office and said “if Liam was making a record, he wanted to be involved.” All the guys admired Lillywhite’s work, especially with The La’s (Sharrock happened to play on that group’s signature hit, “There She Goes”).

“That is definitely one of our favorite records ever made…Steve was a ball of energy, very enthusiastic and open to our ideas” in the studio. The Different Gear tracks were primarily done live, using few takes.

“There’s something about recording a band live in a room together that gives it an extra feeling you can’t get anywhere else. It’s the reason Elvis [Presley] records were so great…you can hear that shared spirit.”

According to Bell, songs such as “Bring the Light” (with rollicking Little Richard-styled piano, female backing vocals) and “Beatles and Stones” (ironically, a stomping Who homage) were one-offs. “On a lot of songs, we captured a moment, which is something we’re always striving to do. If you get it right, then that’s a minor victory for rock ‘n’ roll.”

Having primarily played bass in Oasis, Bell switched back to his natural instrument, resulting in more creative freedom. Now “I can bring a lot more of my taste and personal style to the guitar than I can to the bass.”

Was there a concern about whether second guitarist Gem Archer’s technique would be compatible? “It was one of the unknowns…playing together in a rehearsal room was really the first time we realized we were going to mesh well. I feel we’re like Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, where sometimes he plays the lead; sometimes I do.”

Gallagher, who typically recorded vocals last in Oasis, took the opposite approach in Beady Eye and completed them early. What results is a fresher clarity, particularly amid the soaring, idyllic “Kill for a Dream,” jangly, acoustic guitar-led “For Anyone” and trippy epic “Wigwam.” Other standouts include psychedelic album opener “Four Letter Word” and a John Lennon-esque “The Roller” (think: “Instant Karma”).

Prior to joining Oasis, Bell was in Ride. Rhino Records recently put out a brilliant two-disc, 20th Anniversary remastered edition of the acclaimed British noise pop group’s 1990 bow, Nowhere. Housed in a hardback book, with an interview/essay, rare photos and lyrics, it features an enthralling ‘91 live recording from the Roxy in West Hollywood.  

“I think Ride’s first statement was the best one,” admits Bell. “I was so happy when I found out that concert was going to be on” this version. “I didn’t realize there was a recording of it. I haven’t got a good memory for gigs, but that one I remember being a proper, amazing night.”

As for Beady Eye, America will get its first look at them on tour this summer. “We’re into playing anywhere and spreading the love around every country we can,” notes Bell. “We’re full of musical hopes for the future. Mine are based on playing great gigs and coming up with some really great tunes for album two.” 

Initial U.S. tour dates
6/18 Metro…Chicago, IL
6/20 Sound Academy…Toronto, Canada
6/23 Webster Hall…New York, NY
6/25 Theater of Living Arts...Philadelphia, PA

Photo by Steve Gullick/courtesy of Dangerbird Records


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