On Beady Eye’s new album, BE, Liam Gallagher takes the biggest risk of his career.
For two decades, the former Oasis frontman has done what he knows best – sing straight-up ‘60s-influenced rock ‘n’ roll songs.
When Oasis imploded in 2009, Liam – and latter-day Oasis members Andy Bell, Gem Archer and drummer Chris Sharrock – saw no reason to stray from that formula.
While Noel, the man behind the band’s biggest hits, went out on his own as Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, the remaining three formed Beady Eye.
Their first offering was the solid-but-safe, Steve Lillywhite-produced debut, Different Gear Still Speeding. Featuring the catchy Instant Karma-sounding single “The Roller” it was, like Liam, ‘60s-obsessed.
However, after a muted response to Different Gear, which was critically and commercially overshadowed by Noel’s album, Beady Eye began to rethink.
According to drummer Chris Sharrock, it was time for a change. Enter TV On The Radio guitarist and trailblazing indie producer, Dave Sitek.
“We didn’t really know much about him,” Sharrock says. “His name was put to us, as in, you know, this guy could be interested.”
Sitek is best known for his production work with hip New Yorkers Yeah Yeah Yeahs. He’s also worked with Foals, Liars and Santigold, and so it would be fair to say, at least on paper, Dave Sitek and Beady Eye have little in common.
“We thought we’d meet him and check him out,” Sharrock continues. “Well, actually we kind of met him 20 minutes before we started recording. And we didn’t really listen to anything he’d done before because we didn’t wanna go in with any … if he’d done something that we didn’t like, you know, it would have been all over.”
Unsurprisingly, working with the experimentally-minded Sitek was vastly different to making their debut.
“He challenged us more,” Sharrock explains. “He said, ‘here you are guys, what about this?’ and ‘why don’t you try that?’”
According to Sharrock, Different Gear Still Speeding producer Steve Lillywhite “didn’t stick it out to the end anyway”, and left the band “running around like headless chickens”. On the other hand, Sitek became like Beady Eye’s “fifth member”.
“He had his little corner of the studio going on and we had our corner. We’d meet in the middle over the coffee machine.”
In the lead-up to the release of this album, Liam Gallagher was typically bold. BE, he said, was the album Oasis should have made after their mega-selling magnum opus, (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?
In production terms, at least, he’s right. BE is the sound a band freed from the shackles of commercial expectations – out of their comfort zone, but loving it.
Take the futuristic album opener, “Flick Of The Finger”, with its aggressive horns, thumping Velvet Underground-like drums, and seize-the-moment lyricism. The same goes for the modern-sounding “Soul Love”, a dark, brooding song Oasis would never have recorded in their pomp. That sense of musical adventure is further explored on spacey tracks like “Don’t Brother Me” and the closing ballad, “Start Anew”.
Essentially, BE showcases a band hungry to carve out their own creative path, an opportunity afforded to them by the departure of Noel.
“Everyone has to step up and bring more songs in as opposed to just learning them,” Sharrock says. “There’s a lot of creativity going on, we’re always jamming. We’ve got three or four new tunes already – they’re very rough sort of jams but there’s something there. There’s three writers in the band so there’s never a shortage of songs.”
Sharrock continues: “After the last gig on the last tour we said, ‘right we’re gonna have three months off’. After about a week and a half everyone was like, ‘should we do something, should we get together?’ We can never leave it alone for too long, this is just what we do.”
Their unshakable enthusiasm is impressive given that, for part of 2011, the band was like a “rudderless ship”.
“The last management bailed in the middle of that tour,” Sharrock explains. “We went a couple of weeks without management. It was a shit thing to do but I didn’t really look at them as management anyway. They were just people who booked my cab and train. There was no love lost for me.”
Either way, things are well truly back on track now. The band is getting set to hit the road for a string of UK shows and festivals. Having missed Australia on their previous world tour (and on the last Oasis tour), Sharrock confirms that the band is “definitely” coming here this time around.
Not only that, they’ll coming with a couple of Oasis songs up their sleeves – they’ve been rehearsing “Morning Glory” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” – and with new touring bassist and former Kasabian member Jay Mehler.
“He’s a great guy,” Sharrock says. “We were sorry to lose Jeff [Wooten] because he was kind of there from the start, but Jay’s doing a great job. We know him anyway, we’ve known him a few years through Kasabian and it’s great having him around.”
Meanwhile, with the album and tour cycle in full swing, Liam has been whipping up a storm in the British tabloids. Notable stories include his claim he could’ve written Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” in an hour, and reports he tried to ride a dog during a particularly boozy night at the pub.
“I wasn’t with him that night but I heard him talking about it,” Sharrock says, already laughing. “He was like, ‘fuckin’ hell this is a load of bollocks. It wasn’t a dog, it was a pig’. You never know with him. You never stop laughing, laughing or crying.”
And as for the constant ‘will they, won’t they?’ Oasis reformation rumours, Sharrock says he’s not the man with the answer.
“I’m kind of last on the list,” he laughs. “I’ll go with the flow. We never speak about it and we never think about it amongst ourselves. Especially me, it’s got nothing really to do with me.” But if they’re getting back together, I’m available.”
Beady Eye might always be known as Oasis minus Noel Gallagher, but as they’re now proving, that needn’t be a disadvantage. Instead, it can be an exciting point of difference.