Rolling with it

Rolling with it

Andy Bell from rock band Beady Eye - comprising all of Oasis minus Noel Gallagher - remembers the good times and the bad, while looking forward to future glories



WHEN NOEL GALLAGHER left Oasis inAugust 2009 after a backstage fight in Paris with his brother, Liam, it left the other four members of the band in a quandary.

“The alternatives at the time were to either keep playing together or go home and sit there watching daytime TV,” says Andy Bell, who was Oasis’ bassist and is now playing guitar in Beady Eye, the band he and Oasis mates Colin “Gem” Archer, Liam Gallagher and Chris Sharrock came up with. Their debut album, Different Gear, Still Speeding, came out in February.

The decision to stick together wasn’t a hard one.

“I don’t think any of us really had the urge to find anybody else to play with,” says the 40-year-old, who fronted the British band Ride before joining Oasis in 1999. “We were very happy playing music together, so it seemed like the most natural thing in the world that Gem, Liam, Chris and I would continue.

“So we just decided to do it as a new band.”

A new band, perhaps, but one with a musical pedigree few new acts can boast, as well as a history both laudable and notorious. Oasis did, after all, have a run that included eight consecutive number one albums in the U.K. and 70 million records sold worldwide. America was less enthused, but Oasis still had three platinum-or-better releases in the U.S., with (What’s the Story) Morning Glory (1995) selling more than four million copies, and enjoyed hits such as Live Forever (1994), Wonderwall (1995), Don’t Look Back in Anger (1996) and Champagne Supernova (1996).

Oasis were undone, however, by the public feuding between the Gallagher brothers, to which the various other band members – eight in the group’s 19-year history – were mere bystanders. Noel Gallagher had often spoken of striking out on his own, and the final blowup in Paris included Liam breaking one of Noel’s guitars.

Even so, Bell says, the end came as “a bit of a shock.”

“I guess I should have been prepared for it to end that way,” the guitarist says. “But, when you think back, (the conflict) was happening constantly, really, so who knew when it was really the end?

“But, in saying that, I don’t want to give the impression that it was always bad,” Bell hastens to add, “because, if you fight every six months, then you’ve still got six months of good times in-between. Basically most of the time it was a brilliant laugh, and then there were dark moments. That’s the best way I can describe it.”

A NEW DEMOCRACY

It would be easy for the spurned musicians to trash their former leader, but Bell will have none of it.

“I would never slag off Noel,” he says. “Oasis was a band that definitely worked. It was a great band to be in, and I think it’s true to say that we would have carried on with Oasis until we all dropped dead if that was what was wanted. But it was Noel’s baby. Noel was the leader and he called the shots, which is only right. And some great music was made, man.

“But Beady Eye is the opposite of that,” Bell continues. “It’s a democratic band. We all have an equal say. We all come in with ideas and songs, and we’re all involved with the sleeve design, the video treatments, photographs and everything. We’re trying to do this as a unit, and we like the novelty of it at the moment.”

Bell and company didn’t take long to get Beady Eye up and running.

“We came back to London having decided to continue in some way,” the guitarist recalls. “There was no mention of a band name or anything. It was an experiment.”

The attempt could easily have failed, he admits.

“It could have turned out that we didn’t play well together in that new way,” Bell says.

Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. The quartet started working on new music immediately, beginning with Beatles and Stones, Millionaire and The Roller, all of which ended up on Different Gear, Still Speeding and established Beady Eye as a worthwhile endeavour.

“Once those three were done we started to feel like this was going to work,”’ Bell says. “There wasn’t much of the, ‘Let’s have a meeting and decide what the Beady Eye sound is going to be.’ The sound of the album is really just the sound of the 13 songs we came up with.”

There was instant excitement when word of the band leaked out. Producer Steve Lillywhite, whose track record includes the Dave Matthews Band, the Rolling Stones and U2, actually approached Beady Eye about working with them, rather than the other way around.

“He contacted us pretty soon after (Oasis) broke up,” Bell recalls, “and said, ‘If anything is going on, I want to be a part of it.’ He liked the demos and we liked him, so we put the studio time on hold.

“He brought in bags of experience,” the guitarist continues, “and you can’t overstate that he’s very willing to go with your ideas. He was also able to capture a lot of the songs live. Just his general enthusiasm and energy really helped.”

PRODUCTION VALUES

Different Gear, Still Speeding sounds a good deal like, well, Oasis.

“Well, we all were in that band, and Liam was the singer,” Bell says dryly.

It’s closer, however, to the ascendant Oasis of the 1990s than to the band in its more convoluted later years, when Archer, Bell and Liam Gallagher joined Noel Gallagher in the songwriting. It brings the same kind of reverence toward its British pop and rock forebears, aware of being part of a musical lineage and defiant in its claim to the same melodic and sonic elements as its predecessors. The Roller sounds like it’s about to break into John Lennon’s Instant Karma! (1970) at any second, while The Beat Goes On nods to the Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie.

Like Oasis, Beady Eye pushes into epic realms in spots, namely Wigwam and The Morning Son, each of which stretches beyond the six-minute mark in ambitious, suite-like arrangements. The former, according to Bell, was particularly hard to pull together.

“It came from three different songs Liam had put together into one long one,” he explains. “The demo had a bit of magic to it, and we fought quite hard to find that in the studio. We were quite hard on ourselves when we were making it, so, by the time we finished it, we weren’t sure if it was right. But then we heard it a few days later and we realised that we got it.”

With Different Gear, Still Speeding out, Beady Eye have been focusing on establishing their reputation as a live band in the U.K. and North America. So far, Bell says, he has been heartened by the audience response.

“It seems to be a Beady Eye audience, which I couldn’t have predicted,” he says. “I haven’t seen one Oasis T-shirt, I’ve not heard one mention of Oasis. And people are singing every word of our songs, which is quite incredible, considering that the album hasn’t been out that long.

“So it’s basically...what do you call it? It’s like a home run.” It won’t be long, he adds, before Beady Eye gets back into the studio.

“Plans are afoot as we speak,” the guitarist says. “There are songs that we know will be recorded for the next album. They are in varying stages of completion. When you’re on tour, what you mainly do is sit around playing ideas for new songs, at least when you’re not on stage.

“We’ve all had a new lease of life, really,” Bell concludes. “I think we’ve taken this change and just tried to make the best of the situation and come out in a really positive frame of mind.

“This is as good a next thing as I could have imagined, really.” Gary Graff, The New York Times Syndicate


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