It wouldn’t be unfair to say, when Liam Gallagher and his fellow ex-Oasis bandmates announced their intention to carry on without Noel, his big brother and the band’s main songwriter, the music world didn’t expect too much.
Liam, arguably one of the best vocalists Britain has ever produced, wasn’t known for his songwriting prowess, while Andy Bell and Gem Archer who, along with Liam and drummer Chris Sharrock comprise new outfit Beady Eye, hadn’t penned more than a handful of songs between them during their decade or so in Oasis.
As far as fans and the press were concerned, Noel was the brains of the band – writing swathes of the 1990s’ defining songs and selling more than 70 million records will justifiably give that impression – leaving Liam’s talents largely untested, until now.
‘No, expectation was not very high,’ begins Liam. ‘People didn’t think we could walk or talk without Noel,’ the hint of indignation only audible when saying his brother’s name.
Anyone who thinks the siblings’ spat was a sham for the benefit of the media has clearly never heard Liam talking about Gallagher Sr. The bitterness is, at times, startling.
‘We knew what we were doing though,’ continues Liam. ‘Gem’s been playing guitar since he was nine,’ he says, gesturing across the table to his bandmate and Beady Eye guitarist Colin ‘Gem’ Archer.
‘I’ve been doing this 18, 19 years, so I know what I’m doing in my department. Andy too, Chris, everyone – we know how to make a record. The only doubt would be whether it would connect with people and whether they wanted it,’ continues the 38-year-old singer whose first name is actually William.
Perhaps fittingly for a Beatles fanatic, his middle names are John and Paul. According to Liam, Beady Eye are so called so the band will sit next to The Beatles in the alphabet.
Beady Eye’s debut, Different Gear, Still Speeding, entered the chart at No 3 behind Adele and Jessie J, while their recent introductory sell-out UK tour resembled the wild, lager-fuelled Oasis gigs of old.
They’re back out on the road in the coming weeks for a larger tour, which has also sold out. All proof, if it were needed, that there’s still very much an appetite for Liam and the band.
‘The best thing is, and I’m not making excuses here, most of us were all flued up on that tour, so it was great reading these amazing live reviews knowing that we were only at 50 per cent. We should get sick more often.’
‘We’ve stepped through another door with this record,’ says Archer, piping up for the first time. ‘Everyone’s welcome to come with us, and to their credit lots have chosen to already.’
‘There are people who didn’t think we had it in us, and I genuinely feel bad for them. There were a few nerves before the shows,’ admits Liam. For someone whose career was grounded in unshakeable self-belief, that’s something of a stunning revelation.
‘Like anxious nerves,’ he adds, restoring normality. ‘Not because I’m scared or anything.’
He’s genuinely grateful for the support the band have had so far, and to everyone that’s been along to and got involved in the spirit of the shows. The main thing, he says, is that there have been no troublemakers, ready to declare their allegiance to Team Noel.
‘There’s been none of that – no chanting for him or the old songs, so that was good.’
Noel has, until this point, been the elephant in the room. Beady Eye’s publicists are, naturally, keen for our chat to concentrate on Beady Eye, with Oasis references to be used sparingly and for context.
Liam, however, has other ideas, bringing up his brother apropos of very little.
Ask if Different Gear, Still Speeding was an enjoyable record to make, and Liam says it was, before slamming his brother’s controlling ways when making Oasis albums. Mention how his voice sounded better on the recent Beady Eye tour than it had in the past and he embarks on another Noel-themed diatribe.
‘I’ll tell you why that is, mate. I’ve been using in-ear monitors for the last 10 years,’ he begins, referencing the small headphones he wore on stage while performing. Many artists prefer large wedge-shaped monitor speakers on the floor to hear what the band are playing.
‘It’s like being on Mr and Mrs. I’d spend all day with the band and then when the show came I’d have to go off and put these things in my ears.
‘It was a bit like him saying “You go over there while I turn my guitars up”. Our kid had his guitars so loud it’s rude, you know, like “I’m-not-even-in-this-band” levels, and the amps were pointing at me, so I’d have to wear in-ears to be able to sing, or shout over that.
‘So, I’ve stopped using the in-ears and what I’m hearing on stage is what everyone else is hearing.’
It’s at this point Archer kicks in again, taking the conversation off in another, more Beady Eye-centric direction.
He’s clearly a good influence on Liam, whether in conversation or in the studio, where he coaxes out Liam’s scattergun ideas and helps transform them into songs. ‘We weren’t itching to form this band,’ says Archer. ‘It came about from circumstance – Oasis splitting – and whatever thread that’s guiding us through.
‘We said at the time that we weren’t done with music, and music wasn’t done with us. If we’d packed up last year, songs as good as Morning Sun, Millionaire and The Roller would never have been jostled with.’
The pair throw a few ideas around about where they want the next Beady Eye album to go – ‘This is the meat, the rest is trimmings,’ says Liam, cryptically, before it’s put to him that he sang some of the best songs in a generation, and doesn’t need the money, so why carry on?
‘Are you talking about “the legacy”? What, am I supposed to sit at home and count my money all day?’ he counters, scornfully, before standing up and pacing around the table we’re sitting at.
For all the talk over the years of him resembling a monkey, he looks much more like a caged lion at this point.
‘People think when you’ve got money it just stays in a big pile forever, but you spend it, don’t you?
‘And I’m not doing this because of money, it’s because I love it, and I don’t have a choice. I didn’t think “I’d like to join a band” and then join one – it happened to me.
‘Not getting all cosmic, but there’s something bigger up there telling us all to get out and do something. People want to hear us play music. We’re part of a much bigger picture.’