Noel Gallagher has become a little more comfortable with Oasis‘ legacy lately. He brightens up while discussing how, after the success of last year’s documentary Oasis: Supersonic, he’s been seeing younger faces in his audiences. Gallagher describes playing an intimate acoustic set, where a group of young girls got emotional during his old songs. “I stopped them after the gig and said, ‘How old are you two?’ They were like 15. I was like, ‘Are you just getting into Oasis now?’ They said yeah. Isn’t that fucking amazing? I guess the longer it goes and the younger that I see people getting into it, it means that somehow, by some trick or act of fucking god, we did something as a band, or I did something somewhere that was timeless,” he tells Rolling Stone.
“Looking back on it, it’s a mind-blowing thing.”
Noel wanted to bring that enthusiasm into the studio when he made Who Built the Moon? – his third album with his band the High Flying Birds since 2011 and the heaviest LP he’s put out since his Oasis days. “It’s the most energetic thing I’ve done,” he says. “I always found it kind of difficult for me to [communicate] joy in music. It’s very easy, particularly in this day in age, to write about angst and how life is so difficult. To find a fucking joy in the world and then to kind of crystalize it into music is difficult, and not many people can do it. I’ve done it once or twice in 25 years. So when it happens, it’s special.”
Despite its upbeat vibe, the album was made in a solemn place – Belfast, Northern Ireland, in the dead of winter. “It was fucking snowing everyday,” Gallagher says. He had been working on 2015’s stripped-down Chasing Yesterday, and asked David Holmes, a Northern Irish electronic musician, to take those songs in a different direction. Holmes turned him down, saying the album sounded finished. “He said, ‘Let’s make another record.’ And I said, ‘What about the songs?’ He said, ‘Don’t worry about the songs, write them in the studio.’ And I was like, ‘Fuck that, I’ve never done that before.'”
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But they did. Gallagher was inspired to throw out his usual playbook, putting down the acoustic guitar and writing songs in other ways, drawing from samples. “Dave would say, ‘Sounds a bit like Oasis,’ and I’d say, ‘Fucking great!’ And then he’d say, ‘Come on, try something different.'”
They decided to pull generously from Gallagher’s influences. “If Love is the Law” was written during a heavy phase spent listening to Genesis’ 1969 deep cut “The Conqueror.” “I became obsessed with early Genesis, and I was like, ‘Fuckin’ hell, why has no one ever fuckin’ mentioned this?’ “Holy Mountain” borrows a hook from the extremely obscure Sixties bubblegrum group the Ice Cream. “That might be one of the best things I’ve ever fuckin’ heard in my life,” says Gallagher. “Dave said, ‘Do you think you could write a song around it?’ And I went, ‘If it fuckin’ kills me.'” Gallagher is also proud of “She Taught Me How to Fly,” a pulsating ode to inescapable love. “It’s clearly the greatest lost Blondie single of time,” he says.
“It’s unashamedly a fuckin’ pop record,” says Gallagher of the album. “It’s about the joy of beautiful women, nights out and nights getting fuckin’ high, and all the things that we live in life. All the things that the fuckin’ terrorists hate. I reckon if I went to Syria and played it for Isis, it’d all be fuckin’ over. I reckon it’d even turn Trump around.”
The conversations turns to Manchester, where “Don’t Look Back in Anger” becoming a healing anthem after the May concert bombing that killed 23 people. “I’m sitting in my lounge in the very spot when I was watching the news when there was the minute silence in St. Ann’s Square, and just a lone girl started singing it and the crowd joined in,” Gallagher says. “I don’t get speechless. I’ve gotta say, I sat there and I was like, ‘Holy fuck.’ Then, as the weeks passed, it kind of reignited my faith in music because regardless of whether it’s my song or not, I was like, ‘Fuck, it is important, man. These people are rallying around this song.’ I’m still speechless about it. I wrote that song so long ago … and it’s taken on a different meaning now. It’s been adopted by the people like a flag of defiance.”
Offhand, Rolling Stone mentions Stop the Clocks, the Oasis best-of compilation that highlights just how many earworms the band had. “We did some fucking good stuff,” Gallagher says. “I mean, I lost my way a little bit in ’98 until 2003, 2004, that’s the truth. When you have so much fame and so much success, you kind of sit back and think, ‘Why am I doing this now? I don’t need the fucking money, I don’t need the fame, I don’t need the glory. Whatever it was, it went away for a bit, I didn’t have anything to write about. But it came back. We did some shit stuff, but we did some good stuff as well.”
In a recent interview for RS’ Music Now podcast, Liam seemed to extend an olive branch to his brother in regards to a reunion, saying, “I would prefer to be speaking about an Oasis album than a Liam solo album. And I know Noel Gallagher would. We’re better together.”
Asked if he has any thoughts on the matter, Noel doesn’t hesitate: “I don’t really, no.”