The English Beat Says First Album in Three Decades Should Drop in 2016

Dave Wakeling of The English Beat
Steven Dewall/Redferns

Dave Wakeling of The English Beat poses for a portrait backstage at Bumbershoot Festivals KEXP Music Lounge at Seattle Center on Sept. 4, 2010 in Seattle, Washington.

The three-decade wait for the English Beat's fourth studio album -- and first since 1982's Special Beat Service -- will end next year.

The group, led in one formation by California-based co-founder and frontman Dave Wakeling, has been crowd-funding Here We Go Love since last year [another iteration of the ska group, lead by vocalist Ranking Roger, performs as the Beat]. The English Beat starring Dave Wakeling plans to hit the studio in January to spend a couple of months finishing it off, and if all goes according to plan, the album should be out by the middle of the year.

"We've been in some ways victims of our own success," Wakeling tells Billboard, explaining the delay. "We've probably done 30 shows more than in any year before, and we were doing 150 or 160 already. So we ended up being bombarded by shows." Wakeling and company did spend a bit of time in the studio between tours this year, mostly to go through what it had already recorded and upgrade some rough mixes.

"I didn't know how much to make it sound like any of the other Beat albums," Wakeling explains. "In the demo phase I thought some of the songs sounded like the Beat and some of the songs sounded like General Public, and I thought some of the songs sounded like nothing I've ever written before. We've just let the songs evolve the way the music seemed to suggest, which is kind of how we did it with the Beat in the first place -- just follow the songs. And after I got a few started in the studio I had a few friends around and played them the songs and said, 'What do you think? What do they sound like?' And they said, ' Beat songs.' And I said, 'Oh...duh!'"

Wakeling has been working with Pledgemusic on the project and has nothing but good things to say about the experience. "It's a lot more fun than a record company, and way more interesting people," he says. "I got to meet lots of fairly successful folks who have liked our music for years and have made a few bob [English slang for pounds], and it's been very interesting to find out their stories."

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Some of the higher bidders have taken part in the recording sessions, but the most daunting perk for Wakeling has been handwritten lyrics. "I've got about 100 to do," he says, "and something like 'I Confess,' which a number of people have picked, if you write the whole thing out it's something like four pages. So it takes a long time, and I've hardly written anything out anymore. I do it all on computer, like everyone else." He laughs before adding, "You know, it says handwritten lyrics, but it doesn't say by me. I think it's certainly assumed that I'm gonna be holding the pen at some point, but I could quite easily pass the pen to somebody else. There's easily room there for a designated scribe."

This year, meanwhile, marks the 35th anniversary of the English Beat's debut album, I Just Can't Stop It, which went gold in the U.K. "It's an awful long time," Wakeling says. "I find it remarkable that I still even remember the words, never mind rooms full of people singing along with them," he says. "That's stunning, really. I never guessed I was going to be in a group. It was a dream -- and so much of a dream it was beyond the chance of ever turning into a reality.

"The best part is when we became chart darlings we saw there was an opportunity to be the Monkees with John Lennon in the band. We could act all cute and then get on television or in the newspapers and say outrageously political things with a straight face. The pop papers asked about what hair color girls I liked [had], but we'd talk about Greenpeace or nuclear issues or racial issues. It seemed to us a useful and subversive re-using and recycling of media space."