During the height of MTV’s popularity, the English duo Naked Eyes scored a pair of the 1980s’ biggest hits — first with “Always Something There to Remind Me,” a cover of a Burt Bacharach/Hal David song, and then with their own composition, “Promises Promises.” The band, comprising singer Pete Byrne and keyboard wiz Rob Fisher, the band failed to yield another hit and split up. Fisher formed Climie Fisher, while Mr. Byrne moved to Los Angeles to work for everyone from Stevie Wonder to the Olsen twins.
Fan hopes for an eventual reunion were dashed when Fisher passed away in 1999, but inspired by unreleased recordings he had made with his former musical partner, Mr. Byrne reactivated Naked Eyes in 2005 as both a touring and recording entity. We spoke recently about the band’s past, present and future —plus what it was like to write a hit song for the pint-size Olsen twins.
Question: Is there a new record in the works?
Answer: Yes. It started out three or four years ago. I had almost a complete album. Then I got asked to write with somebody else, and we started writing. The songs are just amazing. So the original album project kind of got put on hold. The album will be the best of the original project and the best of the new project put together.
Q: What keeps you motivated to make new music?
A: It’s just what I do. It’s really difficult to turn it off.
Q: When you play a show with other artists of your era, is there a sense of camaraderie?
A: Oh yeah. I play with most of these guys all the time. Many times. It’s great because with the fans, I just have to play the opening of “Always Something There to Remind Me,” and the crowd takes over. It’s pretty cool.
Q: Why do you think people still love ‘80s music?
A: It’s just great pop music. People call it “New Wave.” After the ‘60s, which was the best of all music decades, the ‘80s were another great explosion of brilliant pop. The early-‘80s were where most of the best songs come from — ‘81 to ‘85 was just one of those productive periods.
It had a lot to do with the fact that we had new toys as songwriters.
Q: By toys, you mean keyboards?
A: Yeah. Up to that point, keyboard bands were a little bit much. Like Rick Wakeman with the capes! I was never that keen on it. But when I met Rob Fisher, he had this little synth and a string machine, and he started coming up with these ideas that were brand-new.
So for the first time our songwriting was developed around synthesizers as opposed to sitting there with a guitar.
Q: What did you do in your time away from Naked Eyes?
A: I was writing for various people. Crazy things. I sang with Stevie Wonder on “Part Time Lover.” I produced the Olsen twins single “I Am the Cute One,” which was massive. It was the biggest-selling music home video ever. Ridiculous.
Q: How did you come to work with the Olsen twins?
A: My manger called and said, “Do you mind writing for these twins?” I didn’t even know who they were. They were only 6 years old. And they couldn’t really sing. (Laughs)
It was all done in the early days of digital editing — piece by piece. We did a lot of work on it. But the actual song “I Am the Cute One” was massive. I was doing these kind of different things and teaching my kids how to play football (soccer) and being a stay-at-home dad. I was fine with that.
Q: What made you decide to revive Naked Eyes?
A: Naked Eyes released a compilation album, and the label asked me if I would do some in-store [appearances]. I heard it as, “Would you put a band together and come and play in stores?” But they didn’t want me to do that at all. They just wanted me to go and sign stuff.
I played one show at a small club, and the next day I got an email from an agent asking if I wanted to do some shows. This was in 2005. Basically I’ve been out of the road doing shows ever since. Some years more than others. This year it’s 40 to 50 dates.
Q: Do you play “Promises Promises” and “Always Something There to Remind Me” every show?
A: I always play those two. Because that’s why people come to see me. I’m not under the illusion that the audience is desperate to hear my new stuff. (Laughs)
In my show I always do a couple new songs. I don’t even introduce them as new songs. I just play them. We get a really great response. Hopefully when the new album comes out and we tour, it’s gonna be good.
Q: Was there ever a time in the ‘80s where people confused you, Pete Byrnes, and Pete Burns of the band Dead or Alive?
A: Never happened. I toured a few years back on the “RE-Generation” tour with Human League and ABC. He was supposed to be on that tour. But he canceled at the last minute, so I never met him. But I obviously loved his hits. I wish I had met him.
Rob [Fisher] used to joke, “You’re gonna end up with his groupies knocking on your door.” (Laughs)
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Pete Burns of Dead or Alive died in October.]