When Ride returned at the end of 2014 after an 18-year absence, few could have predicted they’d still be here four years later discussing the next chapter of what’s been a hugely successful comeback.
They initially returned to performance in 2015 but have since embarked on a largely sold out world tour. First to commemorate the release of seminal first album Nowhere and later in support of their critically acclaimed sixth album Weather Diaries, it was their first release in over 20 years.
Having initially formed in Oxford in 1988, they signed to Creation Records less than a year later. The four-piece – Mark Gardener (vocals, guitar), Steve Queralt (bass), Andy Bell (guitar, vocals) and Loz Colbert (drums) – became one of the most unprecedented independent music success stories until their eventual dissolution in 1996.
“”We didn’t foresee any of this,” admits bassist Queralt. “”The offer was initially for six or seven shows starting with Primavera in Barcelona and ending with Field Day. That was going to be it. There was a New York show, one in Toronto, a couple of UK dates and then return to normal life after that. As soon as those shows got announced, more promoters got in touch and we ended up having a year-long tour booked which was really exciting. Then halfway through that tour it became clear to us we could probably carry on with this a bit longer and maybe make some new music. We had no idea at this point whether there was an appetite out there.”
“I always thought there’d be more to the Ride story than there was,” adds drummer Colbert.” The way it finished in 1996 - I felt there was so much more Ride could do. If the level of interest was there I was curious to see what might happen if we got back together and gave it another shot at doing some more writing. Rewind the clock back to 2015 when we reformed and I still had no idea what the reaction might be.”
“We weren’t sure if people wanted to hear anything new from us or if they were just coming to the shows to relive the nineties, so it’s all worked out rather well” quips Queralt, clearly overwhelmed at what’s happened since the band’s re-emergence.
Aside from featuring high in many end of year popularity polls, Weather Diaries shows a distinct progression in Ride’s sound across its twelve songs. Much of that is down to the input of Erol Alkan who produced the album, and while not really tampering with the main elements of Ride’s classic sound, his touch ensured the record glistened with an obvious 21st century sheen.
Steve Queralt agrees: “I think Erol is responsible for that modern sheen. We did a lot of writing before we went into the studio. We had a very fixed plan. We knew which songs were going to be on the record so when we finally went in the studio with Erol, it was a bit like entering the unknown. We’d met him once, so we invited him out for dinner just to scope him out. He was known to us as a techno DJ so we were a bit unsure about how this was going to work. There was a little bit of trepidation to begin with but as soon as we met up with him again it became very clear straight away that he was a complete music enthusiast. He’d grown up with a lot of indie bands so wasn’t just entrenched in techno and dance music. He had a wealth of experience; we found out he’d also produced lots of other records way back.”
He continues: “When we first went into the studio with him we still didn’t know how it was going to work, but after we recorded ‘Charm Assault’ on the first day we knew this would work perfectly. He understood the band so wasn’t going to try and impose lots of four-to-the-floor snare rushes. He wanted to work with us and it turned out so well. Erol was the kid whereas we’re just a bunch of middle-aged men! He was jumping around the studio enthusiastically in his approaches to things. It was such a great experience working with him.”
“To release another record twenty years after releasing our last one and go through that whole process again when people thought we might have become a little complacent was as exciting as the first time it happened with the Ride EP. Holding Weather Diaries as a finished product in a plastic seal was probably my highlight of the last three years,” adds the amiable bass player.
Evidently a strong working relationship, Erol and band collaborated on last month’s Tomorrow’s Shore EP which continues Ride’s foray into their revitalised creative spark. Indeed, the four tracks on that EP represent a throwback to the band’s earliest releases prior to Nowhere whereby each of the four tracks on those three EPs (‘Ride’, ‘Play’ and ‘Today’) could easily have been singles in their own right.
They also represent four very different sides to the band’s sonic make up, as Loz Colbert is only too quick to point out. “It was also important to show our variety as well,” he says. “To show we’re more than one trick ponies as all four tracks are very different to one another. Everybody’s writing now, so it gives people an opportunity to revel in what the band has to offer.”
“We all agreed after making Weather Diaries that we’d like to work with Erol again at some point, and we believed he thought the same about us even though we weren’t taking anything for granted. So the team we had on those last two recordings – both ‘Weather Diaries’ and the EP – recording with Erol then getting Alan Moulder to mix was pretty much a dream team,” reveals Queralt.
“We really wanted to do another four track EP in a similar vein to the first three we did. Four tracks that we all considered to be very strong. Obviously, people will be the ultimate judge, but we stood by them. They all had to be individual and strong in their own right. There was no A or B-side as such even though we had to lead with something in the end. We only had ‘Catch You Dreaming’ left over from the time we recorded Weather Diaries. That track didn’t really fit in with the flavour of the album but we always knew we’d end up going back to it in the future.”
“"The other three tracks were all written after ‘Weather Diaries’ so they’re very, very fresh. The good thing about the EP is it’s almost kind of like Weather Diaries +. Like an extension of the album if that makes sense? When we finished making Weather Diaries there was still a bunch of ideas knocking around that eventually came to fruition over the following months. When we realised we had enough material to make an EP it made sense to do one. There’s always been this romantic connection between Ride and EPs. That’s how we came on the market. How we appeared in the first place. So for that reason it’s always been dear to our hearts. Even when we first talked about making new music our initial thoughts were to make an EP followed by another one and then an album,” concludes Colbert.
With the success of Weather Diaries also still very fresh in their minds, Ride are bringing out a limited edition double vinyl remix album - (‘Waking Up In Another Town: Weather Diaries Remixed - especially for Record Store Day. Featuring alternative versions of the twelve songs off the record from the likes of Mogwai, Luke Abbott and Tim Gane’s Cavern Of Anti-Matter. It heralds another diversion into previously unchartered territory for the band. I asked both Queralt and Colbert what inspired them to embark on such a project?
“We’ve been into the idea of getting other people to reinterpret what we’ve done, even if it’s just a selfish experiment,” declares bass player Queralt. “We’ve had the catalogue remixed by various people which excluding one by Robert Smith that was released have yet to see the light of day. The remix album was all down to our label Wichita. We didn’t know they were approaching artists to remix our stuff so it was a really nice surprise to get these mixes in our inboxes. We thought they were really good when we listened back to them – I especially liked the ones Mogwai and Cavern Of Anti-Matter did - so Wichita suggested we do a remix album. They knew we were into the concept so that’s how the record came about.”
Indeed, getting people to remix their work may be a regular staple in the Ride canon going forwards. “It’s definitely something we’d consider again in the future” acknowledges Colbert. “We’ve always had that quirky interest. What would it sound like if we listened to the same song another way? Weirdly, even before we finished Weather Diaries we spoke to Erol about taking a Wizard’s Sleeve style approach to our album. So that we’d have the original and then basically go and re-imagine the whole thing. We actually thought of it as something we would do with Erol or Erol might do for us. We didn’t get a chance to do it but in the meantime, we had a great, enthusiastic contact at Wichita (Ben Wileman) who took it upon himself to farm out different stems to a lot of really interesting people.”
“Wileman inadvertently curated the idea of a remix album and as they came back in he’d then share them with us one by one. We didn’t really know at the time – maybe he didn’t either – that it was going to be a whole remix album.”
When asked about the concept of Record Store Day, both hold differing viewpoints: “I think the concept is brilliant. It’s great to encourage people to go into independent record stores,” enthuses Queralt.
“Anything like that is a good way of drawing focus back to something” Colbert adds. “It’s a chance to remind everyone about the beauty of vinyl. We know nothing can compete with the level of streams and downloads now, so in that sense Record Store Day serves its purpose if only to let people this amazing cottage industry still exists.”
But there’s also a seeping cynicism with Record Store Day which bassist Queralt highlights: “When it first started a few years ago, I loved the idea of being able to get limited edition releases. Now I think the whole thing has become diluted. Sonic Cathedral put out a tweet that summed it up for me; ‘Record Store Day is the sound of nails being scraped along the bottom of a barrel’. It does seem a little like that now. There are so many releases out there, which for some fans might seem a little exciting. But the reality is you have to wade through so much stuff just to find a few gems you might be interested in, and there are a few to be found. But in general, it has become a bit of a cash in for labels to exploit genuine music fans. Annoyingly, I tend to find out a couple of weeks later what I could have found had I paid more attention!"
“I tend to prefer finding new stuff to be honest,” declares Colbert.
Returning from an East Asia tour that saw them play China for the first time, neither of them are taking anything for granted despite the band’s globetrotting adventures showing no signs of slowing down in the foreseeable future.
“We’ve been to Japan quite a few times and it always remains an exciting place to go,” says Queralt. “But it was doubly exciting going to new territories such as Taiwan and mainland China. We played a club show at Understage in South Korea to probably the loudest audience we’ve ever found. There is a real excitement and appetite over there for western bands. That’s [the] thing I noticed about Asia – and that’s not a bad thing – was the profile of the audience was completely different to what we normally experience in Europe and the States. There it tends to be an older crowd and predominantly male whereas in Asia it tends to be the reverse of that. The audience is a least 50% female and appears to be very young so that’s quite odd compared to what we’re used to but exciting at the same time.”
“”It’s been great travelling around festivals and the like in other countries, watching people sing back the lyrics to the new songs” adds a jubilant Colbert. “It’s probably one of the best tours we’ve ever done.”
This summer will see Ride playing a number of shows both in the UK and around Europe. These include a hometown appearance at Oxford’s Common People festival in May, and The Cure’s 40th anniversary show at Hyde Park in July.
It’s a never-ending schedule that will take them right through into the autumn but one the band are extremely excited about nonetheless.
“”That Hyde Park event is such a great bill!” insists Queralt. “It’s a real honour to be invited by The Cure. Robert Smith has always said nice things about us and we played at Bestival with them a couple of years ago as special guests of The Cure so it’s always great to be associated with them. I think it’s going to be an incredible day.”
“It’s caused an incredible level of excitement!” adds Colbert. “Ever since The Cure bill was announced, literally every person I’ve spoken to has said they’ve bought a ticket for that show. So hats off to Robert Smith and The Cure for putting that together because it’s really hit a nerve in a good way with so many people. We can already feel it’s going to be a really special day.”
“"I’ve never been to a show in South Park (Common People festival). Actually, I think we may have played a Radio One roadshow there years ago? I have vague memories of that,” proffers Queralt inquisitively. “So to get to play a headline show there will be incredible. Me, Mark and Andy all grew up in or around that park whether we’d go to play football or made to go cross-country running when we were at school. I’ve been to numerous big firework displays there as well so I’m really looking forward to playing that festival in May.”
“Weirdly, Common People could have happened every year since we got back together in 2015” reveals Colbert. “But it was never the right time. We really wanted to play that festival when we had new songs. We were always up for it. But it was just about the timing. I’m also really looking forward to Tomavistas in Madrid. Spain is actually one of Ride’s biggest markets. When we first got back together and played Primavera Sound in Barcelona three years ago there were so many people. So just the excitement of playing in Spain again is going to be great.”
Which brings us onto album number six. I ask about their plans.
“We have talked about doing another album” admits a buoyant Queralt. “Whether we actually get round to doing it is another thing.”
“If you look at the career of Ride it’s ridiculously high achieving!” insists a proud Colbert. And you know what, he isn’t wrong.
Words: Dom Gourlay