Through the wall of their guitars and laconic vocals that would come to define such classics of the era as ‘Vapour Trail’ and ‘Leave Them All Behind’, Oxford band Ride were seen as one of the truly innovative and pioneering groups of the early 90’s rock scene in the UK. However, by the time their fourth album, Tarantula, was released in 1996, the group had concocted enough inner-band tension to unceremoniously split up. No farewell tour, no grand gesture, nothing. Ride, as the band members knew it, were finished.
“At the time, straight after we crashed and parted ways, I would never have foreseen what is now happening,” says Mark Gardener, one of the band’s two vocalists and guitarists. “I would never have foreseen anything, really, when it comes to Ride and the success we enjoyed. It's always been a bit of a trip into the unknown. What made Ride great was also something that was going to make us crash at some point. In some ways this was the same for our party-mad label, Creation [Records], which was also set to crash and change as it did. We were never a career band.”
What is now happening, as Gardener refers to, is that Ride are officially back together. Having reunited for a fleeting moment back in 2001 as part of a documentary on Sonic Youth, the band’s original line-up have since gone on to tour extensively since reuniting in earnest towards the end of 2014. It’s culminated in a brand-new studio album from the band, entitled Weather Diaries, which is set for release this coming June. While it may be surreal to be talking about Ride over 20 years after their initial demise, Gardener feels as though the band’s return was always in the back of his mind - even if it didn’t always seem like a possibility.
“I made music in a different band, Animal House, a couple of years after the Ride split,” he says. “I also played the odd acoustic show with Andy [Bell, vocals/guitar] and Loz [Laurence Colbert, drums]; so from time to time we did make and perform more music together over the non-Ride years. Personally, I never thought it would be out of the question to play in Ride again. I did, initially, think it would be highly unlikely; but in the last four or five years I started to think it would be a real crime and something I could really regret if Ride never played together again. There was a lot of unfinished sonic business. It was great to have been together, all go our separate ways and then to come back together as in tune as we are now. It feels very special.”
Of course a lot has happened in the intervening years for each of Ride’s four members. Bassist Steve Queralt got out of the game entirely and started a family; while Gardener pursued solo work and Bell ended up in an obscure English band by the name of Oasis. All of that has impacted on the way that Weather Diaries was written and performed - and, as Gardener testifies, their collectively heightened levels of experience are reflected in the music itself. “We got much better as musicians, both individually and collectively,” he says.
“I know I'm a better singer now than I was. That has a lot to do with lots of solo acoustic shows, lots of collaborations, better lifestyle choices and being stronger and more consistent as a person and performer than I used to be. Technology also means that we can hear each other on stage much better than we used to be able to, which helps massively. We did agree that the way we worked together on the making of [second album, 1992’s] Going Blank Again was possibly the best and most enjoyable creative time for us, and where we really played to all of our strengths. That way of working did influence the way we worked now. It's unusual, but it's great that we did have the benefit of hindsight and were actually able to use that and do something with that benefit now. Often, it's too late in life to be able to action some benefits of hindsight.”
Overseeing the production and recording of Weather Diaries was London’s Erol Alkan. You may not know his name from the realm of indie rock, mainly because his primary focus has been DJing and making dance music for the bulk of his career. Teaming Alkan up with a band like Ride may seem odd, but after the fact, Gardener could not be more excited about what the collaboration created.
“I guess from the outside, Erol might have seemed a curious choice for the record,” he says. “As soon as we all got busy together though, we realised it was going to work fantastically well. Personally, Erol was very liberating for me – I could then totally feel like the guy in the band again. We all got lots from working with Erol. We vibed him up with our shows that he'd come to and the songs we had written for the new record, and in return he then totally vibed the recording of the record. We, like Erol, enjoy and listen to a wide spectrum of music. For me, this is why it all worked and why the album has so many colours, influences and sounds.”
The Weather Diaries by Ride will be released on Friday June 16 through Wichita Recordings via [PIAS] / Inertia Music.