Ride: Leaving Them All Behind

Ride

Shoegaze stalwart Ride reunites for reissues, but is new music on the way?

Some bands handle breakups differently. When legendary shoegaze combo Ride splintered back in 1996, after a lackluster, barely released fourth album called Tarantula, its key members—singers/guitarists Andy Bell and Mark Gardener—dealt with it in two distinctly unique ways. Like a cat, Bell landed on his feet, immediately forming Hurricane #1 with singer Alex Lowe, then switching to bass to join Britpop legend Oasis, and finally following that supergroup’s frontman Liam Gallagher into his recent spin-off, Beady Eye.

“I do feel like a very lucky man, and I do appreciate the life I’ve had,” says Bell, who has returned to guitar for a newly reunited Ride, now touring behind a deluxe Rhino reissue of its classic 1990 debut Nowhere (and greatest-hits comp OX4). “There aren’t many people that have had this long a time in music, and in so many great bands.”

Gardener, on the other hand, nearly disappeared from the English music scene altogether. After launching a short-lived outfit called the Animalhouse with Ride drummer Loz Colbert, he wound up moving to rural France, where he spent several farm-based years working construction, and restoring rickety centuries-old barns for modern use.

“And I also cleared land—I cleared orchards of stinging nettles, scything them down to reveal the land,” Gardener says of his time away. “I spent a lot of time digging holes and pouring foundations and things like that, so there were a few moments where I did sort of think, ‘What happened? Where did it all go wrong?’ But it was a yin/yang rebalancing after Ride—the medieval wilds of France was just what the doctor ordered.”

One spin through Nowhere can clarify Ride’s legacy, in cascading, velvet-textured classics like “Seagull,” “Polar Bear,” “Vapour Trail” and “Dreams Burn Down.” In its prime, the quartet had a more majestic vision (and panoramic soundscape) than many of its more droning peers in the reflective shoegaze movement, such as Slowdive, Chapterhouse and My Bloody Valentine—all of whom have recently reformed, a fact both Bell and Gardener noted with keen interest. There was no specific incident that triggered their schism; no bad blood, either. They’ve stayed in touch over the years, and taken yearly meetings with their old manager to oversee their catalog sales and merchandising.

“People were still buying T-shirts and reissues—they were still interested in this whole thing,” says Bell. “But nostalgia is quite a big business, isn’t it?”

Last year, however, there were some incredibly serious tour offers on the table. Gardener could feel it was time to put past differences aside and at least start to rehearse again. “I started to think, ‘Well, actually, it still feels like there’s some electricity in that cloud!’” he says. “And I also started to feel that there would be no peace of mind for the rest of my life with unfinished Ride business, really. And with the general public, that noise was getting louder and louder—‘You’ve got to play again! We were too young! We never saw you!’ So, I had a good chat with Andy, who was still doing Beady Eye at the time. So, it was bit by bit.”

Bell felt the warm vibe, too, so he broached the idea of an exploratory two-week Ride jaunt with Gallagher and his other BE bandmates. They encouraged him, told him to go for it. Then Beady Eye broke up, leaving its bassist a free agent. All of which looked great on paper. But could the Ride members still tap into that Nowhere magic?

“To figure out how to play together again, from my point of view, we had to jam around a lot and not play the actual songs,” says Bell. “So, the first time we played together again was not like, ‘Yeah! Let’s play (early track) “Chelsea Girl!”’ It was more like, ‘Right. Let’s just plug in and play some stuff, just to figure out if we still have it.’”

Now, both musicians are overjoyed at the momentum their return is gathering. And they’ve been bouncing new song ideas around, as well, although they refuse to officially go on record about a comeback album. They don’t want to jinx it. “You can rehearse all the songs so it sounds just like the record,” says Bell. “But you also have to bring something else in. You can’t just repeat—you have to adapt. So, there have to be moments when you just … you just levitate a little bit.”

—Tom Lanham