On sale Monday, February 19 at 10am!
Wednesday, May 8
Doors 7pm / Show 8pm
All ages / Standing
$27 Member / $30 General Admission Advance / $35 GA Day of show
As Ride were working on their excellent new record, the quartet realised they had now been a band longer in their second phase than their original incarnation had lasted. When Andy Bell, Laurence "Loz" Colbert, Mark Gardener and Steve Queralt reunited in 2015, it was with a desire to re-conjure the musical alchemy that had made them one of the most exciting British bands of the late 80s and early 90s. Yes, there was a legacy to celebrate, album anniversaries to mark and old classics to dust off, but what Ride really wanted to do was keep pushing forward, pick up the thread of what made them such an exhilarating proposition in the first place. It was a reunion underpinned with a sense of unfinished business.
There have been two records since then, 2017's Weather Diaries and 2019's This Is Not A Safe Place. Both produced by Erol Alkan, they were albums that re-lit the spark, both pleasing old diehards and introducing one of the most forward-thinking guitar bands of their generation to a whole new audience. Everything feels like it has been leading to Interplay, the group's forthcoming seventh album. It's the sound of Ride connecting all the dots, taking the frenzied guitar attacks, hypnotic grooves and dreamy melodic hooks of their early work and setting it to a more expansive sonic template, one that takes in synth flourishes, psychedelic folk, electronic beats and noir-pop soundscapes. "You learn this is a special thing," says singer and guitarist Gardener of the dynamic between them. "It's easy to take it for granted the first time round, when you just come out and everything is great."
Shall we take a quick trip back to that period for the uninitiated? Ride were formed in Oxford in 1988 by four friends rooted in art-school aesthetics who combined 60s guitar-pop sensibilities with avalanches of noise and driving rhythms. It was a recalibration of indie-rock that would come to be defined as shoegazing, music that was both experimental and pop, powerful and fragile. Preceded by a run of three criticallyacclaimed EPs, their 1990 debut album Nowhere is regarded as one of the greatest debuts of the '90s. By the time they released fourth record Tarantula in 1996, however, they'd hit the skids, intra-band turmoil prompting them to call it day.
But something curious happened whilst the four-piece had put the band out to pasture and when Ride reunited in 2014, they were surrounded by a wave of groups — Tame Impala, Beach House, Animal Collective amongst them — who sounded like they had been inhaling heavy doses of early Ride recordings. Eight years into their second era, the band are increasingly beginning to acknowledge the period themselves. Interplay is pockmarked with nods to their younger selves.
"It's got a lot of references within the writing to earlier days," says Bell. "Then on a sonic level, it's got the feel of some of the later 90s stuff. There's a grown-up-ness to it as well as the early influences coming through." "Obviously, there's a big heritage angle to this band because loads of people were so in love with Nowhere," adds Gardener. "But for me the whole reformation was because I felt we still had great chemistry as a band. That was why I wanted to do it, for moments that we felt in the studio making this record."
"We are a lot more mature and able to deal with each other's shit more effectively than we did in the 90s," explains Queralt. "We were kids back then. We used to sulk a lot, argue a lot. That ultimately led to the band splitting up in the first place. We're a lot more hardened this time round."
That sense of a tight unit was essential in the four-piece getting Interplay to the finishing line. It has been a period of adversity in the world of Ride. Much of that was down to writing and recording during a pandemic — a period of adversity shared by everyone, everywhere — but there was also break-ups and a messy legal battle with an ex-manager that, Gardener states, "threatened our very existence."
It has instilled in the record a feeling of defiance, an album that pairs classic Ride lyrical hallmarks such as escapism, dreams, the dissatisfaction of modern life, yearning and freedom with a sense of resilience. "It was therapy in a way," says Gardener, "and a liberation from the dark period that preceded it. It was definitely a sort of triumph over a lot of adversity." "We were under a lot of strain making the record and that played into the mood of it," states Queralt.
Early on, the band pinpointed a collection of 80s pop gems — ranging from the grandiose stylings of Tears For Fears to the intricately-layered new wave of Talk Talk to early U2 bombast — as sonic touchstones. "It was kickstarted by the mood of the Loz demo Last Night I Went Somewhere To Dream," says Bell. "We started remembering that widescreen 80s stuff. It was music we all shared an awareness of although it wasn't on our radar maybe as much as the indie stuff whilst it was happening." Bell remembers that alongside The Cure and The Fall, Ride's members did own U2 and Tears For Fears albums in their record collections too. "Until more recently, we haven't felt their sound could be so much of an influence on a Ride album. We probably thought we were too cool for that at the time!"
Songs began springing up in a variety of ways. Initially working at Gardener's own OX4 studio, there were extended jams from which pieces of music would be honed upon and reworked into something more concise whilst each band member also brought in their own home-recorded demos to work from too. That everything was filtered through what happens when the four-piece play in a room together is alluded to the record's title, an idea of Colbert's.
"The way the album came together, there was very much a sense of interplay within the band," says the drummer. "It just seemed to work as an idea. It covered everything, the sound of the songs, the arrangement of the songs, the way we worked together. It also felt great to have a one-word title. That was the challenge — come up with one word that sums it all up. And that was it."
After a year or so of sporadic sessions at OX4, the record started to take a more defined shape when, at producer Richie Kennedy's suggestion, they decamped to Vada Studios in the Midlands. Kennedy, who was part of Erol Alkan's team on Ride's previous two records, had entered the sessions as a spare pair of hands but his role grew organically into producer. He became a crucial part of Interplay's creation — the band credit him as a galvanising force when they were running out of steam. "He said a lot of really interesting and quite brave things during the making of this record," states Bell. "That really changed gear for us." "He came up with so many good ideas," agrees Colbert. "I'm really grateful him to him for being so confident and standing up to us and giving us ideas to do things that we wouldn't normally do."
The stop-start gestation is not reflected in the finished album. Interplay is a record in the old-school sense, a rich listen that flows from start to finish, at times urgent and formidable, at others wistful and melancholic. It contains some all-time standout Ride songs. There's the widescreen calm-to-chaos dream-pop of Light In A Quiet Room, the icy synth-rock glide of Monaco, I Came To See The Wreck's yearning fury, the panoramic future-folk Last Night I Went Somewhere To Dream.
This is music that pulls from every era of the band at the same time as gliding towards something new. The ethereal stomp of Last Frontier pairs kaleidoscopic layers of sound with classic indie songwriting, Stay Free is Laurel Canyon-style Americana turned cosmic, Sunrise Chaser all chiming guitars, looped hooks and warm melodies whilst Portland Rocks is a widescreen anthem that's phaser-effect vocals make it sound like it's being beamed in from the future. Claudius Mittendorfer's masterful mix provided the final touches on a startling, stop-you-in-your-tracks kind of record.
If there was one other word that could sum up Ride's seventh album, it would be perseverance. "It's a record that says survival, it shows the drive we have to keep going," says Bell. "Sometimes it's not so much about pushing musical boundaries, it's more just making a record. That was the victory." "It's the doing it," agrees Colbert. "You've done it and done it working together. It's perseverance to the task for the communal goal."
Ride don't think they would've been able to finish this record back in the 90s. There were too many hurdles, it would've pulled them apart at the seams. But the quartet are made of different stuff these days. "We're painfully aware of the fact we did implode in the mid-90s," says Bell, "and that's made us treat our second go round with real reverence and respect. We're a family at this point, there's a lot of love there and a bit of dysfunction as well, but these are real long-term relationships we've all got with each other." Interplay is the sound of a great British band hitting a second peak. It's a record about perseverance, about sticking together, about finding a way forward. Nine years after coming back together, Ride keep rewriting their story.