Late last year, shoegaze royalty Ride announced an unexpected reunion almost two decades after parting ways. The news came as a welcome surprise to many of their longtime fans, most of whom never thought they’d get a chance to see one of their favorite bands live. Their tour has seen them play across the globe and they’re now coming to Asia for exclusive shows in Singapore for Neon Lights festival and Hong Kong for Clockenflap.
The Manchester indie music scene in the early 1990s was thriving hotbed of activity with bands like The Stone Roses and New Order showing how uncompromising indie bands could storm the charts. In the United States a cluster of bands like Nirvana, Mudhoney and The Pixies were carving up traditional preconceptions of rock and around the same time four unassuming lads from Oxford burst onto the scene, calling themselves Ride. Their debut album Nowhere was a genre defining masterpiece that propelled them into international stardom and firmly positioned them as one of the leading proponents of the shoegaze genre.
The album, recorded over two weeks in London, was released through Creation records and became a genre defining release. It’s been included in NME’s 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die and Spin’s Best 200 Albums in the past 30 years.The album, released by Creation records, catapulted the band into international fame. Five years and four albums later the band unceremoniously split and each of the band members, Mark Gardener, Andy Bell, Steve Queralt and Laurence Colbert went their separate ways. Their legacy endured though and Ride’s journey paved the way for hugely successful acts like Blur and Oasis (which Ride alumni Andy Bell went on to become bassist for) to achieve global success.
After dismissing the possibility of the band getting back together for two straight decades Ride revealed in November 2014 that they were reforming for a two-week string of shows. Through fate or circumstance, Bell’s latest act Beady Eye chose to disband at the same time and the possibility for a global reunion tour was formed. And so it came that Ride, 20 years after disbanding, came together for a reunion at possibly one of the world’s most famous festivals, Coachella. Since then the band have embarked on a year-long tour across the United States and Europe before they head to Southeast Asia for Clockenflap and Neon Lights festivals. In fact, the last note at Singapore’s Neon Lights festival will signify the conclusion of an incredible reunion of one of the most important musical exports from the English indie scene.
Music Weekly Asia speak exclusively to Ride bassist Steve Queralt about the band’s incredible journey since reformation what fans in Southeast Asia can expect with Ride coming to play their first ever shows in the region.
It’s been almost a year since Ride announced that they are reforming and the dust is starting to settle. How would you say things are going now?
Things are still going very, very well. It’s been a hell of a busy year. Perhaps we’ve done a little too much if there’s any criticism but the UK tour is going well and we’re looking forward to doing the second half of our US dates in November and especially looking forward to coming back to Japan (where Ride’s first tour sold out in less than 3 minutes) and then finishing up in Hong Kong and Singapore. It’s been a hell of a year but things are still going very, very well.
Has it been a pretty relentless tour schedule all year?
Pretty much, yeah, even though for the summer we had a couple of festivals in Europe, pretty much every weekend we would fly out on the Thursday and fly back on the Monday so it’s been pretty non stop all year. Not really any chance to have a breath.
This must have been a bit of a contrast compared to what you were doing before the band reformed. Can you tell us more about what you’ve been doing?
It’s a massive contrast. I was doing a regular nine to five job. I had a career in logistics which wasn’t anything to get excited about so when the chance came to do this again last October, it wasn’t much of a decision to make. It’s been extremely exciting for me. Probably more so than the others I’d say.
How did the decision to reform come about. I’m sure there were many opportunities to do so in the past, why now?
Yes, there’s been plenty of opportunities in the past. We generally get together about once a year to get together and generally just have a drink and see what’s going on in each other’s lives and every year the elephant is in the room “Shall we reform?” and there’s offers to do this festial or that festival but it’s never felt like the right time until last October. Andy was on a writing break from Beady Eye, well the band were on a break, so he felt we could probably do two weeks worth of shows which was originally going to be at Primavera in Barcelona followed by a mini UK tour and that was going to be it. s it happens Andy went back to Beady Eye to talk to them and they all gave him their blessing and the next thing he knew Liam (Gallagher) had called time on the band anyway so Andy was in a position to say in addition to the two weeks, we can also do whatever else is offered and that’s what really led on to everyone saying, yep, now’s the time to do it and we’ll turn it into a whole year of reunion rather than just the two weeks.
How has the relationship been between band members over that time? Has it always been amicable?
I think there was about six months of hostility between band members when we first split, but the frost thawed very quickly and we’ve been on talking terms for the last 20 odd years. There’s not been any hostilities and the last year we’ve all been getting on remarkably well. There has been very little friction. Having said that, most friction comes down to when you have differences in opinion in the direction you’re taking things artistically and I suppose because we’re playing all the old songs, there’s not really much to argue about. It’s just been really good to hang out with the other three all year.
What’s it like to be back on stage again after all this time?
That was the thing, in last October when we made the decision to do it again, the euphoria as quickly drowned by the sense of dread in that I hadn’t actually picked up a bass guitar for years and years. For me the whole thing suddenly became terrifying and I can remember the first date in Oxford we did as a warmup was really exciting but also very very scary at the same time. Fifteen minutes before we went on stage we had NME filming the walk on, we were waiting to go on, the intro music suddenly started and those few seconds were just mad. But by halfway through the first song, suddenly though everything was working and there was nothing to be afraid of and the rest is history. It is the best job in the world. Actually it’s the third best job in the world. I can’t be an astronaut and I’ll never play football for England so this’ll do for now.
So the reunion tour started in Oxford?
That’s right. The kickoff show was in Oxford. As I said earlier, we were going to do to weeks of shows in May but as we announced that, we had an offer from Coachella and of course when Coachella come offering you gigs, you don’t say no. So the whole project, if you can call it a project, got moved forward by a month so in April we had to fly out to California and Coachella is run over two consecutive weekends so you play one weekend and you come back the following weekend on exactly the same bill so we decided to build a little California tour in between those dates. In addition to that we thought that we can’t make the first show playing at Coachella without a bit of a warm up just to check that the crew know what they’re doing, the lights work, we know what we’re playing and so it was a good opportunity to play our home town. It was a small venue we played countless times 20 years ago. It was a very special evening and a good way to kick things off.
It seems like an appropriate place to play back at home again after all these years – like you’ve come full circle. Tell us, what’s the average demographic of your crowd now? Are they generally older fans or is there a new generation of listeners?
There’s no escaping that our fans have grown old gracefully with us, but having said that, there are a surprising number of younger fans in the audience as well which is really good to see. These guys have discovered the band and they’re obviously too young to have seen us originally but they’ve heard about us since and their reaction seems to be just as enthusiastic as the older crowd as well.
It’s probably a good time to touch on. I believe you had a young son when the band first split. Obviously an adult now, he would have grown up without his father being in the spotlight as an international rock star. How has that been for him to see you up on stage now, not as just dad but as an icon.
I think initially I was worried that he’d think he had the most embarrassing dad in the world but he has actually been very good about it. He’s come and seen a couple of shows since. I’ve always been very proud of him. He’s 23 now and he’s his own person and is going to college in Cambridge so he’s got his own life. Talking to him about it. He’s not too embarrassed by the whole thing. He’s come to the shows, he’s bought his girlfriend along so it’s all good. We’re proud of each other I think.
It’s obvious you’ve had a lasting impact on a number of bands that have followed you. Along with bands like the Stone Roses there seems to be some key influences on bands like Blur and Oasis. How do you feel about your legacy and how easy was it to see them rise to prominence, riding on the coattails of what you’d achieved just a few years earlier?
That’s a difficult one because I don’t think I would, I don’t think any of us would claim to have influenced any other bands. It’s not really for us to say. There’s nothing better than reading that a band was inspired by us or we inspired them to pick up a guitar and form a band and that’s huge encouragement.
When you guys split, does it feel like there was always some unfinished business? Was there always that hope that there would be a reunion?
Yeah, it would have been horrible to never play again, especially with those three guys. It’s a massive part of all three of our lives growing up. There’s no better way to spend your early twenties than travelling around the world playing music. To think that you’ll never ever do that again with those guys. It’s not for me to say but I think Andy (Bell) also agrees that Ride is a special, I mean he’s been in Oasia, Hurricane #1, Beady One but Ride has a special place in his heart and I think he would admit that it would be sad to never ever play those songs with us again. Everyone feels the same way.
It is unfinished business and it’s great to be doing it again but I’m always afraid of saying unfinished business because it suggests that we’ll be doing new stuff next year and whilst I won’t say it’s an impossibility, it’s not something that we’ve really discussed in any great detail. This year is all about trying to get through playing the old songs and getting the reunion thing . As I said before, we’ve hardly had time to take a breath. It won’t be until we stop in December that we can take stock and have a look at what 2016 will look like, if anything at all.
So there’s no new music on the cards at this point then?
No… Nothing definite.
This will be the first time you’ll be playing in Southeast Asia and equally, the first time that local audiences will have the chance to see Ride perform. Is it especially exciting to tour a new region that you’ve never been to?
I’m no stranger to Hong Kong. I’ve been there, my girlfriend’s brother is in the police force there so I’ve been over to visit. I know Hong Kong quite well but to play a show there, I don’t know what to expect really in terms of what the audience will be like. The festival is quite well established and I’m really looking forward to seeing the skyline. I think that will be a special moment.
As for Singapore, I have no idea what to expect there but I really like travelling that part of the world. We recently had the chance to tour in Korea and we had three days in Seoul, hanging around and preparing for the festival and it’s just great to be in that environment. The climate is different, the people are different, the food is different, everything is just so exciting.
And these will be the final shows of the tour for you?
Singapore will be the final show officially for this year. Which is a bit of an odd one. It would be nice to be back in your home-town or in London but it will be a special night. Speaking for myself, it will be quite emotional I think when we play the final song of the reunion in Singapore. God knows what will happen that night. Maybe there’ll be some sort of a party back at the hotel.
We hope so. You guys have earnt it. Thanks for your time.