Fans of Ride probably breathed a sigh of relief yesterday as footage from their first time playing together since 2001 proved that the band's fire hadn't succumbed to old age. In fact, they were pretty great. It's been almost 20 years since the UK foursome's last record Tarantula in 1996, and while it may seem like some kind of automatic band birthright to come back after all these years, it didn't feel like something they were forced into. Particularly for guitarist Andy Bell, who had gone one to pursue successful post-Ride career. This time last year, Bell was with the Beady Eye and before that with Oasis in the early '00s.
Though at the time the band's break up felt more like they'd been crushed under the weight of their own growth as musicians, their contribution to rock music, most notably the birth of shoegaze, has never been forgotten. And now with their glory days a couple decades behind that, they've become to embrace their role once again as a badass guitar band who has no shame about spending the entire set staring at their guitar pedals to deliver squall of shimmering distortion. Ahead of their show at the Roxy tomorrow, their Friday slot at Coachella and a reprise performance at the Fox Theater in Pomona on April 14, we spoke to Bell to get his take on the Ride reunion.
OC Weekly (Nate Jackson): So far has the Ride reunion felt natural or kind of daunting for you?
Andy Bell: Both I guess. It's very natural to be in a room playing with the guys. But I'm confronted with the level of excitement that I'm getting from people, that's quite daunting. But I think we're up to it.
The 25th anniversary of your first EP just passed. Does embarking on this reunion now help you recapture any of your nostalgia for the band at that time?
I can't remember too much other that the sense that there was this rush of everything happening at once. We were on tour the whole time and I remember being on tour and going around to record shops trying to find the record and not being able to find it because not very many places stocked it. And then once you find it, it's like a celebration. It was an exciting time, I wouldn't say it's similar now, so much has happened since then. It's a cool time now though.
Describe the state of your band in the '90s when you were ready to quit the band and then what came about in your careers for you guys to be able to do this reunion now?
When the band broke up I was sort of in shock. I wasn't ready for it. I was sort of the last man standing in a way. Mark was the one who said he was gonna leave and I think both Lawrence and Steve had seen it coming sooner than I had. Probably I was in denial because on some level I did realize that things hadn't been going too well. During the tour for Carnival of Light there was some strains coming up because we were growing up as people away from the band and in the band as well. A lot of it just came from impetuous arguments that really didn't mean too much. But when you grow up, so much time has gone by and most of that stuff's just evaporated and we're left as just more experienced people who can get on much easier. I don't think any of us had any problem about what it was gonna be like to play. Because really we were just happy to be doing it and everyone was up for it and physically able to do it.
Was a lot of the gear and pedals that you used in Ride easy to access for you in order to recreate the band's signature sound?
I was already using a guitar rig in Beady Eye that really suited the Ride sound. My sound is me playing, I just make it sound good to me in my ears. So whether it's Ride or Beady Eye, it sounds like me. Even during Beady Eye I was using a Ride guitar, this 12 string I had back then. The Ride sound comes when these four people play together.
Did you get a lot of encouragement from your contemporaries like My Bloody Valentine or The Stone Roses reuniting in recent years, including at Coachella?
I saw the Valentines play in London for a couple of shows on their reunion tour and saw them plenty of times the first time around when they were together. So seeing them now, they were slightly bigger and better than I remember before and that had an impact on me. And later the Roses got back together and we did a gig with them while I was in Beady Eye and again it was very inspiring to see a band that you loved when you were younger come back and be stronger than they ever were back then. It softened me up. Ten years ago, I might've looked at a reunion as sort of a cash-in opportunity that wasn't worth doing for artistic reasons. But now I've realized that you can add to your history in a good way with a reunion.
How is your relationship with the term "shoegaze" now that you're older?
I'm cool with it. I've grown cool with it over time. When it was first used, it was a slightly derogatory term in the British press and so at that point I was disgruntled by it and didn't want to be called that. But then, the band finished and time went on and the term started being used again, mainly in America. You hear American music fans talking about shoegaze as a cool thing. So instead of being an insult, it turned into a term of praise. I've managed to accept it now and kind of enjoy it. It's also got a bit of humor to it. We did all have these endless rows of effects pedals and I did used to be starting at my feet the whole time deciding which one to use next. So there was some truth in it. None of us were really Justin Timberlake when it came to stage presence.
Do you have any opinion about current bands that seem to borrow a lot from Ride's sound?
I wouldn't want to assume that we're the direct influence when I'm not sure, but I do hear a lot of guitar sounds and a lot of production that I really like on new bands. Whether it's because they've hear Ride or just shoegaze music in general or it's just passed through the ether as part of people's consciousness, either way it's cool. I like having a lot of music around that I feel like I can relate to and enjoy and I can relate to the production, guitar sounds, the harmonies, that's a nice thing. And I'm sure the tide will turn on that again eventually and it'll be something else.
Any acts at Coachella that you're interested in seeing?
I'm gonna try and check out Action Bronson. I really like the "Easy Rider" single from a couple months ago, that really got stuck in my head. Tame Impala as well, I always enjoy them, they're a great band.
Do you feel given where you are at this point, do you see the Ride reunion carrying on beyond this current tour?
AB: I'm gonna say definitely maybe. I'd like it to go on, but I don't want to spook the horse. The important thing is to make these gigs great and play the songs everyone wants to hear and that's enough to think about for the moment. And if we pull that off and we're all standing there at the end of the tour and we say that was brilliant, let's do more stuff, then great.