When Ride reunited in 2014, there were no plans other than to play nine scheduled dates throughout Europe and North America. Of course, the demand to witness the return of the one-time shoegaze heartthrobs quickly snowballed into a year's worth of touring. Unlike their former labelmates Slowdive though, Andy Bell, Loz Colbert, Mark Gardener and Steve Queralt never spoke about recording again.
"It didn't really hit me that there was an audience until we started playing gigs again, so it definitely wasn't a priority," Bell tells Exclaim! "In the beginning it was about doing a few weeks of shows. Then it became about all of the gigs that we were offered. The three weeks turned into eight months. It didn't feel like it was a done deal that we were gonna make an album at all. By the time the shows had finished, we had a few ideas — we couldn't help ourselves. Instead of soundchecking on some dates during the reunion, we'd just jam and record the results. And then some of those ideas made it onto the record, actually."
While some members kept busy making music following the band's 1995 break up — Bell formed Britrockers Hurricane #1, then joined Oasis on bass and graduated to Beady Eye; Gardener started the Animalhouse, followed by a solo career; Colbert drummed for Supergrass and the Jesus & Mary Chain — recapturing their old band's spirit wasn't as difficult as some might imagine. The secret to their success was very much remaining the same musicians they once were.
"As a guitarist, I've never tried to improve," Bell says with a giggle. "I've always just played and enjoyed myself. I think that's probably the best way. I like learning new songs and making things up, but my technique is not really about proficiency. And I was pleased to see that everyone's style was still intact. We're now able to pick up our instruments and sound like Ride. It's a natural thing. When we get together that thing just locks in. It's not that complicated, what we do."
Thanks to their muscle memory, coming up with new songs wasn't much of a challenge either. "It was pretty easy to get it going," explains Bell. "We used some of the same methods. Sometimes we'd use a recording of a sound check. What was great this time was that Steve would come in with entire backing tracks demoed, which has a lot to do with the technology that wasn't around 20 years ago. If we all had laptops back then, nothing would have stopped us; having them now has really helped. We were very aided by that. Back in the original era we were using four-tracks, and now we can all email each other parts of songs. Even though we're all in different parts of the country, we can all make music together on a daily basis. It definitely made things easier."
Bell feels that when they ended their first run with 1996's disappointing Tarantula "it was kind of fitting for Ride to do four quite different albums and then break up." In keeping with tradition, Ride's first album in 21 years, Weather Diaries (out June 16 on Wichita Recordings) once again marks new territory for the Oxford band. Much like the recent Slowdive LP, it too balances a happy medium of revisiting sounds from the past with something completely fresh, while fitting into their catalogue as another unique entry.
"We did laugh about 'Home Is A Feeling,' because it just is a 1991-type sound," Bell declares. "So we just let ourselves go with that one and went for the Valentines sound and enjoyed it. That was really the only time we referred to anything specific. For the rest of them we just went with whatever the songs needed. Until we had finished mixing the album, I wasn't sure how new or old it sounded at all. Recording wise, it felt like we were moving through songs really quick. I wasn't always feeling in control of what was going on."
Some of that control went to their producer Erol Alkan (Beyond the Wizard's Sleeve), a longtime fan who brought his own ideas to the table, but mostly encouraged Ride to be Ride. The experience was so rewarding that Bell feels it could lead to another album between the band and producer.
"His name just came up and we thought, 'That might be interesting,'" Bell says. "He's from the electronic world, and I didn't know what he'd done with rock music, so I thought it could be really cool, like we might end up doing something completely unexpected. But he kept it on a rock trajectory, in that world we were already in. He moved on quickly and that managed to prevent it from being clichéd. I think we'll work together again at some point."