The Oxford shoegazers’ first record in five years is due for release on March 29 and marks a period of triumph over adversity for the band as they battled through both COVID and a messy legal battle. During their downtime, they also binged on Netflix documentaries about free climbers – most notably The Alpinist which inspired their new single.
“It’s a bit like [2008 documentary] Man On Wire,” Bell told NME. “It’s about this guy called Marc-André Leclerc and he was an absolute kind of rock star free climber.
“I came into the studio with ‘Peace Sign’ and finished it off with a reference to the film. It’s mainly about this section where he knows he’s gonna climb this crazy rock face and he’s hanging out at his friend’s house while he’s waiting for the right weather conditions.”
Bell continued: “At one point, he’s both playing with a three year-old kid in the garden but also watching his weather app and preparing himself for this extremely dangerous moment in his life. In the song the lyrics are: ‘I think I’m ready / Yes I’m ready, this is the window and I’m not waiting’. All the energy in the song comes from that.”
Gardener added: “And also I can’t imagine a better thing to be singing about right now in the current climate than the peace sign.
“Everyone needs to be doing the peace sign again. Love and peace again please. I can’t stand the news anymore in terms of what’s going on [in the world].”
Initially hunkering down in Gardener’s OX4 studio before finishing up at Vada Studios in the Midlands with producer Richie Kennedy, the band constantly found themselves battling through tough circumstances.
“It just felt so dark for a while there,” the Ride frontman explained. “Along with dealing with COVID, we had a lot of adversity with the sort of legal battle going on with ex-managers. All the hideous stuff that you read about that other bands go through, it was happening to us.”
He continued: “It was a very testing time really for all of us, as it was for everybody. In our own way, we came through that and I think that’s what really made this album as strong as it is because at certain times, I was just wondering if this was the end.”
Bell added: “There’s been times during the making of this record where we’ve fallen victim to some of the stresses that have been caused by outside influences but really both the negative things that have played into it, they’ve both been good at really reminding us at what we’re protecting, what we’re valuing.
“The core of it is the interplay between us and what we have together as a band. Why are we doing any of this? It’s because we want to keep this thing going, that we are all so invested in.”
From the outset, Ride’s seventh album was sonically signposted by the likes of Tears For Fears, Talk Talk and ’80s era U2 and Depeche Mode – influences they wouldn’t have dared approach back in the ’90s.
“All that ’80s widescreen stuff, we didn’t quite check for,” Bell admitted. “We didn’t say, ‘Oh I love the new U2 record,’ because it wasn’t kind of cool at the time. Me and Mark were really into stuff like The Cure, The Smiths and Echo And The Bunnymen and to be talking about a U2 record or Tears For Fears wouldn’t have been as cool when we were at school.
“Looking back at [U2’s] ‘The Unforgettable Fire’, I used to play that record all the time. And then there’s [Tears For Fears’] ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’ and ‘Shout’. Mark, you love Tears For Fears.”
Gardener agreed: “Yeah ‘The Hurting’ is just a seminal album for me, I love that record. I used to listen to it in bed with just my headphones on and dream that one day I’d be making music in a band. That album is really huge for me. Talk Talk were as well.
“Just the sound of some of those records also informed a lot of why I’ve got certain gear in the studio which was obviously what a lot of the stuff was recorded through initially [for our album].”
He continued: “I also liked a lot of early Depeche Mode as well. Personally the track ‘I Came To See The Wreck’ on our album, was very Boards Of Canada initially but production wise and mixing, when I was talking to [our mixer] Claudius [Mittendorfer], I was reminded of ‘World In My Eyes’.”
Bell added that the band have “a new respect for those records because of how timeless they are”, particularly Depeche Mode.
“I was never a Depeche Mode listener, but now I really love their records,” he said. “I remember asking Alan Moulder, because he mixed our previous two records, what his favourite mix of an album is. And he said ‘Violator’ was that record, which was mixed by Francois Kevorkian.
“So I went and got it and I kind of understood what he meant and it really helped me to understand what Alan Moulder’s mix style is. I just think those things were just a fresh way into the Ride influences to make new music with.”
Another connection Ride have with that era is their close bond with The Cure’s Robert Smith, who once hailed ‘Vapour Trail’ as “one of the best 15 second intros of all time”. He has since gone on to put his own spin on their landmark 1991 single with a series of remixes. “The Cure continue to just make great music and play great shows,” said Gardener. “They’re an inspiration to us all really.”
“Robert Smith has been amazing, and it’s really nice when a teenage hero and someone you’ve really admired artistically all across the board and bought their records is just totally cool.”
“Also Robert recently got us all painting again for the first time since art school which worked out pretty well. He does this art project [for Heart Research UK] where people from bands put in paintings to help raise money for what is known as the heART project.
He went on: “It just started a whole theme for me which is really beautiful because when I was at art school all I wanted to do was be in a band. So it was just nice to be painting again and like music it took me back to a certain time and it was quite joyous to do that again. It’s also nice to sell some artwork, it helps pay the bills.”
Ride have now been together during their second incarnation longer than they were back in their heyday (they initially split up in 1996 after forming in 1988). Being “older and wiser” has kept them more close knit than ever, according to Bell.
“Things that might have knocked us off kilter don’t happen anymore,” he concluded.
“Things happen but we don’t get knocked off our stride so much by them so we’re able to come back and go, ‘No we still wanna keep doing this’. We still want Ride to continue. So you put that above anything else that might come along.”
‘Interplay’ is released on March 29, and you can pre-order/pre-save the album here.
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