Had you told someone in 1997 that in 20 years’ time, both Ride and Slowdive would be releasing brand new albums of original material, they most likely would have laughed at you, labelled you crazy and asked you not to bother them again while you both waited in line to buy a copy of Oasis’ Be Here Now.
Yet, here we are in 2017 and two of the brightest lights of the early ’90s shoegaze scene have returned with their first new albums in over two decades, with Slowdive – who reformed in 2014 – releasing their self-titled fourth album in May, and Ride – who played their first shows in more than 20 years in early 2015 – releasing their comeback fifth album, Weather Diaries, this week.
While the reformation of the former Creation Records labelmates within a year of one another was pure coincidence, Ride drummer Loz Colbert explains that seeing Slowdive’s resurrection gave the Oxford four-piece a good idea of what to expect when they made their own return.
“They were coming to the end of their massive year, having played all around the world. I went to one of their shows in London towards the end of that and it was like, ‘What’s it like?’ I was dying to know what their experiences had been because I had obviously not yet played with Ride, so I was really curious about what it was like for them and how it had gone.”
After four studio albums and some classic EPs, internal conflicts saw Ride split in 1996 to a shrug of indifference from a music scene swept up in all things Britpop. In the intervening years, lead guitarist Andy Bell went on to join Oasis and Beady Eye, rhythm guitarist Mark Gardener performed as a solo act, bassist Steve Queralt effectively retired from music and Colbert played drums for Gaz Coombes and the reformed Jesus and Mary Chain.
Though their split was acrimonious, all four members soon resolved their differences and have appeared together in different configurations through the years, often fuelling rumours of a proper reunion. Colbert says timing was the key to Ride finally reactivating.
“The offer to us to reunite had come around a number of times but one or more of us weren’t able to do it for various reasons,” he says. “It just wasn’t quite right.”
While Ride were happy to initially play sets of their best-loved tracks, it was always the group’s intention to record new music. Weather Diaries came out of three one-week stints in the studio with producer Erol Alkan.
The offer to us to reunite had come around a number of times … It just wasn’t quite right.
“Personally, it’s a large part of the reason why I got back into this,” says Colbert. “I was interested in the idea of getting back with everyone and playing live – that sounded like fun, but I have to say that what really was pushing behind the drive to get back together was the idea that maybe we would actually do something new. Luckily, brilliantly, the rest of the band was actually really up for that as well.
“We were doing a track a day or sometimes two tracks a day. It was wonderfully creative and liberating to be in that kind of environment with these four people who were very forthcoming and wanted to work together, be creative, write together and make music.”
Two decades on from Ride’s last recordings, Colbert says improvements in equipment, as well as the quartet’s level of musicianship, meant their time creating was markedly different.
“We certainly didn’t want to recreate the past in terms of, we certainly couldn’t recreate the Nowhere sound or the Going Blank Again sound. What we did find was that some of the songs that came out really did seem to almost be ghosts from that era, but the way that they sounded in the studio and the way they sound now is completely different, and therefore, it felt very valid and quite beautiful. It’s almost like you got the echo of the past but you’re doing something new with it.”
In time since Ride’s split, the once-derided shoegaze genre has experienced a rehabilitation, with several generations of bands embracing its aesthetics and its quest to push sonic boundaries. Returning into this environment, Ride have found themselves greeted as heroes.
“Ride kind of disappeared without a bang with the shoegaze label hanging over us,” says Colbert. “Then all these new bands came along and were using it as a badge of honour and they were holding our band in high esteem, and it made you feel that actually, we did something that inspired people and it’s a good thing. So going out on the road again, it felt different.
“Over that period of 2014-2016, I heard of more and more bands who were actually trying to create that sound and do interesting things with it, and we felt like we were part of a bigger puzzle. Shoegaze became a fully fledged genre that had exciting strands to it.”
Australia is somewhere the debt of influence to shoegaze and Ride is particularly prevalent. Having toured here several times in the ’90s, the band is yet to return this time around, though Colbert hopes that will change soon.
“We’d really like to come. It feels like a big unopened present that we can’t wait get to and open.”
Weather Diaries is out Friday June 16 through Wichita/Inertia.