Interview: Ride

Bassist Steve Queralt chats about the recent reissue of the band's groundbreaking debut LP Nowhere and playing the album live

Posted on Dec 22nd, 2015 in Features and Interviews, Ride, Rhino Records / By Richard Lewis
Interview: Ride With shoegazing, psychedelia, dream pop and various other genre permutations continuing to grow in 2015, one of the bands who did much to start the movement, Ride re-emerged to dazzling effect. Following their November 2014 announcement in they were to re-form, the Oxford quartet spent much of the year touring, with the second global haul dedicated to playing leading edge 1990 debut LP Nowhere live in full (review).

A sparkling concoction of visceral churning guitars, pop melodies and alternately expansive/concise songcraft, Nowhere was the first Creation Records release to broach the UK Top 75 Albums (the present group were also the first to give the company their first Top 10 single with the colossal Leave Them All Behind in 1992).

Playing the entire disc in sequence with the addition of the CD bonus tracks culled from the band’s Fall EP, the likes of Dreams Burn Down, Kaleidoscope, Polar Bear and Taste sound as newly minted as on release. The outstanding live reviews along with a timely expanded reissue, Nowhere 25 provided ample demonstration of the band’s legacy.

An influence on legions of acts including Cheatahs, Young Husband and The Horrors, the group were especially venerated across the pond by the likes of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Dandy Warhols (who named a song in tribute to the group) and Death Cab for Cutie (check out their cover of stunning 1992 single Twisterella). The Cure mainman Robert Smith is also a noted fan of the four-piece, recently remixing Nowhere’s epic closing track Vapour Trail.

Impressively, in addition to the playing the LP in full, a set of essential cuts from the band’s early EPs and the bulk of superlative second album Going Blank Again (1992) were aired, with the band effectively performing two complete sets each night.

With the live dates recently concluded and the album in the racks for Christmas, Bearded asked group bassist Steve Queralt about the making of Nowhere quarter of a century on and bringing the LP to the stage.

A straightforward one to begin with then, did you have any idea when you were recording Nowhere that the LP would go on to be so revered? ‘No. When the band finished none of us thought any of the music would last and have any relevance 20 years on’ Steve replies. ‘In some ways Nowhere could have been very different but the tight schedule and budget made it what it is. Had we spent more time and perhaps used Alan Moulder (Going Blank Again co-producer, MBV/Smashing Pumpkins cohort) from the start we might well of ended up with a much slicker album but not necessarily any better. Much of its charm for me is the lo-fi production and the sound that four very naive indie kids were allowed to make’.

On the subject of playing the LP live in full, guitarist/vocalist Andy Bell recently stated in an interview that ‘We haven’t been certain we could pull it off until now... it’s only now that we are sure we can do the album justice’. Where did the uncertainty come from and how has it been resolved? ‘It’s mainly rehearsal time and having the balls to do it with confidence’ Steve explains. ‘The first eight songs work well as an album but when you add the Fall EP tracks it starts to suffer in terms of a live set. We would never normally put a song like Here and Now in at the penultimate slot so we had to make sure we could play all the songs well enough for it to work as a good live set.

On the subject of good live sets, the run of dates saw the band receiving sizeable acclaim with several writers even stating that the band were possibly a stronger live act in the present day than they were back in the 1990s. In one interview the group mentioned that on-stage technology had improved a lot since the band toured in the early 1990s. What aspects have changed and how does it help performing live? ‘We used to be so loud on stage’ Steve explains. ‘The guitars were always in competition with each other so the bass had to be turned right up to be heard which then meant the monitors were filled with loud distorted drums. On top of that Mark (Gardener, vocals/guitar) and Andy then had to try and sing over the top of what was just a sonic mess’.

‘Today we use in-ear monitors which allow each of us to have our own controlled balanced mix of the whole band’ the bassist continues. ‘The irony is that all the amps are now much quieter on stage which in turn provides the guy at the mixing desk with much clearer sounds which means he can turn the whole thing up much louder than 20 years ago. Mark and Andy can also hear each other singing which is a first for them’.

With an opening set drawn from the band’s catalogue beyond Nowhere, how do you go about choosing setlists, weighing well-known tracks against earlier cuts? ‘There is no formula thankfully’ Steve says. ‘However, there are a few songs which always find their way onto the setlist often in familiar slots where we know they always work well such as opening with Leave Them all Behind and playing Seagull as song number three or four. The rest of the list is a discussion based on the time we have on stage and the type of event, theatre or festival etc. But, most importantly the set is made up of the songs we feel like playing most that evening’.

Indelible proof of how strong the band’s early material is, the opening two tracks from the band’s eponymous 1990 debut EP Chelsea Girl and Drive Blind provide the encore for the group’s set. How does it feel playing tracks that were written when the band were barely out of their teens? ‘I don't think we've ever thought of it that way. Having said that, we suddenly realised that during the UK dates where we played Nowhere in full that the first set consisted almost entirely of songs from Going Blank Again. That’s the only time I can remember us making a conscious decision to add songs from other periods’.

Looking at your shows recently you don’t tend to play many tracks from 1994 LP Carnival of Light, which drew inspiration from classic psychedelia, is this a deliberate choice or just the way the setlists were drawn up? ‘The main reason is production’ Steve explains. ‘When we toured Carnival of Light we added a keyboard player to the live line up which we really wanted to avoid for the reunion shows this year.

This a question you’ve probably been asked a lot but, are you working on any new material? ‘We haven't had any time really. Even soundchecks have been rushed apart from on the recent Nowhere dates where we were our own support band’ Steve answers. ‘This meant we had the opportunity to record a few band-jams which will no doubt turn into Top 10 singles next year!’

A final enquiry then (and a spoiler alert for anyone who has been following Steve’s Album of the Year countdown on Twitter), what’s the best LP you’ve heard this year? ‘Without doubt, Carrie and Lowell by Sufjan Stevens’.

Nowhere 25 is out now, in an expanded remastered edition with an additional DVD of the band's March 1991 set at the Town & Country Club, London