Ride on “Nowhere”

Mark Gardener and Andy Bell on 1990's Shoegaze Classic

Nov 18, 2013 Issue #47 - September/October 2013 - MGMT Bookmark and Share


Arguably second only to My Bloody Valentine's Loveless, Ride's Nowhere is now revered as one of the shoegaze era's best albums.

Ride formed in Oxford in the summer of 1988. Guitarists/vocalists Mark Gardener and Andy Bell and drummer Laurence Colbert met as students at art school. They recruited their bass player Steve Queralt through their local record shop. It was through his job there they discovered many of the band's contemporary influences.

"Early on in Ride, it was Spacemen 3, House of Love, My Bloody Valentine, Loop, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., The Fall, Pixies, and Stone Roses," says Bell. "As well as older stuff like The Beatles, Stones, the Velvets, and the Stooges."

"Steve was finding records straight away from people like Loop and the early My Bloody Valentine albums," says Gardener. "Ultra Vivid Scene, even. People like that, when we heard those records, they started to influence us. It was current music that we thought was really breaking new ground."

An early demo tape caught the ear of The Jesus and Mary Chain's Jim Reid, who recommended them to Creation Records founder Alan McGee. They released three EPs for the label over nine months in 1990 and became the label's first major chart successes.

"Every time we came back to a town, we were playing a bigger venue," remembers Bell. "We got signed after six shows and there were a few major labels after us, it was a bit of a whirlwind."    

"At the time it felt normal, because that's all we knew," says Gardener.

In the autumn of the same year, Ride put out their debut LP, Nowhere. With its layers of bright distortion and indomitable hooks, the album was a hit, charting high in the U.K. and landing on top of many critics' best-of-the-year lists. Over time, it would be considered a classic.

"I love Nowhere and I'm really proud of it," says Bell. "I do find it hard to listen to, though, because my vocals aren't that strong. Sometimes I think I'd like to go back in time and spend more time getting the vocals in tune and sounding better. But I'm sure that would spoil it for the people who love the record as it is."

"I'd probably want to re-sing a few things, or make the album a little less treble-y at times, but at the end of day, if someone said, 'Here it is, go and do your thing,' I wouldn't touch it," says Gardener.

Much of the record's lasting appeal can be attributed to the catchy pop songwriting that gives the layered instrumentals a solid foundation.

"Probably more so than the Valentines or some of the influences we had around that time, we did sort of fuse that more [pop] into the noise, and I think that really worked for us in a big way," Gardener agrees.

"I think that underneath the shoegazing sound, there is a classic rock band structure holding everything together," says Bell. "If anything gives the music longevity, it's probably that."

They followed Nowhere up in early 1992 with Going Blank Again, a classic in its own right. Ride started to shift away from the shoegaze sound from this point, starting with 1994's Carnival of Light, and a combination of exhaustion and growing tension between principal songwriters Gardener and Bell led to the band's deteriorating.

"We never really had a proper break, and not enough proper fights," says Gardener. "A lot of stuff brewed under the surface in that sort of great English stupid thing of stiff upper lips. Nonsense where we could have probably just had a couple good fights and sorted things out."

"We were young, that's the main reason," says Bell, discussing the band's split shortly before the release of their final record, Tarantula, in 1996. "Looking back now, the reasons for the problems we had seem obvious, and they could have been sorted easily. But it's very hard to look at a situation objectively from the inside. I had some issues towards the end, which I think made me a bit defensive and difficult with the rest of the band. I'm definitely older and wiser these days, maybe because of all that."

These days, Gardener is a successful producer with his own studio; he's currently working on a collaborative record with The Cocteau Twins' Robin Guthrie. Bell was part of Oasis' final lineup, and now plays guitar in Beady Eye. Though both artists are busy with their new projects, they look back on their Ride years with fondness.         

"In the end, time is a great test for anything," says Gardener. "I can now hear Ride records fresh, and I'm a fan now. They sound really good. I get it. I hear and appreciate that music. It's sacred to me, you know? And I think it is to all the guys. I think we did something really special together."

He's also humble about their legacy.

"Ride sold something like 20,000 albums last year, and that's crazy!" he says. "Who's buying that? We haven't been operating as a band for maybe 20 years. I never quite get it, but it's good."

[This article first appeared in Under the Radar's September/October 2013 issue.]



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Rodrigo ramos
November 20th 2013
1:42pm

This music brings back great memories, wish i didn’t miss those times~