Local heroes Ride are back, with a new album and hometown show. Tim Hughes asks lead singer Mark Gardener what it’s like the second time around

IT'S one of the greatest comebacks in rock & roll history.

Twenty years after splitting, Oxford indie-rockers Ride returned to glory two years ago, picking up where they left off with headline sets around the world and rave reviews.

Far from resting on their laurels though, Mark Gardener, Laurence ‘Loz’ Colbert, Andy Bell and Steve Queralt also hit the studio, coming up with a tranche of killer tunes which they have now released on a new album – their first for over two decades.

Called Weather Diaries, it ranks among their finest work – classic shimmering Ride, drenched in distortion and steeped in psychedelia, their multi-layered swirling wall of sound given energetic impetus by those years apart.

"We were always a great band, but were quiet for a long time," says Mark. "Now this feels like a vindication."

He is relaxing at home in East Oxford, before heading out to meet fans at a signing session. "There was a lot of unfinished business but it's great to come back with this."

The band are now on the road, having played a storming set at Glastonbury and now warming up for a much anticipated hometown show at the New Theatre, on Monday. That will be followed by a busy summer taking in Benicàssim, Latitude and Green Man festivals.

"Oxford is something that means a lot to us," says Mark. "The New Theatre is a great venue and it's only right that there should be a proper show in Oxford on the tour."

Mark met Loz and Andy while at college in Banbury in 1988, going on to recruit Steve, who was working in the Oxford branch of Our Price Records. He had previously played in a reggae band with Andy. They played their first shows at the college and the city’s Jericho Tavern and Oxford Polytechnic – now Oxford Brookes University.

Fame beckoned when a demo tape they had recorded in Steve’s bedroom was heard by Jim Reid of The Jesus and Mary Chain, who recommended the band to manager Alan McGee.

They went on to support The Soup Dragons and were then snapped up by McGee’s Creation Records label.

They released a flurry of EPs, two of them, Play and Fall making the top 40.

This was followed by Peel sessions and their debut album Nowhere, which charted at 11. They also cracked the top 10 of the singles charts with Leave Them All Behind – which appeared on their upbeat second album Going Blank Again – which reached number five in the album charts and went gold.

Branded ‘shoegaze’ by the music press, the band always resisted the label, with Andy and Mark each keen to take their sound in different directions.

Their follow-up Carnival of Light was recorded with Stone Roses producer John Leckie and Nigel Godrich, who would go on to produce Radiohead. It reached number five, though cracks had started to appear in the band, and by the time fourth LP Tarantula was released, the divisions proved too deep and they split.

The lads continued to keep themselves busy, though. Mark struck out as a solo artist and collaborator, working with Loz in The Animalhouse, alongside Oxford musicians Robin and Joe Bennett in Goldrush, psychedelic act The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Morning After Girls, as well as producing with his own recording studio.

Guitarist Andy, meanwhile, played in Hurricane #1 before joining Creation label mates Oasis as bassist – which meant him having to learn the instrument and the band’s back catalogue before his first show. He then played guitar with Liam Gallagher’s band Beady Eye, which broke up, rather conveniently, just as Ride reformed.

While Steve took a break from music, drummer Loz continued to wield the sticks for Jesus & Mary Chain, Supergrass and Gaz Coombes.

"To have come back the way we did in 2014 is amazing," says Mark.

"I went from playing solo shows to 100 people to 14,000 at Primavera and Coachella and headlining festivals in Poland. But we pulled it off really well.

"Quite a lot has happened but the band are just doing what we do.

"We are really busy, which is amazing. The social life goes out of the window a bit, but it's all good, and we are just about keeping up with it all.

"I am just trying to keep the family in good shape," adds the father of one. "When I'm not doing that, I'm in the studio or on the road."

So does it feel like the glory days back in the 90s. "It's quite a shift," he says. "We are not going off for six months at a time anymore. That's one of the things we got wrong last time – keeping going til we crashed the car.

"We've still got energy and are fitter than ever, but now it's all about yoga and less about smoking joints."

He laughs: "It's more vapes now.

"You've got to be really consistent with the shows. You can't show up drunk or hungover. It's got to be right every time, otherwise you're irrelevant."

The album is produced by legendary DJ Erol Alkan and mixed by Alan Moulder, who previously leant his genius to Arctic Monkeys, Smashing Pumpkins and The Killers and who mixed 1990's Nowhere and produced its follow up Going Blank Again.

So are these tunes that have been kicking around since their first innings?

"No. To play old songs would be fine but not interesting, and none of us were interested in making a record like that. We were only interested in new music.

"When we got together again we knew festivals were coming up and and immediately started writing and coming up with new ideas.

"The nice thing is this time we are a bit more controlled and give time to work on songs until we hit it right. Sometimes in the past we were chasing around like monkeys!

"We appreciate things more now than we did back then before the bubble burst and the car crashed."

The new work is a reflection on a troubled world. "We live in interesting times and the world is off its head. The album is a reflection on that and things we want to change but can't.

"How can you not be affected by everything that is going on? That definitely comes out, but we are channelling negative feelings into something positive and creative. It is not preachy, but I have the same questions as a lot of other people around me at the moment – like, what the hell is going on?"

He goes on: "I used to think bands were completely off their heads but now its the politicians and leaders that are off their heads. It's switched over."

The resulting album is a sonic storm of sound that has not dimmed over the decades. "There is a lot of anger there," he says. "There is something about the combination of people in the band that want to bring that edge. It's inherent in us and pushes us on.

"There's lots simmering beneath the surface, but writing is cathartic – and that transfers to the people that like it.

"The music appeals to different generations. It is not a new nostalgic trip."

He compares the band's second coming to their early days.

"We are playing to lots of curious audiences and connecting to a lot of people, in the same way as when we played the 'bogs' of the world with Ride in a transit van. We might play to 50,000 people in Barcelona but are aware that just a few thousand know who Ride are. But we respond well to that and like it."

And the band are getting on famously. "We are great," he says. "We always got on. We are all passionate about what we do. It is inevitable that tensions arise but that keeps you on your game, and that's fine."

He adds: "The album is one of the best we've done and I'm really happy. Nowhere was my favourite before now, and this is its natural successor – and we work well as a group in the same way. I am so encouraged by people that say they never got Ride before but this album is amazing.

"I'm just pleasantly surprised with what's happening.

"It's a hell of a feeling."