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Music

Interview: Andy Bell of Ride and Oasis answers quick-fire questions

Andy Bell, the guitarist, co-frontman and songwriter of Ride and Oasis fame, recently sat down with Far Out Magazine for a question and answer feature to discuss an exciting moment in his career. 

Bell rose to prominence in the early 1990s as the guitarist and vocalist of the Oxford-based shoegaze group Ride. Together, they released their seminal debut album, Nowhere, in 1990, which boasted some of the group’s most popular tracks like ‘Vapour Trail’ and ‘Seagull’. Early on, Ride received a great deal of interest from The Cure’s frontman Robert Smith, who allegedly refused to appear on the bill for 1991’s Great British Music Weekend concert unless Ride were also on the bill.

Throughout the early 1990s, Ride released another three studio albums before splitting up in 1996 amid internal conflicts and the fronting members, Bell and Mark Gardener, pursued separate projects. Bell formed a short-lived band called Hurricane No. 1, which was dissolved permanently when he was asked to play bass for Oasis in 1999.

Listen to Robert Smith’s remixes of Ride’s ‘Vapour Trail’

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Bell remained a core member of the legendary Britpop group until the departure of Noel Gallagher in 2009. Following the collapse of Oasis, Bell and the rest of the Oasis line-up continued under the new moniker, Beady Eye. After two albums, however, Beady Eye disbanded in 2014. 

At the end of 2014, it was announced that Ride would reunite for an international tour. They remained together following the string of live dates, and by 2017, after a couple of new singles, they had released Weather Diaries, Ride’s first studio album in 21 years. Thankfully, Ride have remained together and are still going strong. 

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Bell began putting more time into his solo career to put good use to his newfound free time. In October 2020, he released his debut studio album, The View from Half Way Down. Following this, he began working on his follow up solo record, Flicker, which was released in February this year. 

Ride’s Nowhere turned 30 in 2020, and the band had planned to go on tour to celebrate. Unfortunately, the pandemic caused a series of postponements, and so the anniversary tour will now commence this April. For more information and tickets, click here.

Q&A with Andy Bell:

Far Out: What were the main sources of inspiration behind Flicker? Would you say there is a running theme in the album?

Bell: “For me, it’s taken on a feeling of time travel because of the amount of time the songs have taken to finish, and the long gaps between the different periods when I was working on them. But the lyrics were mostly written at the end of 2020 and the start of 2021, so they show where my head was at around that time. Some themes come back in a few of the songs: Memory, mental health, the modern world and how to find contentment in it.

‘Something Like Love’ from Flicker seems reminiscent of ‘Vapour Trail’. Was this intentional?

“I was struggling with the feel of the recording and then realised at a certain point that the reason the song wasn’t working was that it was in a key too high for my voice. So I shifted it down and settled on E, which is the same key as ‘Vapour Trail’. When I played it using the ‘Vapour Trail’ version of the chord inversions, it seemed to really fit with the themes of memory and nostalgia I was singing about.”

Which of your Flicker tracks are you most looking forward to bringing to the stage?

“‘Way of the World’, ‘Sidewinder’, ‘It Gets Easier’, ‘No Getting Out Alive’, all of these would be cool to play live with a band. However, I’m not sure when this might happen. I am about to go back into a Ride touring and recording cycle, so it won’t be soon.”

Was the Covid-19 pandemic any sort of influence on the creative force of Flicker?

“Yes, absolutely; without the pandemic, I don’t think I would have found time to work on these solo albums – they would have happened a lot later, if at all.” 

(Credit: Shiarra Bell)
I have read that Lee Mavers of The La’s inspired the guitar style on your latest single, ‘World Is Echo’. Who else would you say influences your style as a guitarist and as a singer?

“The Beatles, Stone Roses, My Bloody Valentine and Spacemen 3 are some of the big influences.”

‘The Sky Without You’ from Flicker reminds me of Radiohead’s ‘Like Spinning Plates’ with its entrancing reversed recording. Have Radiohead ever been an inspiration for you over the years? 

“I didn’t listen to Radiohead much in the 1990s or ’00s, but I did love A Moon Shaped Pool, one of their more recent albums. I wouldn’t say they’ve been a direct influence, but I do really like their vibe, also love Atoms For Peace and what I’ve heard of The Smile.”

Nowhere has earned its place in history as one of the defining albums of the shoegaze subgenre alongside the work of My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive. At the time, did you regard yourselves as a part of the musical movement and is it a label you’re comfortable with?

“We were friendly with a lot of like-minded bands back when we started, but I don’t think we were conscious that we were part of a scene at the time.”

What are your favourite songs to play with Ride, and why?

“I love playing ‘Vapour Trail’ because people seem to really enjoy it, and ‘Seagull’ because I really enjoy it.”

Robert Smith of The Cure has often sung praises for your work with Ride and described ‘Vapour Trail’ as having “one of the best fifteen-second intros of all time”. How did that make you feel to hear that? And if it was possible to pick a favourite album by The Cure, what would it be?

“It is incredible to have the respect of someone who’s been so influential in my musical life. I’ve loved The Cure since I was about 15, and my favourite Cure album is Seventeen Seconds. Although there are so many that I love.”

How does working on a solo album compare to working in a group? Do you prefer having full reign of the creative side of things?

“It’s a more direct and easier way of working in some ways, but it wouldn’t be my first choice. I like being part of a band, and I only did the solo records because Ride couldn’t work at the time. Having said that, I have really enjoyed the process and will be continuing making records on my own in between times for sure.”

Might there be another Ride studio album in the pipeline any time soon?

“There is already something in the pipeline.”

What part of your career to date are you most proud of and why?

“I’m proud that I’ve managed to keep going for so long. I think I will continue until I drop now.”

What do you have planned for the next few years? Are there any interesting collaborations or projects you would like to pursue?

“The main plan is for Ride to make another album and go on tour. And alongside that, I’ll keep on doing various things.”

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