“Me and Mark Gardener looked alike, we released records at the exact same time, and we were in the studio with Flood and Alan Moulder, who were best friends,” jokes Tim Burgess, frontman for The Charlatans, about his legendary Madchester band’s longtime relationship with shoegaze (although I hear they kinda resent that term…) pioneers Ride, who are currently on a double-headlining US tour, which will conclude this Friday, January 19th, with a sold-out show at our very own Union Transfer, with Ride also playing WXPN’s Free at Noon at World Café Live that afternoon. I’m chatting with Burgess via phone, as the bands and their crews are setting things up at House of Blues Dallas.
“We’ve known Ride a long time; we’ve got a lot of history with them… We always released albums at exactly the same time! When we were making [Flood-produced sophomore LP] Between 10th and 11th, Ride were making [Alan Moulder-produced sophomore LP] Going Blank Again,” Burgess explains of the bands’ mutual timelines. “Between our second and third albums, we decided we wanted to do something together,” he tells me, which led to 1993’s Daytripper, a now-legendary two-night double-headlining concert that had the bands play Brighton and Blackpool (Burgess tells me that the dates were originally meant to take place in the bands’ hometowns of Manchester and Oxford.)
“It was a great idea. It was a really good thing to do… People from the UK travelled all over,” says Ride bassist Steve Queralt — who I spoke with about half an hour after Tim and I got off the phone – of the Daytripper concerts. “Maybe one day we’ll do it again,” he adds, wistfully. And while that particular event is yet to happen, Ride and The Charlatans did do a similar co-headlining American tour last January and February. “I’m really happy that we were able to complete the circle,” says Steve, while Tim clarifies for me that their current run is more of a delayed second leg of that tour than a repeat of last year’s jaunt. (Last year saw the bands travelling from East to West, while this year they’re heading West to East, with only NYC, LA, and SF being repeated.)
“It’s nice to be able to share the responsibility and share the success. It’s nice to be able to do the headlining set one night, and fill the support slot the next night,” says Queralt of the tours, which have had each act switching off opening/closing duties every night. While Ride have played the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection a number of times since reuniting in 2014 (with shows at TLA, UT, and World Café Live, for a previous WXPN Free at Noon), this will be their first time giving us their legendary 1990 debut LP, Nowhere, front-to-back and in its entirety.
I first spoke with Steve Queralt in September of 2015, just prior to Ride playing TLA, their first area show since reuniting and first show in the 215 since they headlined the Trocadero in 1992. I asked him the highlights of the band’s first time around, and he admitted, “The first two years were absolutely full of highlights. The first EP, the first album, the first European tour, the first US tour, those were the best years of my life.” This time around, I ask him about the recording sessions behind Nowhere, the first album, which he confirms were famously nocturnal, before adding, “We had to live together in London, so it really was like a school trip… We were in our late teens/early twenties, so it was all still really new and exciting for us.”
Although a number of Nowhere tracks have been in fairly regular rotation live since Ride reunited (including “Dreams Burn Down,” “Seagull,” and “Vapour Trail”), Steve tells me that he’s really enjoyed revisiting tracks that the band hasn’t played much in recent years, including some that are only available to US audiences: “I have to say, I enjoy playing ‘Paralysed’ a good deal, and ‘Here and Now,’ which we only play when we play the whole Nowhere album in America, which wasn’t in the original plan. We were just going to do the eight songs, but it’s an 11-track album in America, because of the CD. We were reminded very quickly by American fans that it’s an 11-track album and you better play it all, so we don’t feel short-changed [laughs].”
While The Charlatans are also presenting an album in its entirety on these dates (along with, “a few choice cuts from the back catalogue,” according to Burgess), unlike Ride, it is actually not their most famous record but, instead, their second LP, 1992’s Between 10th and 11th, an album that has a special place in the hearts of American fans. “That was a really successful record in America. People really wanted us to do that, even more so than [debut] Some Friendly,” Tim Burgess tells me, before adding, “After it came out, it did okay in Europe, but it did really well in the US. It did well here, but really nowhere else. It was kind of an anomaly.”
Burgess tells me that the writing and recording of Between 10th and 11th was the classic tale of a sophomore record, at least in their home country: “It was a really bizarre time. We had a huge trajectory after Some Friendly, which was the first #1 album from a Manchester band, and Rob Collins was named the best keyboard player by Rolling Stone magazine, so it’s like, ‘What’s next?’” They wound up deciding to bring in Flood, fresh off of his mixing and engineering duties on U2’s Achtung Baby, and give fans something a little different than they likely expected: “We got Flood in because we really liked his work with New Order… and we assembled a record that was almost electronic or industrial…”
“We genuinely only really played ‘Weirdo,’” Tim tells me of Between 10th and 11th’s general absence from setlists in recent years. And when I ask him if he’s had any songs that he’s especially enjoyed revisiting since conceptualizing these tours with Ride, he laughs and says, “All of them, really!” Although I’m curious if he has any memories of the origins of “Weirdo,” which reached #1 on the US Alternative chart in 1992 and proved to be the band’s biggest hit stateside, and he does have a good one: “The intro was completely changed at the very last minute, just before mastering. For such a famous intro, it only became the intro at the very last minute. I credit Rob Collins for it…”
Unlike The Charlatans, who have been touring and recording regularly since the late ‘80s (although haven’t played Philly since 2010), Ride hadn’t played or released new music together since 1996 prior to their 2015 dates. But since then, they’ve released two new studio LPs (2017’s Weather Diaries and 2019’s This Is Not a Safe Place), and Steve Queralt tells me that the new music has provided some of the highlights of the second chapter of the band: “Releasing the second album was a highlight, because you have plenty of bands that do a reunion album and then that’s it.” During our chat, he also tells me that the band has a brand-new album set to drop this March, whose release was officially announced the next day. Ride’s seventh studio album, Interplay, will drop on March 29th, and single “Peace Sign” has already made its way into the post-Nowhere portion of the band’s current sets.
Like so many albums of recent years, Queralt tells me that the writing and recording of Interplay were largely the product of the pandemic: “We approached it completely differently… We normally go into the studio with demos, but this time we went in with a total blank canvas, and thought, ‘Let’s see what we can create as a band without any preconceived notions.’” While he tells me that it was nice to experiment in this new way, it did have some mixed results: “Some of that went well, but then we also ended up with these eight-minute space jams [laughs], so we went back to doing demos for some of them after that.”
I ask Steve what can be expected of Ride’s latest output, and he tells me, “There are a lot of keyboards on it, which I think fans could have predicted (based on the last albums), and lots of guitars, as well, and lots of Mark and Andy harmonies,” going on to say that he thinks it will appease Ride fans, but also display the current direction of the band’s musical interests: “I think it’s a step on from the last two records, but I have absolutely no way of knowing if people will like it. We’ve made musical mistakes in the past; I don’t think this is one of them.”
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