Andy Bell talks new album ‘Flicker,’ Ride reissues, “World of Echo” video and more in BV Q&A
Andy Bell's new album, Flicker, is a bit of sonic time travel. You notice even before listening: the album cover features a blurry but clearly much younger Bell, a portrait taken during the shoot for Ride's 1990 debut, Nowhere. And the songs are ones Bell had started but never finished from throughout his career, including a few that date back to the early '90s. He dusted them off during lockdown, brought them into focus and recorded them at his friend and onetime Oasis/Beady Eye bandmate Gem Archer's studio. “When I think about Flicker, I see it as closure,” says Andy. “The cognitive dissonance of writing brand new lyrics over songs that are 20-plus years old makes it feel like it is, almost literally, me exchanging ideas with my younger self.” It's a fantastic album, and you can listen to the whole thing below.
One of the standout cuts from the album is "World Of Echo," a jangly pop gem which owes a little to late-'80s/early-'90s band The La's. It's being released as a single on 3/25 and comes with a b-side cover of "Our Last Night Together" by Arthur Russell (whose album World of Echo inspired the title of Bell's song). We're premiering the very vibey, psychedelic video for it, which was directed by Innerstrings. Check out the video and the Arthur Russell cover below.
We chatted with Andy via email about revisiting the past on his new album, "World of Echo" and its video," the influence of The La's, those upcoming Ride vinyl reissues, and what is next for the band. Read that below.
Meanwhile: Ride's second album, Going Blank Again, just turned 30.
You dug through your archives for Flicker. What level of completion were most of the songs in?
I went to Gem’s studio with a song a day, and when I say “song” usually there were no lyrics, sometimes no title, and no set arrangement. What I did generally have set in stone was a pretty solid guitar part and a melody for something like a verse and a chorus. The problem was that most of these half finished ideas had hung around for so long, and been demo’d so much with various different sets of lyrics and stuff, that I’d confused myself in the end with all the possibilities. The plan with Gem was to use one guitar, a bass and drums, and just get down a definitive version of what I had for each song, commit to an arrangement that was faithful to the core of the idea I had each time.
What was the biggest revelation from re-listening to all those unfinished songs?
How much time can help in this process. The session with Gem happened at the start of 2016. I didn’t then go back to the recordings until 2020. When I started looking through what we had, I was able to hear it all with fresh ears and it made it all a lot easier to evaluate and take things forward. It was genuinely a revelation to realise that a good idea can potentially still be good, and feel fresh years later if it’s done right.
We're premiering the video for “World of Echo.” When did that song originally date from? How much did you add, or did it change, from its original form?
The acoustic guitar part that runs through this was something I had since the early 2000s. Soon after I joined Oasis, talking about music, I mentioned I hadn’t heard much of The La’s beyond “There She Goes” and they played me the album and all the b sides, the kitchen tapes bootleg, all of it. This was a huge influence on my songwriting from then onwards. Songs like “Over” had a massive impact on me. I found something in Lee Mavers' guitar playing that I could really latch onto, and “World of Echo” came out of that. My first recording of it was on a cassette player, backstage at an Oasis gig somewhere, in a big echo-ey arena corridor with great acoustics. I was plucking the strings much harder like Lee Mavers would do. It went through a phase of being called “Musician,” then “Come The Revolution”, but over the years it never settled. Like most of the songs on “Flicker” it became something I’d sit and play now and then on guitar in my kitchen while waiting for the kettle to boil.
What can you tell us about the video?
Chris Tomsett AKA Innerstrings, made the video for this, it’s his third one for me. I’ve loved what he does ever since I saw him do lights for The Early Years a few years ago. His take on psychedelia is great, I remember having a Sony Handycam in the early '90s and having it plugged into the tv, and when you’d point the camera at the tv the image would feed back. It’s kind of like that, sort of a gadget based, very Heath Robinson process. I’ll be standing playing the song and he’s there with his hands full of five things, holding a light in his mouth with a kid’s prism in one hand and a video camera in the other. For this video we filmed at The Social just after it got done up. The location was important, The Social is where I did my first solo gig as a Sonic Cathedral recording artist. That was a great night, myself, bdrrm and Pye Corner Audio played. Nat Cramp has a talent for bringing like minded people together, as we have all worked together on many musical things since then.
You've released two solo albums, plus a GLOK album, since the pandemic. Anything else on the solo side in the works? I see you have a couple solo dates in April.
I have been doing one or two GLOK remixes for people. With GLOKs own music, my plan for the future is to put out the odd white label and keep it low maintenance for a while. On the Sonic Cathedral side, there is some stuff in the works related to Flicker as we continue to promote the album. My solo dates in April are as “Andy Bell Space Station”, an improvised instrumental set up which is currently how I’m playing gigs. It came out of lockdown, and it remains to be seen where it goes, and if it has a life beyond this moment. It’s a slightly odd way to go about things but it works for me.
Speaking of going through the archives, Wichita is reissuing all of Ride's catalog albums. Will they be similar to the deluxe editions of Nowhere and Going Blank Again that had already been released?
These are my favourite pressings ever of these albums. Creation was an amazing record label but they didn’t press on the greatest vinyl. I’d rather have one of these new ones than an original any day. There’s no music on them that hasn’t been heard before, if that’s what you’re asking, this is mainly to have records back in stock and available I think.
For Carnival of Light and Tarantula, will there be bonus material? Those albums are a little more divisive. I don't know where in the process for those reissues you are but did your opinion/appreciation change for either of those?
I haven’t heard the test pressings for these yet but I think the plan is similar. I think it’s good to have them out there, there are people who want them so we want to make them available.
Might Ride add songs from those later two albums to setlists? I know you've played "Birdman" a couple times.
We occasionally do play songs from those albums. To make sure you hear them you just need to be at every gig.
What else is going on with Ride? Is a new album in the works? North American dates for the Nowhere anniversary tour?
Just before lockdown, Mark said he wanted to take some time out to get his recording studio up and running, so we had a break which got extended due to the pandemic. It was during that break that I delved into the music that has become the two solo records. Ride’s Summer 2020 touring was all based around the Nowhere 30th anniversary, and we are catching up with all of that now, so that will be our 2022. In terms of new music, yes, it’s on the way.