Andy Bell On Music, Mental Health, And His New Album

Tapping into a more pure version of himself...

Andy Bell has his a real purple patch in his songwriting.

The guitarist is a key component in Ride's glorious second chapter, while his electronic production work under the GLOK moniker is highly sought after.

Finally making his solo debut in 2020 with excellent full length 'The View From Halfway Down', Andy Bell spent lockdown focussing on art, creativity, and his own life.

The results are gathered on extraordinary new album 'Flicker', an 18 track treatise that demonstrates the breadth of his songwriting.

Moving from plaintive acid folk through to 60s baroque pop via the forward rush of psychedelia, it covers all the bases (and more) we've come to expect from him.

Thematically, 'Flicker' is a voyage of self-discovery, an imagined conversation between Andy Bell and his teenage self.

Here, Andy Bell writes for Clash about music, mental health, and his new album.

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There was one period in my life when I was in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, I found it really helpful. As early as the first session, I felt as though I’d started seeing myself, and life, in a new way. I was sent back to the essence of who I was, in an exploration of when I’d felt most like “myself” followed by figuring out how to get a bit more of that back again, as it was obvious that I’d drifted pretty far away from it. The therapy itself was very practical. I was given what I would describe as a mental health toolkit. After identifying what I needed, I was given new ways of thinking about events and new techniques for living, basically.

After leaving therapy, I found myself relying on one technique in particular which is still useful to me now quite a few years later. This was having silent – or actual out loud – conversations with the teenage me, who I’d identified early on as being the most authentic version of myself. To describe this person: about 16, obsessed with guitar playing, obsessed with rock music and rock history, a big appetite for reading, open to life, optimistic, ambitious, confident, and with a lot of friends. Decisions would be made quickly and not agonised over. There wouldn’t be regrets. Whatever happened, I knew I’d be alright.

It has become a real theme for me, to ask myself what would that kid do right now? Well – that’s what I’m going to do. Would he seriously be worried about this thing I'm over-thinking? No, so forget it. Take that chance, say yes to that opportunity. I still have bad days and can get knocked back by events sometimes. But I’ve come a long way by going really really far back.

This has chimed with me all over again as I went back into the old music I’d written – which stretches sometimes as far back as the 90s – to work on my latest album, Flicker. In a way, I was having musical conversations with my younger self throughout. And the lyrics do fill in more pieces of the mental health toolkit I took with me after therapy.  

‘It Gets Easier’ is a good example. The title comes from Bojack Horseman. In one of the later Bojack episodes, he has taken up running, quite possibly to improve his mental health – which, incidentally, is why I do it too. Bojack has momentarily given up by the side of the road when a wise monkey appears and tells him something like “It gets easier… you’ve got to keep doing it every day … but it gets easier”. I found this typically profound and helpful. It fits the bill as the song is about precisely that, being outside in nature, walking or running off a bad day. And in the backing vocals, I picture as a younger, happier version of me, giving my older self the advice to get outside:

“Step outside
When you’re inside out
Get two steps away from what you’re thinking about”

As for the other tracks on the album relating to this theme of wellbeing? Here’s some further insights. ’Something Like Love’ tells me not to get hung up on a version of the past, because everybody’s version of what’s happened is different. No-one can be 100% right: memories get distorted, time changes how you feel about things, so it’s not worth worrying about the past. ‘Lifeline’ is about not going down internet rabbit holes.

‘We All Fall Down’ is basically summed up by that old saying “Nothing good happens after 2am”, it’s about how things can go downhill late at night when everyones on a mad one. You could also say it’s about leaving a party at the right time, which is one of life’s true skills.

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'Flicker' is out now.

Catch Andy Bell at the following shows:

14 Cambridge The Portland Arms
15 Nottingham Rough Trade
16 Brighton Resident Music
18 Margate Elsewhere

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Photo Credit: Andree Martis

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