Caught by the River


23rd November 2022

Michael Smith introduces the suns, moons and seas of ‘Vespertina’ — a collaborative EP by he and Steve Queralt of Ride.

On a brilliant blue day like this,
the diamond dazzle of the sunshine on the sea,
the white Corbusian concrete against the azure depths of the sky,
like the colours of the Greek flag,
St Leonards becomes a town transformed,
and I’m in love with the light.
It caresses my face and freckles my arms,
and when I close my eyes it rests warm on my eyelids,
bathing me in its orange Buddha glow.

And for the first time in a while,
I felt simple, rather than complicated,
my mind was quiet, rather than restless,
I felt the stillness of something,
rather than the lack of something:
for once, everything seemed just right.

It was a time to relish the quiet moments:
when sun-dappled shadows play across the pages of an open book,
resting there on the kitchen table in the late afternoon sun …
pottering through afternoons like long lazy daydreams,
gazing up at the skylight, watching the drift of the clouds,
the deep blue day rolling out like an ocean before me,
my flat like a cabin on an ocean liner;
lazing on the couch,
seeing the sun cast a luminous window-shaped silhouette
that gently moved across the wall and got redder before it came to rest,
marking the passage of another perfect afternoon …

And then later, I lay back on my bed and I saw stars …
the moon kept me company beyond those curtains,
I watched it arc silently across the sky,
while my mind glazed over in moronic bliss,
with nothing but the gentle hiss of a solitary car somewhere off in the distance,
and the throb of the pelican crossing,
like my street by the sea was lost in some strange familiar dream …

The first time I visited this town,
the heaviest full moon I’d ever seen rose behind the silhouette of the broken castle on its cliff,
gliding heavy across the wine-dark sea as the night marched its course.
Exactly the same gigantic full moon rose above the waters again on my second visit.
It was like we were somehow already in sync.
I felt there was some strange magic afoot,
and I’d been pulled in by its tides,
like it had already been decided for me;
something in my gut told me I’d been drawn here by some mysterious force of nature,
that the place had decided to take me in,
this town nestled in its maternal hills,
a generous mother’s bosom,
and I knew if I gave myself to this place it promised to grant me what I needed in return.

And now the same old full moon rose up from the sea,
heavy and low and magnolia,
and once again reality showed in its strangeness,
and assumed the quality of a magic dream,
a nod and a wink from the universe,
telling me to persevere down this peculiarly wonky path that seemed to keep opening out for me,
telling me she was conspiring on my behalf.
Or at least that’s how it seemed to me.


These lyrics eventually coalesced round ‘Vespertina’, a piece of music Steve Queralt from Ride sent me out of the blue when we’d just gone into the first lockdown, during that strange smudge of days when time became circular rather than linear, every day the same in that glorious pristine sunny spring when it was so quiet we could hear the birds singing, and for the first time in our lives staying at home and slacking off was doing our bit for the national war effort. 

Steve wondered if the music stirred any poetry in me and if so whether I fancied putting any over the top. It was love at first listen, and the track went on repeat in that sun-drenched flat for days, maybe weeks (who was keeping count?) — I had it on while I was cooking, while I was reading, while I was lying on the sofa just staring at the wall, absorbing it, especially while the sun blazed its way through golden hour, the music and the light just marinading my brain every day, before I thought about putting pen to paper. Then one day it all came in flurry.

We made this record in strange times, emailing takes back and forth to each other in quarantine, slowly refining it. There was no real pressure and we were just doing it for the pleasure of it really. A proper lockdown project. We ended up with four tracks by the end of it, that have just come out as an EP. I really love the results. It’s one of my favourite projects I’ve been involved in. Have a listen here. I hope you enjoy the results.