EVEN for a city with a musical heritage as strong as Oxford, Ride are a very special band.

For a start, Laurence ‘Loz’ Colbert, Mark Gardener, Andy Bell and Steve Queralt, are proper down-to-earth Oxfordshire lads, forming not at a posh private school but at college in Banbury – and picking up Steve at the Oxford branch of Our Price Records.

Staying close to their roots, they played their first shows at the college and the city’s Jericho Tavern and Oxford Polytechnic – now Oxford Brookes University.

Fame came knocking when a demo tape they had recorded in Steve’s bedroom was heard by Jim Reid of The Jesus and Mary Chain, who recommended the band to manager Alan McGee who snapped them up to his Creation Records label.

They released a flurry of 10 10 EPs, singles and albums, including Going Blank Again and Carnival of Light (recorded with Stone Roses producer John Leckie and Nigel Godrich, who would go on to produce Radiohead) which both reached number five.

Huge at home they were equally massive overseas – and were particularly big in Japan.

Breaking up due to artistic differences in 1996, they reformed to huge acclaim in 2014, picking up where they left off, selling out gigs, headlining festivals and, in Weather Diaries and This Is Not a Safe Place, recording some of the best work of their careers.

Read more: Loz celebrates after finishing 12-hour Drumathon

Yet, don’t expect rockstar excess, arrogance and aloofness. As befits their origins, the band remain grounded and thoroughly generous in spirit and supportive of such important causes as the NHS – and mental health.

On Friday, drummer Loz picked up his sticks for a 12-hour marathon behind his kit. The ‘Drumathon’ was part of a national charity initiative involving 40-odd sticksmen, including another big-hearted Oxford artist of whom we can be proud: Nigel Powell, of the bands Dive Dive, Unbelievable Truth and Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls.

The fundraiser followed a similar event a year ago, at the height of the pandemic, which saw Loz drumming through the night to raise cash for NHS charities.

This time, with (hopefully) the last of the lockdowns finally over, he was drumming to raise awareness of a very real consequence of the past year’s traumatic upheaval and economic devastation – mental health.

The Drumathon has already raised more than £18,000 for MIND, Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, UK Trauma Council, Child Bereavement UK and NHS Charities Together.

“I was more nervous about this one, and the first part went very slowly,” he told me after putting his kids to bed (he is that kind of guy).

“But it picked up and soon it was only a few hours to finish – which felt so good.

“I was relieved to have done it as you never know, anything can go wrong. But in the end the timing of the songs was just right and we finished bang on time with The Prodigy.”

While principally banging out beats to Ride tunes and songs by Supergrass star Gaz Coombes, with whom Loz also performs, he also included numbers by Lush, Joy Division, Nirvana and Prodigy in memory of Chris Acland, Ian Curtis, Kurt Cobain and Keith Flint who all suffered mental health struggles which ended their lives too young.

Read more: Arlo Parks and more added to Truck festival bill

“There has been terrible loss, not just to the music industry but to their loved ones and everyone who knew them and looked up to them,” he said.

“There are many artists we can’t get enough of who are no longer alive through mental health struggles. We have lost friends in our private lives and professionally. It’s the same the world over.

“People need to be able to communicate more and feel supported to change their thought patterns so no one is alone or struggling in a downward spiral.”

Read more: Watch these bands play Oxford's Covered Market

He added: “You can’t assume everyone is okay, even if they appear to be okay and are fine in public.”

He added: “The charities are over the moon, not just for the funds raised, but for getting the word out there that mental health support is needed for everyone, especially after a pandemic.

“Many people watching had lost their jobs this year and this provided the most wonderful ‘togetherness’ despite everyone being apart. It was almost like therapy itself – giving people the feeling they had been to a gig together.”

Clearly it was a cause close to his heart. His stint, from 10am to 10pm added about £4,500 to the total. But for Loz it wasn’t just about the money. Thanking drummers Errol Kennedy, of 80s super group Imagination, and Bev Sag of Techno Twins, for their drive in getting the Drumathon running and boosting some great causes, he added: “Too many people struggle with mental health and it takes too many lives.

“We all need good mental health.”

Give at drumathon.live