The Wedding Present
The Wedding Present’s mainstay man David Gedge tells Maddie Gressel why obsession is the key to a long love affair
Listening to The Wedding Present’s latest album, Valentina, the ears of the uninitiated might think they’ve stumbled upon a great new underground rock outfit. But the band is no novice to the world of indie rock. In fact, they put the ‘independent’ into the indie rock business long before that term ever existed. Over the course of 20-odd years, The Wedding Present has released no less than 18 Top 40 rock singles in Britain, all the while maintaining the DIY low-profile that they cherish as a fundamental part of their identity. In fact, Valentina represents their ninth studio outing, a mere quarter of a century after their 1987 debut, George Best.
Since its inception, The Wedding Present have been famous for their fast-paced guitar rhythms and classically noisy British jangle. But arguably the band’s true trademark is frontman David Gedge’s Morrissey-esque lyrical focus on love, lust, revenge and heartbreak. It’s perhaps a legacy of his breakup with Janet Rigby, the drummer from his first band Lost Pandas, who left him for a guitarist and inadvertently helped create Gedge’s next venture, The Wedding Present – a name he says he chose because it didn’t sound like a pop group. “That may sound pretentious, but I wanted something unusual,” he says. “In retrospect, we probably could have done a bit better. Call ourselves Blur or something cool like that. We had a very long list of ideas. It’s like naming a baby because you have to live with it.”
Despite all sorts of adversity, live with it they have. And, perhaps most impressively, The Wedding Present has managed to stay strong in the face of constant lineup changes. Gedge is the band’s only original man left standing and has seen it through each of its rebuildings and rebrandings (as was the case in 2004 when his other band Cinerama changed its name to also be The Wedding Present), a longevity he puts down to his own obsessive character. “Basically, I make the band my whole life. Some people might find that a bit weird but I think that’s usually the case with bands that last a long time.”
Gedge has brought in three relatively new members around him – guitarist Patrick Alexander, bassist Pepe le Moko and drummer Charlie Layton – none of which were in the band pre-2010. “Every time we have a lineup change, it’s kind of like a rebirth or a renaissance. Take Patrick, who has a whole new set of ideas and inspirations. It doesn’t restart us as a group but it gives us that little kick that gets us to move on and keep going,” says Gedge in his humbly slurring Leeds accent.
Despite those new inspirations, Valentina – and the sound of The Wedding Present circa this year – is essentially in line with what we’ve come to expect from the band, perhaps slightly darker and more sombre, but remaining full of those spiteful, bittersweet one-liners that fans have come to rely on (such as ‘I’ve been using you all this time /I’ve realised that I don’t think I’m ever gonna leave my girlfriend for you’ from The Girl from DDR).
And, according to Gedge, if the songs are familiar, it’s because, through all the comings and goings, the songwriting process has fundamentally remained the same. “We have a classic kind of rock’n’roll line, so we’ve worked within those parameters,” he says. “There’s not much I want to change about that.” As if to prove that point, The Wedding Present is spending half their stage-time on this tour playing the 1991 album Seamonsters in full. Fans may rejoice – but it’s an odd way to celebrate a new lineup, a new album and a new era.
This fortnight, the band hit up Hong Kong for the first time since 1993, when they played in the Ko Shan Theatre. “I don’t remember much about the show, to be honest,” says Gedge. “But I remember Hong Kong being quite crazy! We had come from Japan, which we all felt was quite controlled, a bit too clean and polite, if you know what I mean. Then we went to Hong Kong and it felt like such a contrast. It was a bit livelier – and a nice escape. Is it still that way?” Well, it’s kind of same, same but different, David. We’d say much like The Wedding Present.
The Wedding Present play Grappa's Cellar on Thu Apr 19. Tickets: 2521 2322.