Happy Returns

Columbus Alive | April 28, 2005
In the late ’80s and early ’90s, there were few bands on either side of the Atlantic that could match the Leeds-born Wedding Present’s powerful melding of manic guitar pop and arched lyricism. Led by singer David Gedge, on whose deep voice and coy paeans to love’s indiscretions the band’s ever-changing line-up centered, the Wedding Present carved itself a unique niche by borrowing from both American and British indie rock traditions while cracking the English top 10 by releasing a single every month in 1992.

After 1997’s Saturnalia, however, Gedge put the Wedding Present aside to work on Cinerama with Sally Murrell. This new project favored pop hues and intricate instrumentation rather than breakneck guitars, though with each subsequent album—and with Weddoes guitarist Simon Cleave joining the band—they ventured closer to Gedge’s original band.

With last year’s break from Murrell, both musically and romantically, Gedge resurrected the Wedding Present moniker to record Take Fountain (Manifesto). However, essentially comprised of the same personnel as the final Cinerama line-up, this new Wedding Present has refashioned the Weddoes’ sound by combining the band’s original manic pop thrill with a wider-reaching dynamic for an album that lives up to the band’s legacy.

I spoke with Gedge a couple weeks ago as he was preparing to come to America with his new Wedding Present.

Any expectations for what it will be like playing under the Wedding Present name again?

No, to be honest. I’m actually quite a pessimistic person so I don’t think it will turn out as well. Obviously we’ve been coming over as Cinerama the last few years. Having said that, in Britain when the agent asked what venues I wanted to play, I said the same venues that Cinerama played. He said that they’d sell out and we should move up a level. I said, “No, no, no, we should stay at these venues,” because I hate the idea of moving up a level and having it be half full. So we kept to the Cinerama venues and, lo and behold, I was completely wrong and it sold out. It was nice, obviously, to do a sold-out tour, but some of the places could have been a bit bigger.

It’s quite weird—to me, it’s just business as usual and it could have been Cinerama or it could have been the Wedding Present, and it just happens to be the Wedding Present. There was definitely a feeling of, “Oh, it’s the Wedding Present,” and I can definitely feel it coming from over there as well. It will be interesting to see what happens, I suppose.

Do you feel like the stature of the band has grown in the absence of making Wedding Present records?

I don’t know that it’s grown. It’s just that it’s been so long now that there’s a certain excitement. There’s those who didn’t really like Cinerama crawling out of the woodwork, so they’re interested. The concerts we did over here, though, were bigger than the shows we did on the last Wedding Present tour in 1996 or ’97. It seems a bit of a return of some sorts, even though it isn’t really.

There have been criticisms that this isn’t really the Wedding Present, it’s just Cinerama by another name.

Well, it is and it isn’t. That’s the weird thing. At the end of the day, it’s the same band who were on tour a year ago playing pretty much the same set, because at that point the songs that went on to become Take Fountain were new Cinerama songs. And apart from the drummer, it’s the same people in the band, so it really is Cinerama in all but name, which is why I find it strange that the concerts have gotten bigger. I guess it’s just such a well-known name, the Wedding Present, that people come who wouldn’t ordinarily come to see Cinerama. And they seem to enjoy it. I do think those criticisms are on the ball that it’s not really the Wedding Present. But what is the Wedding Present?

That’s the other thing, too, with all the changes you had over the years…

Exactly, we had so many line-ups. When we billed this new album and the touring, we didn’t want to say, “It’s the Wedding Present comeback tour with the original line-up,” because I wouldn’t know what the original line-up is. The George Best line-up was different than the Seamonsters line-up. It changed four or five times so there were no definitive band members anyway. So I’m kind of picking up where we left off in 1997.

Do you have an idea in your head of what constitutes a Wedding Present album as opposed to a Cinerama album? I was listening to Torino (Cinerama’s last album) and there are quite a few similarities.

Definitely. I guess the main thing that decided it for me was the fact on the three Cinerama albums I was writing with the idea that I wanted to make orchestral, filmic pop music. So I was always writing with the idea that there’s going to be strings, there’s going to be a flute solo, Morricone guitar—whatever. But after Torino a few things changed. First of all, Sally left the group and we didn’t replace her. So straightaway, it didn’t feel quite like Cinerama anymore. Secondly, it was getting a bit guitarier and rockier and we started playing Wedding Present songs live.

Torino is my favorite Cinerama record. I’m really pleased with the sound of that record and in some ways it’s the sound of Cinerama I had in my head when I started doing this. It took me three albums to achieve that, but once I got there, there was a feeling that I had done that now and I wanted to do something different. So that’s when the seed was planted. So to answer the question, this was written as a guitar record, whereas the Cinerama stuff was done for a filmic pop thing.

You and Sally broke up after being romantically involved. Given your lyrical penchant for dealing with love gone awry, was it more difficult to write lyrics for this record?

Actually, on the contrary, it was the easiest record I’ve ever made lyrically because in the past, with the possible exception of George Best, on all the other records I relied on my imagination or memories and had to work a bit harder. So with this one, because it was happening to me, it was there and I was living the songs as I was writing them. In some ways it was like writing a journal or a diary. It came very easy, almost embarrassingly so. The feelings I had that day became that song. It’s just harder to record and perform because you are that close to it and it can be a bit upsetting.

Did you always think you would resurrect the Wedding Present?

To be honest, I actually thought it would have been resurrected long before now. When I first started Cinerama, it was like a solo side-project thing. I was thinking more in terms of eight months instead of eight years! Initially, it was just a little break from the band. But it took me longer to learn how to do arrangement and to work with the computer than I thought.

I quite enjoyed it. It was nice to have total control. It’s like you’re writing for yourself instead of the people in the group, and I enjoyed that freedom to go anywhere I wanted and not have to sound like the Wedding Present. So it took on a life of its own. It wasn’t until the third album where I saw that I had done it and finished the Cinerama part of my little career. But I’m not going to say that Cinerama’s finished because I don’t have to really. I have that as an option if the fancy takes us to do that again.

Given that people are going to want to hear all the old songs, are you going to do encores this time?

No. And we’ve said that it’s not going to be a greatest hits thing. It’s just a normal Wedding Present set with some old songs and some new songs and actually a couple Cinerama songs thrown in there as well, which is hopefully a strong set, not just a set of the most popular songs but songs that go well together. And the new songs are going down as well as the old ones.

Why the original decision not to do encores?

I just think they’re silly. It’s a hackneyed rock tradition that should have ended with progressive rock. It’s just weird that people finish their set and then walk off stage and stand there for a minute and then walk back on again. If you go to see a film and it’s a great film, just because you enjoyed it so much they don’t give you a bit more. If I made a cake and everyone liked it, I wouldn’t say, “Oh you liked that, well here’s another layer of icing on the top.” It’s finished; the whole thing was in the set. And I hate those bands where the whole set list is written out and then there’s a line drawn and there’s three more songs. So the encore’s going to be played regardless if anyone claps or not.

Do you feel like you have a legacy to live up to?

That’s a weird question. I think there’s a certain standard of records and live performances that the Wedding Present has never dipped below, and I feel that I have to maintain that standard. I don’t want to be coming back with a sub-standard LP or tour. I’d actually stop if I felt that way. But that’s not really a legacy.

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