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Wedded to the music
Teodor Reljic catches up with David Gedge, front man for long-standing British indie-rock act The Wedding Present ahead of their upcoming gig in MaltaTeodor Reljic18 September 2017, 7:30amFORMED in 1985, British indie-rock band The Wedding Present have had so many line-up changes that the only original band member left is in fact its front man, David Gedge. But the fact that the band has survived regardless – with a hiatus from 1998 to 2004 when Gedge dedicated himself to a side-project, Cinerama – is nothing short of a miracle in today’s fast-paced and trend-shuffling musical landscape.
Catching up with Gedge over an (admittedly spotty) Skype connection as the singer preps for what should be a long and eventful trek to Malta (more on that later), the first thing that crops into my mind to ask does, in fact, address the fact that the band have been around for so long.
But far from being some wistful remembrance of times past, Gedge’s response is disarmingly practical.
“Honestly, the main thing that’s changed is the technology,” he says from his room in Madrid, where he is resting before embarking on a road trip to Malta, where The Wedding Present will perform at The Dome, San Gwann on September 30.
“When we started out CDs weren’t even a thing yet – I remember buying my first CD player, and it being something of an ‘event’. Now, barely anyone buys (or makes!) CDs anymore. So there has been a real industry shift...”
But switching from one format to another means a whole lot more to musicians than it does to consumers – attached as you may have been to vinyl, cassette tapes or CDs – which brings home Gedge’s point on how the technology has had a transformative effect, with some aspects of the process being made easier by the conveniences of the new technology, while the economic realities of music production and distribution have become more challenging to face up to.
“It costs less to record music now – you don’t need to rent out a big studio for God knows how many days to get a record in the can. But at the same time, back then we knew we could sell our singles and albums and recuperate our costs, at the very least. Now, that’s no longer such a sure thing...”
In fact, while they may be household names like their contemporaries The Smiths, New Order or The Fall, The Wedding Present managed to get into a groove that had them producing singles at an astonishing rate around the time they first started – a habit that may have given Gedge, now 57, to persevere even in this new, and far more challenging, cultural climate.
But there’s light at the end of the tunnel for a band like The Wedding Present in particular, whose members are not only rotating but also dispersed across the globe. In what is yet another sign of Gedge’s long experience and what it’s taught him, he finds no problem in working in isolation and then coming together with the rest of his band mates for the crucial bits – something that the technology more than caters for nowadays. (The Wedding Present’s current line-up includes Gedge on vocals and guitar, Charles Layton on drums, Danielle Wadey on bass and Marcus Kain on guitar).
“Of course, the classic idea we have of a band is a group of friends who live in the same area getting together and jamming, and we certainly started out that way – the original line-up of The Wedding Present all hailed from Leeds. And yes, if you had asked me this question 30 years ago, I’d say it would be extremely difficult – if not impossible – to write song ‘remotely’. But now, you can even rehearse via Skype! So the way it often works is that we get together once the skeleton of a song is completed... which would happen after we’ve discussed things individually and transferred files to each other from wherever we are at any given moment...”
Favourites of the lost and beloved BBC DJ John Peel – whose knowledgeable recommendations to listeners often served as a magic touch for any band to sail into his purview – and even Morrisey, who admitted that, once The Smiths had split, many fans turned to The Wedding Present for their fix of high-quality melancholic pop, Gedge’s band certainly struck a nerve.
Naturally, I asked him to reveal the secret to his success.
True to form, however, is response was typically a down-to-earth one.
“We just focus on writing the best possible songs we can, really. I think the real trick is to never get lazy. There’s this tendency among certain musicians to say, ‘well, it’s just pop music’, implying that there shouldn’t be much effort put into it. And as a listener, you can sense that some of this stuff is written in five minutes. Nothing wrong with that if a good tune comes out of it, of course, but I don’t think it’s a good long-term strategy. So we go about it by being very disciplined – and it applies to the whole package: the music our videos, the album covers...”
The Wedding Present will be performing at The Dome in San Gwann on September 30 as part of the Nil By Mouth sessions – the latest edition of the alternative/indie rock concert series from local organisers Hairy-Amp. The gig – for which they will be joined by international acts Weval (NL), Pional (ES) and Happyness (UK) as well as local bands Fabricka, KNTL and The Velts – comes at the tail end of a tour to promote their latest album, 2016’s ‘Going, Going’, as well as the anniversary of football player George Best – whom they commemorated in the 1987 song of the same name and which turned out to be one of the band’s most successful singles – which means that Gedge’s band will be putting together some tribute concerts to commemorate this milestone too.
First, though, comes the Malta concert. But not before Gedge makes his way out of Spain...by car.
“I’ve decided to turn it into something of a road trip! So we’ll be heading out from here via France and Italy... then getting the ferry out from either Southern Italy or Sicily – we’ll see!”
The Wedding Present will be performing alongside Weval (NL), Pional (ES) and Happy- ness (UK) as well as local acts Fabricka, KNTL and The Velts at The Dome, San Gwann on September 30. The gig forms part of the Nil by Mouth concert series, and is co-organised by HairyAmp and Trackage Scheme. Doors open at 20:00. If you would like to book, you can do so here.
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...[left] => [TOPMOST] => ) )