Impending Nuptials

27 February 2013 | 10:12 am | Steve Bell

"There’s no problem with bands that sound like other bands if they’re happy with that, but I’ve always been keen on trying to have a characteristic, individual sound to The Wedding Present."

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Brisbane fans of UK indie icons The Wedding Present can breathe a sigh of relief. When their inaugural Australian visit was announced for April, 2012 – some 27 years since they formed in post-punk era Leeds – there was no Queensland show on the itinerary. Thankfully for all involved that initial three-date run went so well that they're winging back to the country less than a year later, and this time we're set to witness this great band in the flesh.

For some shows on this run The Wedding Present will be looking over their shoulder and playing their 1987 debut George Best in its entirety, and the dozen singles that they released in 1992 (subsequently collated as Hit Parade 1 and 2) at others, while virginal cities such as Brisbane will receive a more traditional set covering the entire gamut of their career. It's somewhat strange that they've become accustomed to delving into their history in this manner – they've also toured playing 1989's Bizarro and 1991's Seamonsters in the past – given that they're still releasing strong and relevant albums, the last being 2012's eighth effort Valentina.

“It's funny, because when the idea [to revisit old albums] was first suggested to me – it was about five years ago, and we ended up doing George Best on a little tour of the UK – I was actually quite put off,” admits frontman and songwriter David Gedge. “I wouldn't say that I was appalled by the concept, but I was a vociferous opponent of it. You always think as an artist that you should be looking forward and looking at the new songs and the new album, but everybody I spoke to – people in the band, fans, friends – said, 'Oh, you should definitely do it! It would be great to see you play George Best!' So we did it, and I found to my surprise that I did actually get something out of it – it was interesting to go back twenty years and reanalyse things, or really investigate them. It sounds a bit pompous really, but I came to this great philosophical conclusion that the past is probably as important as the future anyway, so there's no reason why you can't really investigate it from time to time.

“In some respects you think, 'God, it was so many years ago since I made these records', but as soon as you start relearning them and delving into it I'm straight back there really – it could have been last year that we made it. And I suppose in some ways they're very personal to me – I wrote the songs and the lyrics – so they do still resonate with me.”

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And The Wedding Present songs are very personal indeed, Gedge singing often painful narratives about love, lust, heartbreak, revenge, regret and scorn – basically every imaginable element of the human condition applicable to matters of the heart.

“Some songs are basically completely autobiographical – and certain albums are too, George Best is actually quite a personal one, so is Take Fountain (2005) I think – but then some are kind of less so,” he ponders. “I suppose it's always me in every song in a way, but often it's me immersing myself in certain situations – like an actor in a film, you've got this character and you're trying to work out what they would do in a certain situation, and what they'd say and other people would say to them. It's almost like a fictional version of me, written from my point of view.

“It's just my style – I've tried to write about different things and I've never been as happy with the results. I'm just very interested in relationships really – I'm fascinated by what people say to each other, why they say it, how they say it. Especially at times of stress like at the beginning or the end of a relationship, or when some kind of situation's happening, and I just think that it really lends itself to the pop lyric as well.

“I do think it's a bit of a flaw sometimes, because it's just me absorbing stuff really. I feel like this big sponge and I just soak up all these situations and ideas and stories that I see everywhere – it could be from TV, newspapers, films, books, whatever. It might even be something I hear in the street – people tell me these things – and then I just kind of regurgitate it in a pop context. It's all I've ever done.”

But even the greatest lyrics in the world can be rendered redundant if not in the confines of a good song, and Gedge has always given as much mind to the music as he does his paeans of love and loss, with similarly strong results.

“I think they get equal attention,” he reflects. “I'm very interested in both aspects of it. To me the lyrics often only make sense when you hear them in a song – if you see them written down it's too naked or something. When the words aren't sung or there's no melody to it it's not quite the same. A great melody can really make a lyric transcend the words that are written down, and vice versa. I'm interested in music, but I often find instrumental music quite boring in some ways because I'm looking for something extra – that extra depth which is introduced by having a little theme or a little story. It can be quite simple or abstract even, but still be the icing on the cake. It's a fabulous art form really the way [the two elements] combine like that, which is why I do it I suppose – I've always been attracted by that.”

The Wedding Present's core sound has been quite distinctive from the outset, a trait that Gedge has aspired to over the journey.

“It was important – we always strived for that really,” he tells. “It's partly because we had so many influences that we didn't sound like anyone in particular, because all of us had a genuine love of a lot of different groups. But there was also a conscious thing, where if you're writing or arranging songs and it starts to sound like somebody – 'This sounds like Pavement!' – then at that point you try to steer away from that if possible, because you don't want people to say, 'You're just ripping off Pavement!' or the Pixies or whatever. There's no problem with bands that sound like other bands if they're happy with that, but I've always been keen on trying to have a characteristic, individual sound to The Wedding Present. But to be honest we've been around so long now I'm not sure what that is anymore; we've had all of these different albums and different sounds and different styles and different line-ups, it's almost like I've been in about eight groups really.”

The Wedding Present will be playing the following dates:

Wednesday 27 February - Northcote Social Club, Melbourne VIC
Thursday 28 February - Oxford Art Factory, Sydney NSW
Friday 1 March - Oxford Art Factory, Sydney NSW
Saturday 2 March - The Zoo, Brisbane QLD