THEY conquered the music industry without pandering to its demands and still reign the alt-pop world after almost 30 years of playing. The Wedding Present catch up with Rachael Clegg ahead of their Sheffield show.
NOT many bands crack the music industry with just a suitcase full of self-released CDs and a bus ticket.
But for Leeds-born musical pioneer Dave Gedge, this was how he did business.
His band, The Wedding Present, were not going to start playing ball with record industry chiefs.
Instead, the post-pop northerners did things their own way.
And it worked.
With a career that spans 27 years, The Wedding Present have had 18 UK Top 40 and a book’s worth of critical acclaim.
Their debut album, George Best, was self-released, on the band’s Reception Records was described by NME at the time as an ‘unmitigated delight.’
And all this on the back of sheer hard work. It’s fitting that the band’s first single was entitled GO OUT AND GET ‘EM BOY! as that’s exactly what Gedge did.
Now, fast forward 27 years and about 100,000 air miles and Gedge is here again, with a new line-up, touring classic album Sea Monsters and the band’s recent release, Valentina.
“Sea Monster was released in 1991. We divided up this set to combine Sea Monsters and Valentina and some people have said ‘that’s a bit weird’ but Sea Monsters is about 45 minutes’ long and Valentina’s about 45 minutes long and as our set are about 80 minutes long it makes sense.”
Sea Monster was the band’s second with major label RCA. But though they were - by this point - with the big boys, they still graced proceedings with the suitcase and bus ticket approach.
“We laid out our terms, by the time RCA signed us we were pretty well established so they came to us.”
The fact that The Wedding Present maintained artistic control and integrity is reflected in their first release with RCA. UKRAINSKI VISTUPI V JOHNA PEELA - an experimental album in which the band explored traditional Eastern European folk music.
“It was great that a major like RCA actually put something like this out,” says Gedge. “But we were lucky - the man who signed up ended up becoming really high up in RCA, I think he also signed the Eurythmics, and they sold millions.”
By 1992 the band had come up with another pioneering idea - to release a single a month for 12 months. This equalled Elvis Presley’s 35 year old record for “most hits in one year”.
“We spoke to so many record companies and they all said ‘you’ve done very well’ and ‘we’ll take you to the next step, we’ll launch you to the next level’ but we were okay on our own, all we wanted was better distribution and a bit more funding to produce records.”
RCA gave them what they wanted and The Wedding Present were - at last - able to go global.
“Before being signed we’d get letters from people from all over the world asking where they could buy our records.”
Gedge is the founder and only original member of The Wedding Present, though he insists he’s not the leader.
“I don’t feel that. I’m the one who’s the driver, perhaps, but we are definitely a democratic band. It would be stupid to be too dictatorial and it’s good to have band members who have their own input.
In a way we are leaderless.”
In this sense, the sound of The Wedding Present is constantly changing.
“The sound of The Wedding Present is only ever the sound of whoever’s in the band really. I do like it when we go off on tangents and we now have a new guitarist who has come along with a stack of ideas.”
And though The Wedding Present is approaching its 30th birthday, Gedge still thrives off going on stage.
“It’s a weird one. I can be totally exhausted 15 minutes before a show and all I want to do is go to sleep on my hotel bed but then I walk on stage and straight away I feel totally awake and alive. It’s great - there are all these people there to see you and you’re still buzzing when you get off stage.”
And while The Wedding Present emerged from humble origins in the north of England, its new line-up couldn’t be more exotic.
“We have a band member from Berlin, one from Honk Kong, our bass player is Swiss and I live between Brighton and Los Angeles. But I like the fact it’s a mix. It’s adds to the diversity.”
And with a musical repertoire that spans Ukranian folk, pop, strange sound effects and John Peel-endorsed lyricism, it’s evident that diversity is key to The Wedding Present.
But while its sounds, line-up and geographical grounding may shift, one things stays constant - they always play the Leadmill when they come to Sheffield.
“We’ve played there more than we’ve played any other venue. This is partly because a lot of the venues have closed down but with the Leadmill it’s a great halfway house - the production values are good but it’s also intimate. It’s great.”
Question is, will be turning up with his mother’s suitcase and bus pass.
We think not.
The Wedding Present play on Tuesday November 13 at The Leadmill.