The Wedding Present's David Gedge turns back time for Tommy
Indie legends The Wedding Present return to Ireland this month for gigs celebrating the 30th anniversary of their Tommy compilation. David Roy spoke to bandleader David Gedge about why celebrating his seminal guitar band's past takes up so much of the present
VETERAN indiepop guitar batterers The Wedding Present play two kinds of gigs these days: 'normal' shows, where they play a set drawn from right across their extensive back catalogue, and 'full album' shows involving frontman David Gedge and co performing an entire LP – usually prompted by a convenient anniversary – plus a selection of other favourites.
The latter gigs began in 2007 with dates celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Leeds-bred group's debut LP George Best and led to other live work marking subsequent releases – notably 1989's major label debut Bizarro and the critically acclaimed Seamonsters from 1991 – in the same way.
Impressively, they've managed to fit these endeavours in and around recording and touring new material like 2016's ambitious concept album Going, Going... which featured a video for every track.
For the moment, the Weddoes are revisiting their earliest recordings as collected on 1988 compilation Tommy, which rounds up their first four independent singles – including 1985 debut 7" Go Out and Get ’em, Boy! and their first bona fide classic, My Favourite Dress – and a selection of radio session tracks recorded for their late champion John Peel.
Having already completed three 'blocks' of Tommy shows this year, Gedge and the latest incarnation of his long-running band – Terry de Costa (bass), Danielle Wadey (guitar), Charles Layton (drums) – will shortly be back on the road to rattle through its pleasingly noisy-yet-tuneful charms, including stops at the Galway International Arts Festival on July 25, The Limelight 2 in Belfast on July 26, Whelan's in Dublin on July 27 and a performance at Brighton's Concorde 2 as part of the band's 10th annual At The Edge of The Sea Festival (which is named for a Tommy track).
"To be honest, we didn't really plan to do as many [Tommy] concerts as we have," comments Gedge. "It was Charlie who mentioned it was the 30th anniversary this year and that we should do it at At The Edge of The Sea, but it kind of snowballed into all these little mini tours as other offers came in."
The Wedding Present are a band in demand at the moment. When we call, the singer/guitarist is busy approving the audio for a new live release tied to recent George Best LP documentary Something Left Behind as well as finalising details for At The Edge of The Sea.
"It's really busy," admits Gedge. "Because the group's been going for so long now there's loads of things going on all the time, like retrospectives and films and books and comics [fan memories collection Sometimes these words just don't have to be said and the ongoing biographical Tales From The Wedding Present comic series].
"I'm not complaining – it's just weird because you just don't get much time to do other things. In the old days we used to do an LP every two years.
"We tour more now, whereas before it was just European tours and occasionally we'd go to north America. Now we go to Australia and New Zealand and we've just done an Asian tour, so that's all expanded as well, really."
Of course, it's nice to be in demand and to have amassed a canon worth celebrating – especially in a musical climate where income from touring and merchandise sales has never been more important.
Yet it's also slightly ironic, given that The Wedding Present leader has always been an artist who prefers to focus his creative energies on the future – indeed, songwriting is already under way for the follow-up to Going, Going....
Infamously, Gedge doesn't rate the much loved George Best record as highly as the fans do, yet here he is revisiting his even earlier work.
"It's weird enough doing George Best, but doing Tommy is even stranger – it's really primitive in a way," he admits. "It's kind of us honing our skills even before we got to the George Best level. I don't think the songs quite stand up to the test of time like some of the later albums do, but it's been interesting.
"It's an energetic set, so it's good fun to play, and you can see the way the songwriting evolves over the singles on that record."
While The Wedding Present carved out their own sound right from the start, you can hear a definite post-punk influence on their earliest songs as characterised by the driving basslines of original bassman Keith Gregory and the clangy jangle cranked out by Gedge and Peter 'Grapper' Solowka.
Interestingly, the frontman has only recently recognised a key sonic touchstone for his earliest tunes.
"It has struck me how much they sound like they're influenced by [seminal Mancunian post-punk unit] The Chameleons," chuckles Gedge, who was close friends with their guitarist Dave Fielding at school.
"I loved their music and I followed their career very closely, so I think they're the only band we've ever really been guilty of sounding influenced by – apart from The Velvet Underground at times."
Hey, if you're going to steal, steal from the best.
:: The Wedding Present, July 25, Monroe's, Galway / July 26, The Limelight 2, Belfast / July 27, Whelan's, Dublin. Tickets via Monroes.ie (Galway only) and Ticketmaster outlets.