Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

The Wedding Present (2012) Photo from their Facebook Page

{The Wedding Present, that's David Gedge second from the left. Photo from their Facebook page}

David Gedge is the hardest working man in bittersweet indie-pop.  Besides a full work schedule of touring and recording new albums, he delivers anniversary tours for each of the Wedding Present's most beloved albums (he's now working on the Seamonsters anniversary tour), publish a comic and app, and even curates an annual festival (At the Edge of the Sea)…. all while still remaining true to his original calling, crafting heart-wrenching vignettes of relationship woe against a backdrop of dramatic guitars and ache-filled vocals.

For a man that has been besties with John Peel and the British-Pop elite and has served as hero and inspiration to any heartbroken mix tape maker, he's awfully down to earth.  So much so that he cheerfully agreed to meet at Cupcake Royal (Cap Hill) to chat with me for a few hours over Thanksgiving weekend (please forgive for the transcription procrastination) about the new album (Valentina, on record store shelves now!), his side-gig as a landlord and the upcoming year of touring.

The Wedding Present will be at The Crocodile on Friday, April 6, 2012 playing their classic album Seamonsters and songs from their new album Valentina!

TIG: What brings you to Seattle for Thanksgiving?

David Gedge:  I’m in town with my parents for an old fashioned family holiday, ha, ha!  I’ve owned an apartment in Santa Monica for a couple years, now and they have just been over to visit. We drove up the west coast and did the ‘Redwoods’ and all that. They’ve been in the U.S.A. for two weeks; I actually just dropped them off at the airport.

TIG: Is it their first American Thanksgiving in the states?

Yes.  It’s been a little new experience for them. As you know, we don’t have Thanksgiving in England. And I suppose it was a bit like an English Christmas Dinner but I still think it’s been a little peculiar for them. I think they enjoyed it. I'm not sure though… it's quite difficult to tell with them sometimes, you know?  Parents.  Ha! It's weird; I think you're always still trying to impress them in some way, looking for some kind of, you know… approval.

TIG: I totally understand.  It's like being a kid again.  For my mom, there's definitely a delayed reaction.  Ten years after the fact, I find out I find out I did something right.

Totally. A few times they seemed kind of… miserable… and I suppose they are getting old. It's been quite difficult to find things that they can actually do… and I think I perhaps tried to pack too much into two weeks.  So there was a lot of driving.  But, at the end they said, "Thanks, we've had a really, really great time!" So I guess it was OK…

TIG: Do you miss Seattle at all?

I do, yeah.  Apart from the weather, of course!  I was reminded of that as we drove in, a few days ago.  Even for Seattle there was a lot of rain.  And I'm from England where it rains all the time… but it's never quite this bad.  Those last few days were extraordinary.

TIG: This year's rain has really caught me off guard… but Seattle summers are awesome. It's total manic weather.

Yes, I remember that. People don't know that about Seattle do they? They just think… general rainyness… but the summers here are really nice.

TIG: You live in Santa Monica now?

For part of the year, yes.

TIG: But, via your twitter, it seems like you guys are always on the road.

Well we kind of are. I seem to spend a third of the time in Santa Monica, a third in England… and then a third in some seedy hotel somewhere… or in an airport… or the back of a bus!

But we just found ourselves visiting Los Angeles a lot.  Terry, our old bass player lives there… and it’s good for the stuff we do as a band, anyway. But Santa Monica’s a bit more… pleasant, I guess… than some of the other places in and around L.A., so we got into the habit of often staying out there. So then we were spending a ridiculous amount of money on holiday rentals and I thought… well, we could just buy something here and then rent it out when we’re not there. So that's what we've been doing.

TIG: So people can rent your place?

Yep.  It's just kind of your normal vacation rental home.

TIG: Wow, that's awesome.  Do you have superfans who travel to Santa Monica specifically to rent your place?

Not really… there’s just been one couple, actually, in the entire two years that we've been renting it out.  They were from England and when we played Portsmouth last year, they came up and said: "We stayed at your flat!"  I thought more fans would want to do it, actually, but I guess it's quite a long way to come from Europe so it's an expensive trip.

TIG: You rent it out for a week at a time? (Note to self: Plan trip to Santa Monica)

Why, are you interested?! You can rent it for as long as you want, really. It's just a cheap alternative to a hotel.  You can stay for a few days or a few weeks… and you've got your own kitchen so you’re not eating out all the time. (ed note: crap! he read the bubble over my head!)

TIG: Have you gotten any surprises with that? Do people leave behind lots of liquor?

People do leave stuff behind… but nothing terrible so far!  There was a sticky patch on the floor once… but I think someone might have just spilt some honey. But that was a bit of an "Oh, what’s that?!" moment. But, most of the time, no… people just leave coffee. I suppose they buy it for the few days that they’re there and then they leave it because there's no point in taking it with them.  It's going pretty well, actually… we’re breaking even on it, anyway. We have a friend down there who looks after it for us.  She lets people in and shows them around and all that. It’s all very informal. I'm kind of surprised it’s all gone so well, to be honest. Famous last words?!

TIG: Have you had any celebrity sightings living that close to Hollywood and such?

We see celebrities quite literally all the time. Big stars, too. We were at a bar with Tom Cruise. Oh, and Keanu Reeves and Chloe Sevigny have actually come to our concerts in L.A. And one of the writers of ‘24’ is a Wedding Present fan, too, so we met Kiefer Sutherland. Ha, ha… this sounds like I’m name-dropping, sorry! But I loved ‘24’ and, after we’d met Evan [Katz, the writer] he created a character in the script for me called ‘Agent Gedge’… which was brilliant, of course!

TIG: That is AWESOME! Have you been in the audience for any game shows or talk shows?

Funnily enough, yes… I took my parents to see The Tonight Show while we were in L.A. and I think they were impressed because one of the guests, Patrick Stump [from Fall Out Boy] specifically came out of the green room to come and say hello to me. He did a cover of a Wedding Present song… ‘My Favourite Dress’ for a video project organised by the Onion Magazine in Chicago… so it was nice to meet him.

TIG: Do you rent out your place in England too?

No, but I'm seriously thinking of doing it. Because of what we do, I've been in the U.S.A. for three months now and the house in England has just been sitting there, gathering dust. The flat in Santa Monica doesn't really feel like my home, though… there's not a lot of personal stuff in there. But, with the place in England I’d have to take all that kind of stuff out and put it in storage,  or something… which would obviously be more of a pain. Or maybe I’d just get rid of it all! The more I travel back and forth, the more I feel that it’s slightly ridiculous to have all these books I’ll never re-read… CDs I’ll never listen to again… DVDs I’ll never re-watch…

TIG: Via the twitter, it looks like you are on the go most of the time.  I look at your posts and I haven't even moved my car to a different parking space on the street and you're already in a different country. You are a well-oiled machine juggling recording and touring. 

It’s a well-oiled machine until we try and do too much and grind to a halt! I sometimes feel that doing this is akin to solving a series of problems… some minor, some major… with limited resources. You know… ranging from… your bass player leaving her handbag in a restaurant 250 miles ago… to… we need to fly you out to Berlin to be on a TV programme tonight. But, if I’m honest, I think I secretly relish the challenges. It gives me something to think about.

TIG: In 2012, you've got a new album (Valentina) to tour for and you've got the anniversary of Seamonsters. How are you going to manage a dual tour like that?

You know, it actually works strangely well. The line-up that I’ve assembled to play songs from the new album is really well suited to playing Seamonsters. They have a genuine feel for this particular set of songs. And I’m not really sure how that happened. I mean, I’d love to be able to take credit and say that it was all my idea to hand-pick these people to specifically re-create the sound of Seamonsters, but it’s just been good fortune, really. It’s all fallen neatly into place and the Seamonsters segment fits into the Valentina set absolutely perfectly.

TIG: So when you were touring for Bizarro while working on material for the new album Valentina, I presume you had to re-familiarize yourself with that era. Do you think it seeped into the new album at all? Because with the new album, I checked the copyright date, "When did he write this?" There is a definite back to Bizarro basics feel to it.

Do you think so? Graeme, the guitarist on Valentina would say he was influenced by Bizarro because I know it’s his favourite Wedding Present album. But I don’t think I was. To me this is quite a quirky collection of songs and I think that’s partly down to Graeme’s first instrument being the drums… he used to be the Wedding Present drummer, in fact. But I think that’s resulted in some odd rhythms and timings… which definitely makes this album less straightforward than Bizarro.

Coupled with that, you have the fact that our rhythm section, Charlie and Pepe, are a real pair of rockers… so these recordings have more of an edge than, Bizarro which was actually more of a poppy type of Wedding Present, I think…

TIG: With “The Girl From The DDR” there is a markedly different singing style than any other Wedding Present song I've ever heard. Where did that come from?

You mean the bilingual duet? Ha… yeah, well, you know… always pushing the envelope! I really like the fact that the track starts off like a normal pop song and then goes off on some Can-like Kraut-rock funky tangent…

TIG: Do you have any ideas for an opening band when you start your tour in March? 

Indeed! We are bringing two Japanese all-girl bands with us! Last time we toured in Japan, the promoter said, "I want to show you this band that I really like called The Pinky Piglets.  And straight away I thought… "The Pinky Piglets? What a terrible name. Hmm… I'm not sure… but I'll go anyway because we're in Japan."  So I went and they blew me away.  They’re kind of punk, pop, rock… but, honestly, even if you don’t like the music you’ll still find them compelling. And they changed their name to Toquiwa, now… although I’d’ve called them “Japanese Girl Rock Band’! Anyway, they’re opening for us, along with their friends, another very cool Japanese girl band called Zarigani $. You can’t say we don’t find good support bands…

TIG: After your U.S. tour dates, you're headed to Australia?  These are your first shows down there?

Yes, I've always wanted to tour Australia and although we’ve got close several times, it’s never actually happened until now. So I’m very excited. My first ‘proper’ girlfriend Jaz and also The Wedding Present’s first bass player, Keith Gregory live there, too, so I’m looking forward to seeing them again, as well.

You owe Australia a lot. You owe them a George Best show… a Bizarro show…

Ha, yeah, well, they were asking about us playing George Best and then Bizarro as well as Seamonsters… but that would take hours. My brain couldn't handle it! I sometimes struggle to remember 90 minutes of lyrics in a normal set!

TIG: You could use a little music stand…

Oh, I’d hate to do that… it's so… I don’t know… so un-rock and roll to have lyrics there, isn’t it?

TIG: I remember the first time i saw Michael Stipe do that and I thought, "Really? Because, I know the lyrics to all your songs and you're using a music stand?!" And now that time has passed, I totally understand it.  It's hard to remember everything.  It's one thing to sing along to your iPod with an artists' whole catalogue, but perform every song?

But I think you should really know your own songs.  Then again, we have so many, now… it was OK when we only had twenty! It’s not just remembering the lyrics… it’s more that you’re trying to really get into a performance and you’ll be thinking… have we started playing this song too fast, does my guitar pedal sound too trebly, is the bass too quiet, is that person trying to climb onto the stage? And before you know it you’ve lost your place in the song and that’s when you forget the words. You get out of sequence, or something. And you want the show to be perfect, of course, especially these days, when recordings are online literally within minutes of us leaving the stage. I'll be playing a song and look up and see a sea of cameras. I want everything you see by The Wedding Present to look and sound great and so it’s frustrating when you make mistakes.

TIG: Is that hard to deal with?

Well, I’ve always thought that the live performance should be just that. Being there in the room with the band, warts and all, experiencing the moment, experiencing that communication between artist and listener… and you shouldn’t be wasting time trying to capture it on some crappy recording device.  Nowadays it’s almost as if you’re on TV every night or something. I know some artists don't like it but I'm kind-of of the attitude of "Well, what are you going to do, ban smart-phones?!"

TIG: Yeah, you don't want to be taped with a camera saying, "Put down those cameras."

Ha, ha… I guess, not.  I don't mind really.  I suppose at the end of the day, we are established enough now and we have a back catalogue of which I’m extremely proud, so there are plenty of properly recorded songs and videos out there for when people get tired of the tinny distorted sound and shaky images!