Three decades into a career it’s rare for a band to make a record destined to confound an audience that they’ve spent years carefully establishing.
Yet David Gedge doesn’t seem to be worried that Going, Going..., the new album from indie darlings The Wedding Present, is likely to be viewed as unlike anything else they’ve produced in the group’s 31-year existence.
Comprising 20 ‘linked’ songs, many of which are instrumental and a far cry from the jangling guitars of My Favourite Dress, Kennedy and Brassneck, it’s an intriguing experiment even for a band who’ve taken risks before such as in 1992 releasing 12 limited-edition 7in singles in one year.
Leeds-born Gedge, now 56, says: “I suppose from the start the particular idea was that I didn’t want to make a normal kind of album, I wanted to do something a bit different.
“Obviously we have had a history of doing that anyway, throughout the years occasionally we’ve gone off on tangents and done stuff which has been a bit unexpected and probably lost us loads of fans, but I just felt it was time to do something else.
“Valentina and El Ray, the two albums before, I was happy with the albums but I felt it was time to do another project, really.”
In the summer of 2014 he and his wife, the photographer Jessica McMillan, took a road trip across the USA. “And I thought maybe that could have something to do with this idea. Then we had the idea of incorporating films and before I knew it I had the framework for this project.
“It ended up being a double LP so it kind of took over. These ideas take a while to formulate but once you have them it all seems obvious and I work out the details fairly quickly. It’s like with The Hit Parade, once I had the idea of ‘Let’s to 12 singles instead of one LP’ then in the next half an hour it was all thought of.
“[With this] we had the idea of doing 20 linked tracks, like a road trip across America, and to tell a story with the lyrics as well. That all came together quite quickly.”
On the road the project evolved. “The only plan that we had was that it would start in Maine on the North East Coast and end up in Santa Monica [where the couple then had flat] on the South West Coast and we would drive through 20 states in between,” Gedge explains.
Even within The Wedding Present we’ve done concepts. It’s kind of phrase associated with 70s prog rock, and it’s got a bit of a bad reputation for that, but I don’t think it’s always necessarily a bad thing.
“We suddenly found when we started doing it the theme was in the filming that we did. The first few all had water in them, for some reason. Initially because we were on the coast there were the sounds of the tide and the waves were coming in but then we were inland and we were still doing it and we thought ‘That’s a good theme’ so every film should have running water, in a way, even when you’re in the middle of America where you’re thousands of miles away from the sea.
“And while we on the road I was thinking about the story [of a couple’s relationship] as well. I don’t think it was influenced as much by where we were so much as the idea of travelling.”
The album begins with four instrumentals. “I thought the first track Kittery was a really nice way to start the album but then I thought I’ve got the space, it’s not like I’m restricted by a 45-minute LP where the next one has to be a normal song so I thought ‘Let’s see how it goes’. Then Greenland almost segueways into it. It’s quite an intense start, it’s not like you could have some more reflective moments and then the songs start so I kind of see the first four songs as like an introductory theme-setting for the album because actually the ones after the first four are quite rocky.
“The next four or five actually The Wedding Present at our rockiest and I felt that was quite an intense period as well so I thought it was good to have that weird pause before it all kicks off.
“Normally I suppose you’d write 18 songs or whatever then you’d take 12 that you think would work on the LP and then you’d think, ‘Which is the first one and which is the last one’ and try to get some kind of momentum through an album and a flow but with this one I was actually writing as we were going along so once we’d written the first few songs we were planning what would come next.
“When we started the project we didn’t know how it was going to finish lyrically so it was more like a journey, putting it all together after it had all been finished, if you like.”
Though Going, Going... is not a concept album in the Rick Wakeman vein, Gedge says he’s not averse to overarching themes in his work. “Even within The Wedding Present we’ve done concepts. It’s kind of phrase [that’s associated with] 70s prog rock, and it’s got a bit of a bad reputation for that, but then we did a Mini LP in 1995 which was all songs with car themes and The Hit Parade itself was a concept so I don’t think it’s always necessarily a bad thing, especially when you’re in my position having done a dozen LPs over the years, it’s nice to set yourself a little challenge and have certain restrictions in place or parameters where you work within because it’s part of the theme.
“I think certain albums become concepts because of the way they sound, like Seamonsters, for instance, by The Wedding Present, it’s got a mood to it and a darkness which wasn’t really planned but I think that is the concept – a dark, intense-sounding record. By nature of what an LP is it can almost be a concept anyway.”
Next week The Wedding Present will taking Going, Going... out on a five-date audio-visual tour of arts centres where they’ll play the album in its entirety in front of films. Gedge jokingly says he’s copied the idea from British Sea Power, who did a similar thing with their soundtrack to From The Sea To The Land Beyond. “Hopefully it’ll work, I don’t know,” he chuckles. In November and December they’ll be play more conventional concerts.
After 30 years or more as a songwriter Gedge says of his motivations: “I think I’m a little bit obsessed, really”.
“It’s a question that I’ve asked myself. I’ve got my own comic book, it’s called Tales From The Wedding Present, it’s kind of my autobiography but in comic book form. I’ve been working on these little stories through the years and one of I’ve been doing is a conversation about why I do this because if I’m honest it’s not for pleasure, it’s not for fun. You come off stage and people say ‘I bet you really enjoyed that’ and I go ‘Well, no, actually I didn’t because it was quite hard work and I forgot the words and the ampflier broke down and the pedal was on the wrong setting and I played that song too quicky’ and all that kind of stuff. I find it quite stressful.
“People will say ‘Why do you do it?’ It’s some kind of drive I’ve got. If I don’t do it I do miss it and I crave to play concerts and make records but then I find it quite hard work as well.
“I don’t know what it is, really. I think maybe a psychologist will have to tell me the answer to that.”
Going, Going... is out tomorrow. The Wedding Present play at Holmfirth Picturedrome on December 4. For details CLICK HERE