The Wedding Present are arguably the best British indie rock band that not many people know about. They have been going for nearly 25 years, have had many Top 40 hits (including the record-breaking 12 in one year (1992)) and have a catalogue of over 200 songs mainly revolving around the subject of love, sex and relationships.
They were formed in 1985 in Leeds by David Gedge, Keith Gregory, Peter Solowka and Shaun Charman. Gedge and Gregory had previously played together in The Lost Pandas whereas Solowka had played in a group called The Chorus. Charman auditioned succesfully for the role of drummer although he wasn't confident enough to play drums on the frenetic first single Go Out And Get 'Em Boy for which the band hired Julian Sowa to play on. The 7" single was released on the band's own label, Reception Records and distributed by Red Rhino. This single was followed by two more, all of which recieved acclaim in indie circles particularly from pioneering radio disc jockey, John Peel.
The first album, George Best was released in 1987 and was followed by a compliation album, Tommy which collected all of the band's early singles and radio sessions. They then decided to record some sessions of Ukranian songs at the prompting of Solowka whose heritage was half-Ukranian. These sessions went so well that they planned to release them as an album however Red Rhino collapsed and so the band signed with major record label RCA. Despite being on a major label, the band were allowed creative freedom and so with all the financial backing behind them, they took the deliberately obscure route of releasing the Ukranian Peel Sessions first.
Later in 1989, the band recorded their second studio album, Bizarro. After previewing many of the tracks at John Peel's 50th Birthday Party, the band went on to recieve critical acclaim when the album was released along with it providing them with their first bona fide hit single with the catchy Kennedy. They then recorded some of the album tracks with legendary producer Steve Albini and this led in early 1990 to a release of Brassneck on an EP along with three other songs of blistering ferocity. This new direction added to the popularity of Bizarro in introducing the band to a bigger audience. They were now selling out tours not just in their homeland but also in the United States of America and across Continental Europe. The backing of RCA also allowed the band to start making more expensive promo videos and to more appearances on television, notably Top of the Pops.
The Wedding Present continued their collaborations with Albini firstly on the 3 Songs EP and then on their third album, Seamonsters. This album prefigured the grunge era with its growling guitars and snarling lyrics and it went on to become a firm favourite with fans often topping polls. Subsequent to the recording of the album, Solowka was sacked and replaced by the guitarist from Tse Tse Fly, Paul Dorrington. In their now traditionally peverse manner, the band decide to follow Seamonsters with a year of singles. They released one a month on 7" vinyl only. Each came in a colouful picture sleeve and was backed with a cover song. The singles were all hits and were collected into two compilations, Hit Parade 1 and Hit Parade 2. After a year of exhausting recording and touring the band took a break in 1993 during which founding member Keith Gregory was replaced by Darren Belk.
In 1994 they re-emerged on the Island Records label with their fourth studio album, Watusi. The gap in time and change in personnel led to a change in sound and as some fans drifted away so this album is known affectionately by fans as 'the lost album'. Dorrington then left the band with Belk taking up guitar and bass duties. Other than the self-released single, Sucker, 1995 was a quiet year before the band signed for Cooking Vinyl. The three-piece were joined by Jayne Lockey on bass and backing vocals and this new line-up recorded a six track mini-album understandably called Mini. Belk then left the group and was replaced by Simon Cleave and this new foursome recorded the album Saturnalia in 1996. For a variety of reasons, Gedge decided the time was right for the group to take a break and so on the 18th January 1997, the band played what was to be their last concert under the name The Wedding Present for over seven years.
Gedge went on to form the group Cinerama and was joined in 2000 by Cleave. Cinerama at the outset were very different to the previous band. There were hardly any guitars, lots of strings and the band wore suits on stage! It is clear in hindsight that a lot of fans deserted at this point but Gedge was happy to fulfill his ambition of creating 'soundtracks' like his idols John Barry and Ennio Morricone. The only The Wedding Present releases in this time were complilations of singles and radio sessions. Initially Gedge steered clear of playing any The Wedding Present songs but around 2000 this mindset changed and certain 'classics' were incorporated into the set. With Cinerama songs like Wow showing a return to the noisy guitars of previous years, interest in Cinerama was resurgent. By 2002/03, Cinerama gigs felt like the ones of yore as Seamonsters anthems sat perfectly beside Torino tracks.
It was during the recording of the next album (which eventually became Take Fountain that the band decided that the sound had moved so far away from where Cinerama had started that a name change was required. Gedge and Cleave along with bassist Terry De Castro and drummer Kari Paavola become the newest incarnation of The Wedding Present. With only half the band from 1997 present there was some comment from former member Simon Smith about the use of the name but Gedge forged ahead nonetheless and in early 2004 a new tour celebrating the album and the first single Interstate 5 began. The fans who had deserted during the Cinerama years came back to the fold and the gigs were seen as maybe the last chance to see this famous indie band. As the year progressed and acclaim grew and sales proved healthy, it becmae clear to all that The Wedding Present were back to stay.
The band were releasing records on their own label, Scopitones now which had taken over Cinerama releases from Cooking Vinyl and having everything back in-house enabled them to release singles and compliations galore over the next two years. This was paired with an extensive touring schedule, the heaviest Gedge had been involved in since 1996, which took in the entire world. During this period Paavola left the band and was replaced live by John Maiden and former Cinerama drummer, Simon Pearson. Songwriting was slow during this period as Gedge found it hard to write lyrics while on tour. At the end of 2006 Cleave left the band and was replaced on tour by the band's sound engineer Chris McConville. Drumming duties also changed hands several times with first Charlie Layton and then Graeme Ramsay sitting in the stool.
With the new line-up of Gedge, De Castro, McConville and Ramsay, the band recorded their latest album, El Rey. It was released in May 2008 and showcased collaborations between Gedge and all the band members as well as former memeber, Cleave. In 2009, things went full circle with Cleave replacing McConville at gigs although illness has since led Cleave to take some time off with Ramsay stepping up to the guitar stand and Layton returning to drums. The band have now finished live duties for the year but have concerts planned for 2010, specifically a Bizarro +21 year tour which will start in North America in April.