MARC EVANS talks to David Gedge of the Wedding Present about Bizarro, their cinema documentary, and their debt to Annie Lennox

Wedding anniversaries roll around so frequently these days – it’s 30 years since that archetypal indie band the Wedding Present switched to a major record label and released their second studio album, Bizarro.

To mark the occasion, lead singer David Gedge and the group are performing the album in full, bringing their tour to Oxford on Saturday.

So, casting his mind back to 1989, what does he remember about making Bizarro?

“With our debut album, George Best, we were hampered with the budget,” says Gedge, the only remaining member of the original line-up. “Then we moved to RCA and suddenly it was a different world.

“We were quite a cheap band anyway – they were quite shocked how cheap we were. We went to a really fancy studio in Bath and we didn’t have that time pressure – the John Peel sessions we had done had to be recorded in a day. Now were were given an unlimited amount of time. It was nice to have the time.

“There was no real pressure from being on a major label,” he admits. “We turned down offers from other labels because they were not really our cup of tea. RCA just said carry on doing what you’re doing, but it meant we were able to operate on a global scale, get our records out in Japan and America and tour there.

“The marketing department was huge. Suddenly we were in this massive machine, a bigger framework with more money. Not our money – it was thanks to Annie Lennox and Take That!”

It’s difficult to argue against their time at RCA being anything other than a creative purple patch for the Wedding Present. As well as Bizarro – which took the youthful energy of George Best and refined it, producing some of the band’s best-loved tunes including Kennedy, Take Me, and Brassneck – there was the follow-up Seamonsters (named the best album ever by a Leeds band by the NME in 2016), plus the 12 top 40 singles they recorded as part of 1992’s Hit Parade.

Switching to a major label at that time caused ripples in the music world, with accusations of selling out. But the band have no regrets.

“It was a big thing,” recalls Gedge, “but I don’t think anyone cares anymore. And the person who signed us was very high up. He had more power than other A&Rs.

“It was perfect for us, very timely. We felt we were the archetypal indie band, but even our distributor said we should sign with RCA – they must have known what was coming because they were about to go into liquidation!

“In some ways, Bizarro was less commercial than George Best. It’s not particularly radio friendly. That continued with Seamonsters, recorded with Steve Albini, a very interesting character who was in the band Big Black and had produced this amazing record Surfer Rosa by the Pixies. We were this little island of indie in this commercial sea.”

The band arrive at the O2 Academy on Saturday, having broken up this latest tour into stages.

“It’s not as intense, and means we can change the set throughthe year, because I know people come to more than one show,” says Gedge. “It also means we have different support acts.”

Writing the set lists is one task that he has delegated – to long-time drummer Charlie Layton.

“I’m glad he does really, it’s a thankless task,” admits the singer. “There are 250 songs to choose from. We’ll always get people saying to us after a show ‘that was amazing but why didn’t you play such-and-such a song?’.

“Charlie’s been in the group for 10 years, but he has more of an objective view. He doesn’t have quite the same personal connection as he wasn’t in the band in the early days, but he does a lot of research.

“People think it’s easy, but you have to mix the fast and the slow, light and shade. If people don’t like it I just say ‘blame Charlie!’. He does get collared a lot on Twitter.”

Gedge is no stranger to interacting with the fans himself, always at the merchandise stall before and after gigs, ready to shake hands and sign autographs.

“I’m happy meeting the people who pay my mortgage,” he laughs. “They know they can speak to me. Some people say ‘you only do it because it’s people saying how great you are’, but they can be critical too. It’s the most direct feedback. I love doing that.

“The only thing is I have to be careful with my voice. If I’m talking to people after the soundcheck I have to remember that I’m singing in half an hour!”

Anyone wanting to meet the singer have two opportunities on Saturday. Ahead of the show, the Ultimate Picture Palace, off Cowley Road, is showing the documentary Something Left Behind about the making of and reaction to the band’s debut album.

It will be followed by a Q&A session involving Gedge himself and director Andrew Jezzard.

Gedge said: “The director played football with one of the original band members and he was blown away by the 20th anniversary George Best tour. It’s history seen through the eyes of the band.

“He approached me about making a film and I said ‘yes’. I had no idea what a project it would be for him. He raised £40,000 and brought in proper people. The finished thing looks like a proper movie.

“I’m trying to convince him to make another about Seamonsters. There’s lot of archive footage and old shots of Leeds. The cinema is a nice place to see it.”

One tip though – don’t abbreviate the band’s name in front of him.

“I never liked the abbreviation ‘The Weddoes’,” he confesses. “It always annoys me. I don’t even like it when people just call us ‘Wedding Present’.”

And as an ardent Manchester United fan, does Gedge think any other of their players would be worthy of the honour of a Wedding Present album being named after them like the wayward genius Best? Well, maybe...but probably not.

“One of the things about United that I’ve always loved is that they attract characters like Eric Cantona and David Beckham,” he said “A flow of stars.

“But George Best wasn’t just about football, he was so stylish, hanging out with the Beatles, that air of rebellion. As a kid you loved it.

“He was not just a brilliant footballer, he also had inner demons. I don’t think footballers are allowed to behave like that anymore.”