24 Songs it is, then;
‘I think it would put a lot of bands off, really.’
David Gedge is right. The precision. The different writing feel. The oddness. Some bands wouldn’t take a project like 24 Songs on. But some bands aren’t The Wedding Present. And some bands are not led by David Gedge, who constantly challenges himself.
So What Is 24 Songs?
It’s a 7 inch single every month. The Wedding Present have sort of done this before with Hit Parade, but this is different, this is a subscription. Two new sides of music every 30 days or so.
‘I grew up playing singles, me and my parents, till I was a teenager really the pop format was the 7 inch single, so that influenced the idea of 24 Songs,’ he explains. ‘At the same time we’ve just been playing Seamonsters (1991) live and that actually works as a piece as well.
But then a lot of my songs do work as a single because it’s a little story with a melody and tune. I’ve never really written with a result in mind, I just write songs, I go to the band, we arrange them together; with this project, we’re not thinking every one’s got to be an A side or a B side.
It’s a bit difficult because some of the songs we’ve been doing are a bit long, there’s a few epic ones, so we’ve had to do edited ones, in an ideal world they’d be on an album!’
Ah, but the whole idea of 24 Songs is that this is not an album, this is singles recorded at different times and with different feeling. It promises to be something special.
‘With The Hit Parade and with this project, we’re not recording them all at the same time, in little batches as and when they’re ready, so maybe that affects it.’ He thinks about it.
‘There’s no plan to it, I’ve spent life in music not really planning it!’ He chuckles. ‘A lot of people try to analyse it and put it to words—it’s how it makes you feel, not how it makes you think. That’s the power of music, really. We wanted to make each song, each record, each concert special; it’s got to grab the attention, it’s got go involve them—it’s not something you put on while you’re making a brew!’
And this is an event
Every month the postie will deliver new Wedding Present music, specially designed. 24 Songs does seem special.
‘That’s the main difference this time between The Hit Parade and 24 Songs; 30 years ago we just released several singles, you had to get them in the shop and because they were limited editions, people had to queue up at 9 o’clock in the morning on a Monday or whatever day it came, where now the fans are a bit older,’ he guffaws.
‘I don’t think they wanna be queuing up, so we’ve got this mail order scheme. I love getting things through the post, like Viz magazine, I’ve been subscribing for years and it’s great when it comes—it’s an event.’
And that subscription model is really up to date, how does it feel to be at the head of the curve, David?
‘I suppose it is, I didn’t really think about it. It all started because next year is the 30th anniversary of The Hit Parade and I was toying with the idea of shall we do something to commemorate that; I didn’t want to do The Hit Parade part 2, it just felt like the obvious thing, we didn’t plan it to be like the zeitgeist, it just seems obvious.’
It brings its own worries, 24 Songs written to have their own delights. On an album they can be carefully placed, but for this project, there must be an A and B side. And that makes a judgement…
‘We’ve kind of been deliberately vague about that because we’ve never really done B sides, people have always said our B sides are as good as the A sides!
Our modus operandi has always been if the song’s not that good, let’s not release it, let’s go back, start again. Having said that, one of them’s got to go on one side, one of them’s got to go on the other and when you go to the pressing plant they say ‘which is A and which is B?’ so we have been allocating sides but with the artwork, we’ve been purposely not putting one track above the other.
As far as we’re concerned it’s 24 songs of equal merit really. When we send them out to DJs, we’ll send both tracks, you choose what you wanna choose really.’
But hitting that monthly subscription for 24 Songs must have its own challenges.
‘It’s very difficult. From the music point of the view, the deadline, expecially nowadays because the vinyl turnaround is 7 or 8 months, we have to really plan carefully.
You’ve got deadlines for finishing the records, which normally you don’t have as an artist, you write the songs and when you’re ready you go and record them and when that’s ready you release it.
This is a lot like making a magazine or something, it’s got to be done every month and it’s quite a lot of admin really. We’ve got more than a thousand subscribers now, round the world as well, we do it ourselves, we’re not a massive corporation, it’s a cottage industry.’
And part of that enjoyment is the design of each vinyl delivery. I’ve really enjoyed the black and white photos, the repeated brutalist tower block, it really adds a feeling of quality.
‘It’s not just the music for me, it’s the ethos of the group, what the sleeves look like and all the rest of it.
One of the beauties of this project is you’ve got these 12 singles, it’s a whole design waiting to happen really, there’s going to be a continuity between them, they all match—it’s been nice to do that.’
The Sleeper Connection
And it’s been nice for David working with Jon Stewart, Sleeper guitarist, the first time they’ve done that.
‘I’ve never been in a group with someone who’s more successful than me!’ He laughs, slightly embarrassed. ‘I knew Sleeper but I didn’t know him.
When he was mentioned as a possible guitarist, I didn’t know he was such a big Wedding Present fan as well, so he’s come in from the angle of being a fan of the group but at the same time this wealth of songwriting experience, record making experience.
It’s been absolutely great, you’ll be in the studio and he’ll have ideas that take it to another level really, it’s almost like having an extra producer in the room.
It’s all digital, you can go into the studio and do a bit, it’s not like the old days where it’s all on tape and no one can touch the desk, we go and when we’ve got a few we go back in, finish the ones we didn’t finish, do a bit more.
It’s like an ongoing project. It’s kind of less pressurised and you can feel it changing, it’s not like you go in and record all these tracks at the same time, from the same sound if you like—it’s different days, it’s different drumkits, it’s different instruments, different musicians actually, some of the songs are from the previous lineup.
It’s a real mix and match, which is an interesting way of doing it.’
And as every song is a snapshot of where you were when you wrote it, which then changes when you work on it for production, then again when it’s produced and yet again when played over live.
It’s a little more interesting here as 24 Songs has a launch at the Old Theatre in Hove on January 22nd 2022, but will they play songs not ready to be sent until later in the year?
‘We’re not after a new audience, we’re not trying to prove anything really, I don’t feel like I need to! I don’t think we’ve ever been one of those write songs, make an album, go on tour, write some more songs, make an album, go on tour (bands); I’ve always wanted to try different things, it’s stuff I find fascinating rather than ‘here’s another album’—so what?’
So what indeed. There are a lot of albums out there and people are looking for something nowhere, particularly as there is little music business these days.
Connecting with your audience is key. And 24 Songs does that beautifully, organically, not rushed out on a disposable social media campaign, but in a way that makes you wait and so enjoy it all the more.
Gets tickets here for the launch:
It’s a 60 minute show of new and old songs with David in conversation with Mark Beaumont from the Guardian and others, plus some of the excellent artwork by Wedding Present collaborator Jessica McMillan in the foyer.
Hopefully, the nasty pandemic won’t stop this fun, but one thing is sure, the 24 Songs project promises to be something special.