another synthesizer group? Yes, afraid so. There's a significant difference
this time, though. Our Daughter's Wedding, despite their enthusiasm for
English groups who've befriended the microchip en route to the modern
dance, are from New York.
Meet the boys. There's Layne Rico, a baby-faced Clark
Kent figure topped by an eccentric wedge of curls. There's Keith Silva,
who talks with wired enthusiasm and looks like a member of the Method
Actors. And finally there's Scott Simon, whose fair hair and boyish features
combine to produce something approaching a classic pop star look.
All of them play synths, but Keith handles vocals while
Scott sometimes abandones his keyboards in favor of a saxophone. The sax
makes a welcome variation on the all-electronic sound favored by Our Daughter's,
though the group's whole approach is fresher and more vivid than the static
presentation of, say, Depeche Mode.
Isn't there a danger that you'll become obsessed by
technology for its own sake? I enquire. No, says Keith, pointing out that
Daughter's don't use pre-set automatic riffs when they play. In other
words, they play their synths rather than letting them play themselves.
"It's basically an attack system," he explains. "You
attack your synthesizer. I click on the rhythm machine and hey, let's
go, we're off."
To prove the point, the group added the note "no sequencers
used" on the sleeve of their latest release, the 12 in "Digital Cowboy
Record". It's a mocking reference to Queen, who put "no synthesizers used"
on the back of one of their albums.
ONSTAGE, you can feel the difference.
Daughter's form a three-pronged front line, hammering away at their instruments
with a ferocity the instruments don't always enjoy.
| "We do have more
equipment," says Layne, referring to the sparse stage set-up on
view the other night at The Venue, "but some of the synthesizers
I was using are broken, and... Keith has a Prophet 5 that we purchased,
but we haven't got it into the band because it's so variable -
Wedding are keen to emphasize that their whole
approach is more aggressive than Soft Cell or Depeche or Human
League. Layne: "I think those bands put out fabulous records but
they're the stalest thing to watch onstage."
It's probably because all the three Daughter's
did their time playing "normal" instruments in "conventional"
groups before they formed the current outfit. "Layne actually
plays drums and I actually play guitar and Scott was playing keyboards,"
explains Keith, delving into my Golden Virginia with the fierce
attention of a man who needs a fix.
We were playing in conventional bands together
around '78 and stuff. We've got like rock in us, you know, from
a while back, and I think it comes out."
Scott adds: "We hit bad notes occasionally,
but that's all part of playing live. Last night one of my synths
went down in the second song. I had to rearrange parts - a certain
group of notes weren't working. I had to change a few things to
make it work."
OUR Daughter's music first came
to UK ears with last year's "Lawnchairs 12 incher. It's a likeable
tune, but it's not as good as any of the fours songs on the new
"Digital Cowboy Record" though the group's live version of it
is fiercer and more exhilarating than the recording.
Back in the States, "Lawnchairs" is proving
something of an albotross. It gets played a lot, but it's become
the group's trademark to such an extent that some people think
the song is called "Our Daughter's Wedding" by a group called
"We were watching a TV show," explains Layne
drolly, "and it showed this cassette thing you can get now on
your tombstone, so before you die you can record something --
'Hi! I'm glad you dropped by'," "'It's cold down here'," adds
Keith with impeccable bad taste.
Layne continues: "So if people come along and
think 'well let's hear what Layne had to say', you can pop in
the cassette and it just has 'Lawnchairs' on it."
"Yeah," Keith adds. "We were thinking that
one our tombstones we'd just put 'Lawnchairs'."
This is a shame, because the "Digital Cowboy"
songs - expecially "Target For Life" and "Hotel Room" - suggest
that Our Daughter's have far more range and imagination than "Lawnchairs"
itself contained. The distinction is probably missed in the States
because "Lawnchairs" was never released individually. Instead,
it's available with the "Digital Cowboy" material (except "Hotel
Room") on a five-track 12 incher. The fifth track is "Red Alert",
previously released in the UK on a flexi-disc.
| "They call it a mini-LP,"
THE "Cowboy" songs were
recorded around the time of the Royal Wedding at Chipping Norton
studios, a coincidence which got "Lawnchairs" some airplay on
the strength of the group's name. On balance, they think it was
probably a good thing, despite the fact that they were regarded
as a nuptial gimmick in some quarters.
Wedding's determination to avoid the limitations
which an all-synth sound can bring manifested itself in the use
of "real" drummer Simon Phillips for the "Cowboy" tracks. They're
full of awe for Phillips' apparently miraculous time-keeping abilities,
wich enabled him to absorb the basic rhythm patterns of the songs
and then slip in any number of subtle variations around the beats.
Certainly his presence gives the songs extra depth and wallop,
dimensions removed from the pretty but limpid sounds created by
some of their contemporaries.
Might the notion of a real drummer be transferred
to the group's live appearances? Well, they've been thinking about
"We'd want somebody who could do various jobs
besides playing a kit, you know," Keith says. "More of a technician-type
guy. But bringing another musician into the band is a big thing
because we've been three people ever since we started.
"Actually we had a girl in the band for a few
months before Scott came in. But we've always stuck with three
people because that was the idea we wanted got get across - 'hey,
we want three people and we want it to be compact.'
"We did a tour with Orchestral Manoeuvres in
the States and they've got their big trucks and everything, and
we pulled up in a Buick Le Sabre and took the synthesizers out,
and the band's in the front.
"Manoeuvres just laughed so hard, they couldn't
believe it. They were going 'okay, that's it, I'm joining your
AND of course this mobility
means it's relatively cheap for Wedding to tour. After England,
they hopped over to Holland for a couple of dates Then it's on
to Germany to open for Duran Duran, then they do their own shows
in both Vienna and Germany, then back to Brussels for a TV appearance.
But doesn't the small amount of equipment (however
high-tech) restrict you to an electro-rut? Surely you don't want
the sort of limitation which the likes of OMITD seem quite content
Keith replies: "They limit themselves, I would
say, more than it's limited, because we're all capable of playing
different instruments. I read music and I used to play trumpet
at school. I've been in small woodwind ensembles, things like
that, and I've also played lots of jazz. All the time anyways
I've always played guitar on the side.
| "And when we go into the
studio with the album coming up, we have ideas for other instruments to
use. Cos basically ... those groups limit themselves. Like they do that
thing on the BBC where people call up to identify the B-side of a record.
Maybe you hear a B-side of a recod by Depeche Mode, and people were saying
'it's Orchestral Manoeuvres'. No, you're wrong!
"That's like the irony of it to me. We do use synths
onstage, I grant you, but our basic background comes from songwriting,
just a real strong song and a strong presentation onstage. That's what
we really focus on."
I TELL them I'm impressed by "Hotel Room". They are
too, but... "Are you ready for this?" splutters Layne. "America wouldn't
release it because they said there's too much drumming on it. And
why not America? There's so many goddamn hotels. The kids really like
it when we play it."
They're signed to EMI America in the States while Capitol
deal with them over here. "The thing is," Scott explains, "we have to
deal with the type of mentality that's dealing with Kenny Rogers and Kim
Carnes and that stuff, which is fine and dandy because they have to make
a living themselves, but they're still finding their way with us. Because
I think we're the only band of our type they've got..."
Still, sitting in The Venue and watching Wedding punch
out terse, aggressive versions of "No One's Watching", "Under Suffocation"
and "Hotel Room", I couldn't see that they had much to worry about. Even
if they do use dry ice.
"When we're at Kraftwerk's stage, then I'll think that the
technology has got too big," reflects Layne. "But right now we're just
three people with three front synthesizers.
"We're just playing, and that's it."