As the great poet Robert Burns famously wrote, “Even the best-laid plans of mice and men oft go astray.” He was right: Rather than fighting the tides of destiny, the trick, it seems, is to surrender to the chaos and embrace the incredible freedom that comes with abandoning preconception. For the rock ‘n’ roll quintet the Wedding, that meant leaving their past behind to become something new and incredible, which may seem unexpected to some, but was in fact always meant to be.
After weathering multiple lineup and label changes in recent years, the band has re-emerged with a new full-length, the appropriately titled No Direction, and first release for Tooth & Nail Records. A dazzling, eclectic work that showcases the group at their most mature and adventurous to date, the album is the result of a creative process that allowed the band to evolve their latest material into whatever sonic territory seemed natural. The results are truly breathtaking.
“With this record, we had complete freedom to go anywhere we wanted to go,” says vocalist Matt Shelton. “We started to discover who we actually were, even for ourselves. We started seeing the direction we were headed, and it opened the doors to a lot of cool, creative ideas. We let loose and did what we wanted to do, and the end result was beyond what we could have imagined.”
The Wedding—which currently also includes bassist and vocalist Cody Driggers, guitarists Trevor Sarver and Adam Thron and drummer Matt Jameson—was formed in 2003 in Fayetteville, Ark., then made their full-length debut with 2005’s Self-Titled, their first of several releases on Brave New World/Rambler Records. The Mark Lee Townsend-produced LP spawned Christian radio hits “Move This City” and “Song for the Broken.” (The Rumble in the South EP followed that same year.) Next came their sophomore full-length, 2007’s Polarity, which peaked at No. 41 on the U.S. Billboard Christian Albums chart and No. 26 on the Heatseekers chart. After that record’s release, original singer Kevin Kiehn got married and decided to leave the touring life behind, and was permanently replaced by Shelton, formerly with Letter Kills. Shelton made his first official appearances on the EPs The Sound, The Steel (2008) and Distance (2010), but No Direction marks his first proper full-length with the group. Over the years the band has toured with the likes of RED, Brian “Head” Welch, Scary Kids Scaring Kids, Relient K and Anberlin.
For No Direction, the band recruited longtime friend and collaborator Jason Rauch to produce, and then sequestered themselves in the sleepy town of Springfield, Tenn. to record at Rauch’s home studio. The isolated environment—including the spooky, potentially haunted old house in which the studio resides—not to mention Rauch’s valuable input, allowed the band to achieve a razor-sharp focus on the songs that now comprise No Direction.
“We went out there and lived and breathed and just wrote this record for six weeks, locked in this old house in this small town. It was a really cool experience, because it gave us a chance to dive into the music and see what was going to come out,” reflects Shelton. “[Rauch] really got where we were, and understood our past, and where we wanted to go. It was a perfect fit; he did a good job of capturing our hearts on this record and our creative ideas, and packaging it in a way that we could finally show people where we’re going.”
The destination of which Shelton speaks is marked by the path the current lineup is blazing toward a brilliant new identity, which both reflects the addition of band’s newer members while expanding upon the Wedding’s past works. For a band already known for their diverse compositions, No Direction contains a staggering, yet seamless assortment of sounds, textures, styles and feels, from moments of massive, arena-class sing-alongs (lead single and video “No Direction”) to periods of subtle, subdued introspection (“The Wildest Ocean”), to absolute barn-burners where walls of distorted guitars meet gritty, melodic punk vocals (“In The End”). The record has it all, and the Wedding make the most of every second.
“We were always known as a live band, and we wanted people to hear this record and feel the energy that we give off,” explains Shelton. “We wanted to let the songs take you into different places and different vibes throughout the record, so once you get into it, it’s like, ‘Ok, I’ve jammed for a little bit, now I can chill and examine life, and everything else going on with this record.’ You can get your energy fix when you pop it in and roll down the windows, but at the same time you can dig in deep and get some dirtier stuff in there, too.”
One particular theme on the album that’s near and dear to Shelton is the against-all-odds struggle, which the band has endured recently as it morphed between members and labels; a test of will boldly personified by the kinetic “Young And Dangerous.”
“It’s about remembering those days when you went out and did what you wanted to do. You didn’t care what people said, or what people thought; you just lived out an adventure, and weren’t afraid if things didn’t fall in place the way you wanted them to,” says Shelton. “We wanted people to feel adventurous after listening to it…to step out of their box a little and go and do something crazy.”
Another climactic moment comes courtesy of the soaring anthem “The Raconteur,” which urges to “tell the stories you were born to tell, and tell them well,” over a hyper-charged bed of punk guitars and galloping rhythms. Interestingly, the song originated as a folk composition Shelton wrote on banjo, intending to use it for a different project. But when the track languished, it was reworked for No Direction, and given an entirely new and glorious life.
“We wanted to start kind of a punk rock bluegrass band, just as a side project for fun, because we’re from the South and we love that stuff,” reflects Shelton, a Texas native. “That was the first song I wrote, and I wrote the whole thing on banjo. It was this super fast, anthemic song. We were like. ‘We’re never going to do anything with the side project, so why don’t we make this a real song and play it in the band we actually do stuff with?’ So we made it a punk song, and it translated really awesome.”
The full-on rager “The Lesser Worth” also has a special charm for Shelton, who collaborated on the hard-charging track with friend and Story of the Year frontman Dan Marsala. “We used to do a lot of touring together, so we’d always wanted to do a song together, but never had the right one,” says Shelton. “When we wrote ‘Lesser Worth,’ it was just immediate: As soon as I heard the beginning riff and the punk beat, I was like, ‘Man, Dan’s got to do this song.’ So I called him and asked him to do it.”
Now, with the band’s most masterful creation finally complete and set for a September 25 release, the Wedding plan to tour relentlessly in 2012 and 2013 in support. Between the group’s epic live show and scorching new material, they hope old fans will return, while plenty of dazzled new fans also stare up toward the stage.
“We’re just trying to put our faces out there, and our music out there, and say, ‘This is who the Wedding is. Get to know it…like it…love it…hate it…whatever,’” says Shelton. “In the spring we’re hoping to get on some bigger tours, and get out there with some more bands we like. Hopefully people will take some time to invest in the record, and see what we’re all about. With the help of Tooth & Nail, we’re trying to get the word out, and re-introduce ourselves to people. This record is the pinnacle of what we’ve been working toward for the past four and a half years.”