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Who is the Wedding Present and why does it keep following Jen Hitt?
Fans and critics keep comparing the Gaithersburg quartet to the Wedding Present, whose lovelorn, wrist-splintering songs have been the finest Britpop export over the last decade. Manifesto Records, a California indie label that has reissued several of the Weddoes records, is negotiating a record contract with Jen Hitt on the strength of that comparison. When the Marylanders showed up to record a new single at Letsrain Studio in Arlington a couple of weekends ago, they were greeted by someone wearing, you guessed it, a Wedding Present T-shirt.
All of which continues to confound the Maryland teens, who have yet to hear a Wedding Present record. Of course, there have been opportunities. Seems like all four bandmates—siblings Andrew and Tammy Black, Ian Chu, and Costas Nakassis—have had a near run-in with the Leeds should-be legends.
“It’s really funny. I picked up a record randomly when we played at Go! Discs last week, and sure enough, it’s the Wedding Present,” laughs Andrew.
“I’d never even heard of them,” says Tammy. “But there was this band playing at [University of Maryland’s] Art Lab called Her Tears, and I went into Yesterday and Today to pick up their record. On the cover was a sticker: ‘Sounds like the Wedding Present.’
“I’d really like to meet them,” she says.
“We could do lunch,” adds Andrew, imagining the introductions. “We could say, ‘Hi, big brother.’”
Of course, as elder siblings go, Jen Hitt could do a lot worse. Instead of the Wedding Present, it could be…Hootie and the Blowfish. Two Blowfish were schooled in Gaithersburg, and one even returned to give a high-school commencement speech last month.
“They didn’t get any claim to fame here. They didn’t put Gaithersburg on the map. That would have really sucked,” remarks Andrew.
Luckily, Jen Hitt never wanted to become Jen Hootie. When the band debuted in October 1994, it played Cure and Sonic Youth covers at friends’ parties. Then came last spring’s stunning eight-song cassette, Music for the Royal Fireworks, which was produced by Eggs’ Rob Christensen.
But on the band’s debut 7-inch, “Prototype Sound Series: Number One,” Hitt has also moved away from the Wedding Present’s shadow. The four songs are harder and faster than earlier material and much more complex, with additional layers of guitars, fully realized melodies, and plenty of twists and turns.
There’s the occasional awkward line (“It’s been a slow day of mulling over books and theory”), but you’d still never suspect that the band consists of three high-school students and one University of Maryland sophomore—and only one has a driver’s license.
“Before, it was a lot lighter, a lot cuter. I sing louder now, so we can do louder music,” explains Tammy.
“They’re gospel songs, really. That’s what they are. Gospel songs,” says Chu, quoting Bono from Rattle and Hum. His bandmates collapse in laughter.
“I’ve always wanted to say that.”—David Daley
(“Prototype Sound Series” is available at Go! Discs or from the band for $3, by writing to 9 Keystone Court, Gaithersburg, MD 20878.)