Melody Maker, November 7, 1981

Not The Royal Wedding
   What, 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 - very tempermental."
   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 Lawnchairs.
   "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," explains Keith.

   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 it ...
   "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 band'."
   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 with?
   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."