Meet the alternative wedding singers
Fidel & Sarah are here for grooms who are more Johnny Cash than John Farnham
Words: Damien Woolnough
Photography: Gold & Grit
22th May 2018
A wedding can be killed in three ways: a runaway groom (with the best man); drunk Aunty Tricia; a terrible wedding band trying to raise the roof with Gangnam Style. Enter Fidel and Sarah, billed as the alternative wedding band, for couples whose vibe is more banjos than Britney.
Having played at the first same sex wedding in Melbourne, on the stroke of midnight, Fidel and Sarah’s cool credentials come with a fair dose of heart. From Nirvana to Johnny Cash, they’ve got your groove covered - just don’t ask for Daryl Braithwaite.
When and why did you form a wedding band?
Wedding bands are notorious for being soulless corporate entities playing the same crappy repertoire night after night, with dead eyes and broken dreams. We had zero desire to be like that.
It happened out of sheer frustration. We’d watch amazing bands at music festivals and gigs, then we’d see the drab excuses for acoustic duos at wedding ceremonies, reading lyrics off their ipads and singing the same awful songs they played at every wedding - songs that didn’t suit the couple at all. They’re either terrible musicians, or they just don’t care at all. Either way, it’s not good enough.
It bothered us enough to write about the dark side of wedding music. We knew we could make a difference, and eventually it just made sense to offer an alternative.
Was there a particular song that pushed you over the edge to offering an alternative?
Horses... no, honestly, it was just seeing the same types of cover bands offering the same crappy list of bogan pub rock and dated pop and 'classic' jazz. If you Google 'wedding song list', you’ll find thousands of lists of the same 50 artists and songs repeated in a slightly different order. All done to death, all totally personality-free.
We figured there had to be other people like us, who grew up on grunge, punk, alt and metal. People who listened to Triple J (back when it had real music), wore Converse and just didn’t fit the conservative wedding vibe. We decided to put ourselves out there playing the music we love and hoping those people would find us. Thankfully, they did.
We refuse to work with any vendors who don’t support marriage equality. That’s just nuts.
Fidel & Sarah perform The White Stripes Hotel Yorba
What is it that people come to you looking for?
Initially, people come to us looking for an alternative to the same-same wedding bands out there. They’ve seen the agency bands, the highly marketed reception bands and franchise bands. And they’ve seen the watered acoustic duos offering cookie-cutter ceremony packages. It doesn’t gel with them, with how they want their wedding to feel. Then they see our repertoire, they see that we play instruments with character - banjo, mandolin, trumpet, ukulele… we’re not a typical wedding band. We don’t dress like one either. And that’s what they’re looking for. Something different. Something memorable. Music that matches their taste, delivered professionally without being overly formal or stuffy.
How does the relationship work?
We take on a limited number of weddings each year, so we like to meet up with people over a glass of wine or two. We’d make sure we all get along (you don’t want creepy weirdos at your wedding), and that we’re the best band for you. We’re very straight up. We tell people to their gorgeous faces if something they’re planning might not work. So we’d be offering creative suggestions of how to make the wedding exactly what you want, how to work around any limitations, and we’d spend a good deal of time chatting about your music taste to get some ideas. We like to go away and do some research, and come back to our couples with custom wedding song ideas that suit them better than anything they could’ve imagined. We keep a fair bit of contact with our clients before the wedding, and often after too. Many of our past clients are now good friends. It’s awesome.
We’ve both been playing weddings as part of our music careers for years. Actually, Fidel found photos from his first wedding from 20 years ago (he’s older than he looks).
Last year we travelled some 4,000 km in our gorgeous vintage caravan to perform at a destination beach wedding in Yeppoon, Queensland. That was pretty fun. We also hiked up a mountain in the snow with all our gear in hand for a winter mountain-top elopement. I think this year we're off to Kangaroo Island for an adventure elopement. Honestly, it's more about the couples.
Have you been a part of any same sex weddings?
Hell yes! And we’re so glad to see more same sex couple enquiries coming through since the change. Our last same sex wedding was a very laid back ceremony in an inner-city garden in Melbourne. We organised it so that our couple could rock their way down the aisle, just like they wanted, dancing wildly as we played and sang one of their favourite duets (Johnny Cash & June Carter) right behind them. Friends joined them, dancing and twirling all down the aisle.
We were also lucky enough to be part of the first same-sex wedding in Melbourne on the stroke of midnight. We led the entire crowd in a raucous and fitting sing-a-long of I Fought The Law (& I Won), perfectly timed to lead into the midnight countdown. Man, it was epic.
We were also lucky enough to be part of the first same-sex wedding in Melbourne on the stroke of midnight.
What would be the ideal song to play for a gay male couple from your repertoire?
The truth is, the best song for any couple's wedding is the one that means the most to them, the one that represents their love the best. It might come from a shared favourite artist, or it might be a song that represents how fun, quirky, off-beat or romantic they are. It might be a running joke between them or it might be the most sentimental dreamboat of a song they’ve ever heard.
More often than not, the ideal song needs work. Maybe it needs gender pronouns changed, or an irrelevant verse removed. Maybe it needs to be made more upbeat, or slowed down, or less '90s grunge and more vintage jazz, (like we play Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit). Some songs need to be sweetened, or de-punked, or countrified. If you have a look at our song video samplers, you’ll get a feel for what we mean.
Do you have a favourite part of the wedding?
We love the processional song as you first walk down the aisle, that’s got to be the most moving. We've held back tears more than once as we’re singing. But we’re also loving sing-a-long readings in place of that boring 'love is patient, love is kind' nonsense. It gets all the guests charged, and makes the ceremony part of the day stand out.
We strongly encourage couples to consider doing a first dance. It’s such a great ritual, and a powerful moment to share your togetherness.