A four-piece indie rock
outfit based in Secaucus, New Jersey
, the Wrens are:
Charles "Mexico" Bissell (guitars and vocals)
Greg "G." Whelan (guitars)
Kevin "Sett" Whelan (bass/vocals)
Jerry MacDonnell (drums)
The Wrens are also occasionally inspiring, often frustrating, and generally improbable. A brief history:
In the late 1980s, the Wrens start out as Low, issuing an eponymous 7" in 1993 before discovering they are not the slowcore group of the same name. They change their name to "The Wrens," before discovering that they are not the 1950's R&B/doo-wop group of the same name. They do not change their name again. They are fired from their first regular gig -- on the Cape May/Delaware ferry -- for playing the Pixies' Debaser to audiences primarily comprising potential members of the AARP.
After signing with Grass Records/Dutch East India, they release their first full-length album, Silver, in 1994. It is good, and gets good press. The subsequent tour is underwhelming.
Alan Melzter buys Grass Records. The Wrens put out Secaucus. It is very good, and gets very good press. Many people -- including the author -- discover the Wrens, and begin waiting in pleasurable anticipation for their tour and next release.
The Wrens refuse a the-big-bucks-stop-here contract offer from Meltzer. Meltzer dumps the band, renames the label Wind-Up Records, and (according to the band) vows, "The next band to walk through the door will be made famous at any cost."
Wind-Up Records soon signs Creed.
The Wrens' cease to tour. They do not release an album for close to seven years. The Abbot 1135 EP -- released on Ten 23 -- is disappointing, and gets disappointing press. Nevertheless, an A&R at Interscope Records attempts to sign the band. The A&R is laid off.
The A&R from Interscope is hired by Rough Trade and signs the Strokes.
In 2003, the Wrens finally issue The Meadowlands, on Absolutely Kosher Records. It is great, and gets great press. Many people who never had a chance to see the band live during their Secaucus days get a chance to see the band live.
In December 2003, The Wrens play a gig at Washington, DC's The Black Cat. +/-, a side project of Versus frontman James Baluyut, opens for and musically upstages
them, but nobody minds. The Wrens are amazingly full of energy. They are also everything else one would expect from a group of thirty-somethings who haven't toured in seven years (rusty and disjointed), but nobody minds. Charles Mexico recalls an early gig in Austin with DC's favorite sons, The Dismemberment Plan. The Dismemberment Plan told the Wrens they could be really good live if they'd only practice. Mexico admits they ignored the advice. Nobody minds.
A discography, full-length albums unless otherwise noted:
Low (7", 1993)
Abbot 1135 (EP, 1998)
The Wrens/The Five Mod Four Split (EP, No Karma, 2002)
The Meadowlands (2003)
This was technically a Nodeshell Rescue, but really it was a labor of love.
The Wrens's web site at http://www.wrens.com/wrens/
All Music Guide's writeup of the band at http://www.allmusic.com
...and seven years of waiting in pleasurable anticipation.