Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Wrens: back from 'The Meadowlands'

By Meredith Deliso

(Published in the 4.2.09 issue of 24/Seven)

Fans of The Wrens have recent cause for celebration.

The New Jersey-based indie rock band has been picking up their guitars as of late to return to the stage in New York after a two-year absence. After a sold-out show at the Bowery last month, as well as a slew of performances at South by Southwest, they come to Brooklyn for a sure-to-be packed night at the Gowanus venue The Bell House on April 10.

In even greater anticipation for fans is the band’s fourth album, which they have been waiting six years for after 2003’s widely hailed “The Meadowlands” (fans waited seven years for that album after the band split from their label rather than be pressured to create a more “radio-friendly” sound).

In the time since that release, a beautiful collection of 13 tracks that has already been deemed a classic, the band has been working on new material and playing shows and festivals here and there, but mostly focusing on their full-time jobs and families.

“We got to this point where we can have a quote-unquote normal life,” says guitarist Greg Whelan, a lawyer by trade, who’s been joined by his brother Kevin on bass, Jerry MacDonald on drums and Charles Bissell on guitar and lead vocals since the band formed in the late ‘80s. “You don’t have to be the starving artist. Granted I wish we had more time. It wouldn’t take five years [between each album].”

More on that newer material: Since “Meadowlands,” the band has amassed over a hundred songs, which Kevin has taken the time to demo and the band is currently sifting through, weeding out the bad ones and trying out a few live.

“We’re sort of in the middle of making our next record,” says Whelan. “Hopefully we’ll get it out a lot faster this time.”

To whet the appetite of those you have been waiting (five years and counting), the band might stream the songs first online.

“The landscape has changed so much – do people really buy CDs anymore?” says Whelan. “I can’t remember when we last bought a new CD.”

Live, fans can expect to hear some new songs as well, as the band has been breaking out a few at their recent shows to test the waters, in addition to favorites off of “Meadowlands.”

“We had to play some of the other songs – the hits that the kids just want to hear,” says Whelan. “You don’t want to hear one of your acts and all they play is new stuff. We’re very aware of that.”

With a steady, dedicated fan base since making waves with their first album back in ‘94, and gaining new ones ever since, The Bell House, though somewhat of an intimate venue, is expected to have a full house April 10, a fact that still surprises the band, 20 years in the business.

“It still completely blows us away. Why would anyone care or be interested in what we do?” says Whelan. “We’re just a few guys from New Jersey, and it takes us so damn long to do anything. It’s really flattering.”

The Wrens play The Bell House (149 7th St.) on April 10 at 8 p.m. Opening are Amazing Baby. Tickets are $14. For more information, go to or call 718-643-6510. For more on the band, go to or


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