Wrens Watch, Jan. 4, 2010

wrenswatchWe’ve been fans of New Jersey’s finest since even before their first album came out back in 1994, so let’s just say we’re used to sitting around waiting for them to take their sweet-ass time putting out new music. (Three albums in more than 14 years makes the Wrens about as prolific as Boston, which is kind of like being as tall as Pat Morita.) As reported in a Wrens Watch Special Report, Jan. 9, 2009, marked a huge milestone for the guys: guitarists Charles Bissell and Greg Whelan, bassist Kevin Whelan and drummer Jerry MacDonald. They issued “Pulled Fences,” their first new (well, sort of new) song since 2003’s The Meadowlands. Perhaps motivated by finally releasing something, the band convened—not in a real studio, but in Kevin’s basement—50 weeks ago to begin work on its new album. And not only that, the Wrens recorded an actual song (which you can download for free here). When we checked in with Bissell 47 weeks ago, he took exception with our good-natured sarcasm and quickly ended the interview. After ignoring us for a while, Bissell finally gave us a progress report; it seems that while other bands get together and record, the Wrens stay apart and talk to each other on the phone. Or they do nothing at all. Or they update their Facebook pagesForty-two weeks ago, Bissell informed us he was “too busy” to respond to our questions, but he did promise us some exclusive Wrens mp3s in the near future. Forty-one weeks ago, he didn’t even bother responding to our emails, prompting us to call him an unprolific Ryan Adams. That got Bissell’s attention, who 40 weeks ago apologized (profanely) and promised us an exclusive Wrens mp3 for the April 6 Wrens Watch. After not delivering, he said he’d come through the next week, but he didn’t. When Bissell ignored us again (Wrens Watch, April 20 and April 27), we speculated the Wrens were actually recording. Or maybe Bissell was just being a jerk. But then he told us 35 weeks ago he’d have a new Wrens mp3 for us. And guess what? The man finally came through. Download a demo of “Z,” which was written and performed by Kevin. We emailed Bissell numerous times to thank him for “Z” and ask him how the new record is progressing, but like we told you 33 weeks ago, he was unresponsive. He did email us a photo 32 weeks ago, though, so we had that going for us. Which was nice. Thirty-one weeks ago, we got an email from Bissell saying, “Headed to bed but might have something for you.” As reported 30 and 29 weeks ago, other than a strange email from him referencing Fat Albert, we hadn’t heard from him since. Twenty-eight weeks ago, we told you that Bissell, apparently on vacation, said he would have a new song for us “as soon as I get home on Saturday,” but he never came through. Bissell returned our emails 27 weeks ago, but he didn’t send any new Wrens music. He did, however, send a truly tasteless Michael Jackson joke, and since it was actually funny enough for us to tell it to others, we gave Bissell a pass. Twenty-six weeks ago, Bissell—on vacation yet again—emailed to say, “Maybe I can actually send a song to you after I get home Sunday.” Then guess what? He emailed us his first new Wrens demo, and like we told you 25 weeks ago, it’s a really good song. Twenty-four weeks ago, Bissell emailed us to say he recorded another new demo, but he’s keeping that one for himself. He also said, “Smellmineitsucks,” whatever that means. Though we emailed Bissell repeatedly 23 weeks ago, we didn’t even get so much as a “Smellmineitsucks.” Twenty-two weeks ago, Bissell sent this missive: “We gonna see ballgame this summer? And I don’t mean a view of you working your pockets on a street corner.” (We think Bissell just might have a shot at a cameo in the next Judd Apatow movie, Unfunny People.) Anyway, Bissell was supposed to respond to us with his thoughts on the recent 20th anniversary of the first live show by the band that eventually came to be known as the Wrens, but he didn’t. Twenty-one weeks ago, we did get an email saying he didn’t have enough free time to “justify replying to explanatory spam from MAGNET,” so maybe Bissell is a (mildly) funny person after all. Twenty weeks ago19 weeks ago and 18 weeks ago, we got nothing. Seventeen weeks ago, we did find out that the Wrens had shows at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, N.J., scheduled for December 3 and 4, but we didn’t learn this from Bissell. Sixteen weeks ago, Bissell emailed us a number of times, but he didn’t answer any Wrens-related questions. We did find out that he was scheduled to play a solo benefit show in Brooklyn on October 28 with They Might Be Giants and Nada Surf (they should have called it Nerd Aid), but again, we didn’t learn this from Bissell. Fifteen weeks ago, when asked what was new with the Wrens, Bissell responded, “Nothing. No things. At all. No recording, no new songs, no get-togethers.” Fourteen weeks ago, we learned that the first Maxwell’s show would feature a setlist voted on by fans via the Wrens website (we requested “Brand New Apartment”), while the second would be comprised of as many news songs the band could play. You got the feeling the first show would probably be much longer than the second one. Thirteen weeks ago, Bissell emailed us to say the Wrens had added a third Maxwell’s show (December 4 at 7:30 p.m.), for which they’d play The Meadowlands from start to finish. When we told him that Greg mentioned to us that the band has been working on 120 new songs, Bissell replied, “You know how it is, applying the uncertainty principle, both are true. Until you try to confirm either one. So yeah, remember, Kevin’s been demoing the last year or two for the first time? He’s now got more than 100 songs, some totally fleshed out, some just sketches, many really good. And he and Greg have been going over them a couple nights a week. So yeah, from one perspective, the record’s almost done. Nevertheless, we have not recorded a note, so the record is both well under way and yet not even begun.” Uh, that clears things up. Twelve weeks ago, all we found out was that the Wrens had a Washington, D.C., show scheduled for November 20 at the Black Cat. Eleven weeks ago, when we asked if there would be other shows that weekend, Bissell responded, “No, not this time. You know us. It’s like the Army Reserve: one weekend a month and just two weeks a year. Without the ‘two weeks a year’ part.” Ten weeks ago, Bissell responded to our emails, but he said nothing of interest, other than he’d have some news soon. Nine weeks ago, Bissell emailed to say the Wrens would be selling a limited-edition CD-R at the Maxwell’s shows that includes “really old pre-Silver songs and at least one new one.” We asked for a copy but still haven’t heard back. Eight weeks ago, Bissell told us the band rehearsed twice and worked on getting its, uh, studio up and running. Seven weeks ago, we got nothing. Six weeks ago, Bissell emailed to say that while the Wrens continue to not record, they have been getting together to rehearse for their live shows. He added, “And believe it or not, after a 20-year DIY spell, we’re taking on management. So in the future, I’ll have staff to reply to your emails.” We hope he’s kidding about that last bit. Turns out, he was. Five weeks ago, Bissell emailed us only to say, “Happy Thanksgiving.” What a guy! Four weeks ago, Bissell called to tell us the band recorded all three of its Maxwell’s shows for an upcoming live EP. He also made some mom jokes. Three weeks ago, Bissell didn’t even email. Two weeks ago marked the one-year anniversary of Wrens Watch, and we were sad to report the band seems no closer to finishing its new album than it was this time last year. In celebration, we had a look back at the very first Wrens Watch. We were so much older then, we’re younger than that now. This week, we are happy to report that Jersey Films has bought the rights to Wrens Watch and will soon be turning it into a major motion picture. The cast thus far includes acting newcomer Mike Huckabee as Bissell, Jon Favreau as MacDonald, and Jim True-Frost as both Whelan brothers (a la Nicolas Cage in Adaptation). It will mark the directorial debut of Secaucus, N.J.-based actor Dan Resin. We’ll be busy working on the screenplay, which will mean that new updates to Wrens Watch will become much less frequent. Given nothing seems to be going on with a new Wrens album, it shouldn’t really matter.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted January 4, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Southeast Engine

    Date: Jan 4, 2010 2:53 PM
    Subject:
    CHICAGO, INDIANA, BOSTON and MORE
    Body:
    Happy New Year and New Decade Folks,

    We want to thank all of you who have supported Southeast Engine over the last decade and hope you continue to follow us through the next one. Southeast Engine is starting off this new decade with a bunch of shows this January. We’re playing two shows in Indiana before making our way to Chicago, Illinois. We’re also really excited to be opening for one our favorite bands The Wrens in Boston for a rare performance. Their album The Meadowlands was easily one of the best albums of the decade. We will most likely be adding another show or two around this Boston date as well (we’ll keep you posted.) We’ll return home for a show in Athens to finish up the month before entering the studio in February to record our next album.

    Here’s the details for our January shows.

    THURSDAY – JANUARY 7, 2010 – BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA
    @ THE BISHOP with Husband and Wife, and Dust From a 1000 Years
    ONLY $1 – 18+ – 9 pm

    FRIDAY – JANUARY 8, 2010 – NORTH MANCHESTER, INDIANA
    @ THE FIREHOUSE
    FREE! – ALL AGES – 7 pm

    SATURDAY – JANUARY 9, 2010 – CHICAGO, ILLINOIS
    @ SCHUBA’S with Chaperone and Jared Bartman
    $8 – 21+ – 10 pm

    SATURDAY – JANUARY 16, 2010 – BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS
    @ THE MIDDLE EAST with THE WRENS and Choo Choo La Rouge
    $13 adv / $15 door – 18+ – 9 pm

    SATURDAY – JANUARY 23, 2010 – ATHENS, OHIO
    @ CASA CANTINA with Mia Riddle and Dust From a 1000 Years
    $6 – 18+ – 10 pm

    Hope to see you out there!

    Sincerely,
    Southeast Engine

  2. Posted January 5, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    This from Bissell: “… we finally, officially, no-really, start the new recording tomorrow night.”