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The Meadowlands isn't just the Jersey swamp anymore

The Wrens: Part 2

[Part 2 of 2]

Here is the second part of the interview with Charles Bissell and Greg Whelan of The Wrens ...


Prefix Magazine:
How does having day jobs impact your creativity, if it does at all?

The Wrens: Part 2:
GW: I think for us it's almost liberating. You can get caught up so much in the whole scene, what you think you're supposed to do, the whole business part of it, the struggling artist kind of thing. When you have a day job, you don't have to put that kind of pressure on yourself. You can do what you want. It really shouldn't have that great an impact on what you can do artistically.

Once we all decided to mellow out and not worry about the bullshit, you can do both. Now, it's getting a little tough, with touring and that kind of stuff. Would we rather not have day jobs? Absolutely. But we have a drummer with three kids and a wife, buying a house. It's reality, but we're not letting it stress us out or anything.

CB: In that four years [before the release of Meadowlands], we each took regular jobs. At the very least, it was something else to do and something else to think about. But also, at least for me, you can finally pay your bills and have a social life and hang out with people who aren't in bands and have a normal life.

So it has its advantages?

The Wrens: Part 2:
CB: The only real disadvantage is that by the time you get home at night, you eat dinner and get started, it's already eight or nine o'clock. There's a lot of sleep deprivation going on.

When you decide to tour, is it hard to get time off?

The Wrens: Part 2:
GW: When we first put out the record, we figured, After this long who's even going to give a shit. Maybe a couple friends would listen to it, maybe put on a couple local shows. But it's gone fairly well. Our booking agent could have us on the road every single day, but at this point we can't do it until we can fit it in with our vacation and "sick days" and stuff like that. But the way it's looking, and if it continues, we may have to make some decisions. It's a nice place to be.

CB: It really is. It's wonderful how things have gone. We toured a lot of Saturdays. Especially from here, you can cover a lot of ground on a Saturday.

GW: We've driven to Chicago for two shows on the same day. You just do it.

Whenever you guys are written about it seems like writer is channeling the Wilco Yankee Hotel Foxtrot saga, talking about you as underdogs, churning away at some soul-deadening day job. Is that an accurate storyline?

The Wrens: Part 2:
CB: In comparison to an idealized version of what being in a band can theoretically be, yeah. Almost anything else doesn't measure up. But the funny thing is, when it comes time to get in the van to go play somewhere, more often than not, we're like, "Fucking hell, we've gotta go fucking play."

It seems like we're whining about nothing, but we've been doing it for so long, we still have this idea in our heads that we're going to load up the equipment, drive six hours, and there's going to be eight people in the audience. Which is wonderful. But lately it's been more like 80, or 200, or ...

GW: Five hundred the other night.

CB: Also, we all have different day jobs and different relationships with our day jobs. But it's not so bad. And, the label stuff, too ... We've definitely had some label adventures, which makes a good story, but it wasn't like it was really so bad. So many friends' bands got shafted way worse than we did.

GW: They were smart enough to quit.

CB: Exactly. It turns out a different way, maybe. The story doesn't seem so bad.

Is it all over-dramatized?

The Wrens: Part 2:
CB: It certainly felt dramatic when we're going through it. Years later, we're not harboring any grudges.

GW: We don't harbor any grudges against the label. Sometimes it may appear that way in print, but if I were them and I was starting up a label and I wanted a band I could put on the radio ... At that time, we were not that band. Neither one of us were on the same page, it was nothing personal.

CB: If we had signed it never would have worked out.

Meaning that ...

The Wrens: Part 2:
CB: Meaning that we would have broken up or quit. We would have been bound contractually, he still would have signed Creed and we would be the most distant second-place band you could imagine.

So you wouldn't start ripping your shirts off and singing about your unborn child?

The Wrens: Part 2:
CB: There but for the grace of Scott Stapp go I.

GW: We wouldn't be opening up for Creed.

CB: We'd actually be running to get them coffee right now.

What's on tap for the band? Do you have a release date for a new album?

The Wrens: Part 2:
CB: We're going to re-release an EP we put out that didn't have a lot of distribution, maybe add a couple songs to it. That would be later in the summer.

Do you have much stuff written?

The Wrens: Part 2:
GW: No.

CB: There's always some lying around. The question is figuring out what the direction for the next record will be. There's always songs. There was always songs before, even though they weren't coming out. The harder part is figuring out that direction. That's almost more important, I think. Maybe it'll be the exact same thing ... [In a falsetto into my tape recorder] but I doubt it.

Do you think it will bear a New Jersey place name?

The Wrens: Part 2:
CB: I don't know. When we were in the middle of this one, we actually thought a lot about, it felt like it was the end of a certain chapter. We went into it just having come off of all the crazy label stuff, in the beginning of 1999. It's so much closer to the drama of the other record than it is to now. I don't know. Maybe we'll go a whole new way. I think we're going to move to Williamsburg and check that out. I've heard good things.

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The Wrens

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