Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sound and Vision: My Talk with Charles Bissell and Kevin Whelan of The Wrens

Ever since seeing them at SXSW this year, my fingers have found themselves choosing The Wrens on my Ipod pretty consistently. Their live show was a total force of nature, a tsunami of hooks and energy, that left me slackjawed and thrilled; it had been a long time since I had a band knock me on my backside like that. Their history is one of music-industry legend, similar in some respect to YHF-era Wilco, so although they've been around some 20 years now, they've only put out three full-length records and a few EPs. But those few are mind-bendingly good. The last one, 2003's Meadowlands, is comprised of 13 songs that are catchy and hang together perfectly, creating an emotional opus that's an embodiment of the phrase, "That which does not kill you makes you stronger." The Wrens may be the Halley's Coment of indie rock-JD Salinger's next book may come out before their next record-but somehow, it's ok because you know what you'll hear will be truly worth the wait.

I knew I definitely wanted to get an interview with The Wrens on camera. They rarely do video, but after almost hyperventilating from laughter reading this, I was pretty sure that getting at least two of them together on camera would be hilarious. It took awhile coordinating schedules and whatnot, but we finally met up in a great little Irish bar in NYC. In a dark little corner (so forgive the lack of lighting), over pints of Guinness, bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Kevin Whelan and guitarist/vocalist Charles Bissell talked to BL&L about influences, collaborations, 20 years as a band, and how they made it together that long. That is, when they weren't cracking jokes...And I know it seems like a whole lot to watch, but I totally promise you, it's worth it.

**1/7: A 23 year-old bass guitar, Liberace, and Charles Bissell Kennedy**

References: Liberace, the Mummers

Give a Listen: North to Nothing-The Wrens (from Abbot 1135)

**2/7: Beginning as a cover band, their 20th anniversary, and mammoth Bissell fingers**

Give a Listen: Z (2007 demo)-The Wrens

**3/7: Song backstories, writing, author recommendations, and the Guinness kicking in**

References: Robert Lowell, John Berryman, Kenneth Patchen

Give a Listen: Life Stories of the Union-The Wrens, Brightest New Year-The Wrens

**4/7: More about songs, the power of Jameson, and Kevin calls out Bon Jovi for a street fight**

References: Maxwells

Give a Listen: This is Not What You Had Planned-The Wrens

**5/7: Changing band dynamics, crazy drummers, and making records opposed to songs**

Give a Listen: This Machine-The Wrens (from Abbot 1135)

**6/7: Thoughts on licensing, connections to Okkervil River, and love for KEXP**

References: WKEXP

Give a Listen: It Ends with a Fall-Charles Bissell covering Will Sheff, Black Boys On Mopeds-Charles Bissell (live, Maxwells, 9/26/04)

**7/7: Brainiac and Tim Taylor's influences, next tours, and why they consider themselves lucky**

References: Brainiac

Give a Listen: Vincent Come Down-Brainiac

1 comment:

miked99 said...

love these guys! thanks for posting.