The Sound:Pleasantly textured, emotionally wrought indie rock that rewards repeated listening. Frontman Charles Bissell promises that in May, the Wrens will finally get around to finishing an expanded reissue of their 1997 EP, Abbott 1135 (originally planned for a summer 2004 release) and start writing songs for their next full-length. Or at least, they’ll think about it. The Wrens are the kind of band rock critics love to love — four middle-aged working stiffs from New Jersey who, after refusing to sell out for the sake of a major label, toil in obscurity for years before emerging from their living room-recording studio with one of the most talked-about albums of 2003 — but don’t hold that against them.
The L Magazine:There was a seven-year gap between your second album and Meadowlands. When is this next one actually going to come out?
Charles Bissell:I’m coming up on a year now that I’ve been without a day job, so I’ve got to get started soon or I’ll go crazy. This time we’re really trying to think about the process of how we go about making records and trying to do it a lot better, a lot smarter, so that it won’t take four years.
The L:Have you and the band been talking about how you want the new album to sound?
CB:We’ve talked about it some, making a few decisions, general direction-wise. A big part of it is what I want to write about, lyric-wise — that’s probably what bogged the last one down more than anything. And one of the key things that came up is that two years ago, right when we were mastering the last album, each of us lost a parent within two months of each other. There are four of us in the band, two of them are brothers, so that’s three sets of parents. We’ve been friends for so long, like 15 years, that for all of this to happen at the same time was just mathematically bizarre. None of that’s really reflected on the last record, but in some ways it put it all in perspective. We’ve talked about whether we could really write about it in some kind of way that isn’t, I don’t know, bad.
The L:Well, it worked for the Arcade Fire.
The L: What else have you been listening to lately?You know that’s true — they had some family members die while they made that album. I forgot that. We even played with the Arcade Fire twice in Montreal, about a year ago, right before they blew up, It’s weird, any time I’ve heard the album I picture them playing live — they were easily the best band we’ve ever played with — but I never think about the backdrop to it.
The L: So you think you’ll be doing some circuit bending on the album?Well, over the last few days I’ve been going to this Bent Circuit Bending festival. Circuit bending is this whole movement of people who take any kind of electronic thing, usually starting off with children’s toys, and essentially start shorting one part of it out to another to see what weird noises you get. The performances were not quite like anything I’d ever seen. It makes noise-rock look pretty tame by comparison — it’s just a sonic onslaught. And it’s very inspiring. I love stuff like that. It’s kind of neat limitations to put on the usual two guitars-bass-and drums thing.
CB:I’m actually looking at the disemboweled Walkman on my tabletop right now, and thinking it might make an appearance. During the festival they had free workshops where you could go in and just mess around, and I went in there with my Walkman and opened it up and figured out how to cut the wire and speed it up and slow it down. There are easier way to get those sounds, but it is really satisfying to use something that wasn’t made to do that — it’s kind of like hot-rodding a car. It can be an end to itself, almost. •
The Wrens play the Bowery Ballroom May 27