KEXP Live Performance Podcast: The Wrens 6/9/07

The Wrens = the hardest working band (at the office!)
photo by Gregory A. Perez

While I don’t like to wish that The Wrens would abandon their families and jobs more often, it’s been nearly three years since they last performed in our city, so my concern for their familial and financial stability becomes compromised. I want me some Wrens, dammit!

And Wrens, I got. Two doses in fact. On Saturday, June 9, the best white collar working class band from northeast New Jersey, if not the entire universe, dropped by the KEXP studio to play a live set before heading off to their sold out show at the Crocodile. The incredibly gracious and more incredibly talented group of guys sat down with Quilty 3000 for a live performance that we have now made available as a free Live Performance Podcast, which you can download here:

The Wrens – Live at KEXP 6/9/07 (MP3)

Not ready yet to try out new material in Seattle (though I hear they have elsewhere), The Wrens kept their entire KEXP set and most of their Crocodile set focused on The Meadowlands, their 2003 album that revitalized interest, and the band itself, after crappy dealings with labels for their previous releases. “We’re putting the album to bed,” bass player (among other things) Kevin Whalen said. While the band has not yet entered the “studio,” which I assume to be guitarist and resident knob-turner Charles Bissel’s basement, they do mention in the interview that “at least ten new songs” exist. Even though the enthusiastic crowd at the Crocodile was no doubt eager to hear new material, they seemed perfectly happy to hear their familiar favorites. Having seen The Wrens myself at every Seattle performance — in-studio, at record stores, and in clubs — I can attest that no matter how many times the band plays certain songs, they sound unique and fresh every time. I mean, I can’t say I ever seen one musician (Charles Bissel) sing through his Blackberry to another musician (Greg Whalen) who holds his cellphone to the strings of his own guitar. You’ve got to see it, and hear it!

Fortunately for you, we have pictures. Our own Photography Coordinator Gregory Perez was on hand at the KEXP in-studio and at the Crocodile show to take these amazing photos:

…interview with Jerry MacDonald after the break


I asked drummer Jerry MacDonald a few inane questions, which he was gracious enough to answer:
1. What are the first five songs that appear on your iPod shuffle?

Jerry: a. Green fields of France – Furey Bros. b.Gentlemen – Afghan Whigs c. Helicopter – Bloc Party d. The Plan – Built to Spill e. sing o the times – Prince 2. You get asked a lot of questions about your working lifestyles. Do you consider yourselves a working class band? If not, what kind of band would you like to be known as? Jerry: I think we’re a wannabe full time working class band….that have corporate jobs…that wanna not have corporate jobs….and would like to play all the time. 3. How many drumsticks do you buy each year? Do you buy really cheap ones when you know you’re just going to hand them out at show? Or do you try to collect them afterwards, like teachers do after an exam when they hand you those little golf pencils? Jerry: In a year I purchase approximately 35 dozen or 210 pairs…or 420 sticks or about $700 in cheapy give away sticks. I play sticks that are a little too expensive to give away…as we’re a working class band…but Kevin usually reaches into the stickbag and gives them away anyhow… I do not collect sticks after the show… 4. Who is Pedalboy? What’s his problem? Jerry: Pedalboy is the collective ghost of our parents…I think they are upset we don’t focus more on our corporate jobs. 5. If you had to go back to playing cover songs, what songs would you play and why? What’s the worst cover you ever played? Jerry: I would lobby for us to play only Prince songs. There would be something simply magical about seeing 4 fifty year old guys playing those sexy and soulful compositions. The worst cover song we ever played…I get dizzy just thinking about this and it’s too painful (tears of a clown, maybe) 6. Is The Meadowlands the first in a series of Sufjan Stevens-like geographical albums covering, in your case, the regions of New Jersey? If so, will either The Highlands or Pine Barrens be next? Jerry: Great thought…but I don’t think so. I would by a record based solely on the title if it were called either of the ones you suggested 7. What will come first, a new promotion or a new album? Jerry: my 7th child….or the new record.

[Jerry and his wife, by the way, are expecting their fourth. Keep going, Jerry! Three more kids and we get a new album!]

Also, there is a documentary in the works from Little Quill Productions, who followed the band around during their last tour. If you look carefully at the promo, you’ll recognize clips from the 2004 Crocodile show. While progress on the doc has been slow going, Co-Director Christine Tadler told me that they’re hoping for a mid-2008 completion. Just in time for the new album — right, guys?

Here are some more photos from the KEXP studio. Thanks again to photographer extrordanaire Greg Perez:

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One Comment

  1. Ryan Glenn
    Posted September 28, 2008 at 4:28 am | Permalink

    My gosh, I’ve recently decided that The Meadowlands is the best album, my most favorite and most lasting and all that jazz. You guys can take as much time as you damn well please. You are doing nothing wrong.

    …some dude in Japan

    Oh wait, is this about KEXP? Love you guys too.

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