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Wrens make masterpieces, keep day jobs

photo courtesy of nasty LITTLE man
The Wrens may be older than most indie bands, but they have just begun to rock. Check them out tonight at 8 at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. They might not be back for another seven years.
By Nate Buchik
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, February 26, 2004
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The Wrens will rock no matter what you do. And they will never stop rocking. Just check their bio.

The members range in age from 35 to 40 and started the band in 1989. After releasing Seacaucus in 1996 to critical acclaim, they battled with a handful of labels. They got real jobs, lived together in New Jersey and recorded all the time. They finally released The Meadowlands in 2003, also to critical acclaim. (Rome wasn't built in a day, after all.)

Their new album is a roller coaster. Emotionally, lyrically and musically.

It rocks, mellows out and rocks some more. Rich and rewarding, the album has layers upon layers of brilliance. It may have taken them seven years to finish 13 songs, but I'd have no problem waiting seven more years for another this great.

The Wildcat talked to The Wrens' bassist and singer Kevin Whelan while he and his bandmates were "drinking like fiends" before a show.

Wildcat: What's the reception been like on the tour?

Whelan: After being away for so many years, it's been awesome. Prior, we were playing to nobody, and now recently, we're playing to a lot of people. They like the record and they know it. It's so different to pull in to a foreign town and have people there.

Wildcat: So did you have to quit your job to go on tour?

Whelan: Unfortunately, we have to still keep our day jobs. God, we wish we were making enough money to do this full time. We have to work around our schedules and play when we can. If we could, we would play every show possible, but it's a little tricky right now.

Wildcat: So this is a special treat for you?

Whelan: Yeah, because I've been dreaming about doing this my whole life. Being able to play with my friends and go out and do this, and the fact that we haven't broken up or quit. And now it's a nice payoff.

Wildcat: It took seven years to get The Meadowlands out. How much of that were you guys actually working on the record?

Whelan: Through the seven years, we lived together and we would see each other every day. So, in one way or another, we were always working on the record. Whether it was just discussing lyrics, we were doing stuff all the time.

Wildcat: The lyrics are particularly strong on the album. Who writes most of those?

Whelan: Everyone participates in a sense that, if you say something stupid, everyone will tell you no. Everyone writes their own and we really focused on lyrics this time to make it a really good lyrical record. A lot of times, bands don't put enough time into the lyrics.

Wildcat: Did you really want to put everything you had into the record because you thought it might be your last?

Whelan: That was my personal feeling, and even now it could possibly be the last one ever. We want to continue and do more stuff, but as soon as we finished it, I was like, "This is the record we're never going to make again." It's been such a long trial, but it worked out.

Wildcat: Were you shocked to see how much acclaim this album received?

Whelan: We expected that our friends would like it and that some people would think it was pretty good. Being in this band since 1989 and working this hard for so long, it's like the greatest reward. I could retire.

Wildcat: You guys are mostly 35 to 40. What's it like to play for a bunch of indie kids?

Whelan: I've noticed there really is no issue of age. People who like cool music when they're young usually like cool music when they're old. Some kids at 18 get it and some people at 37 get it.

Wildcat: What do you think "it" is?

Whelan: I think that a lot of bands forget that people who like cool music are really smart, and they know a lot about music and a lot about art. They understand good quality, and they understand when something's shitty.

Wildcat: Do you think guys will be rocking into your 50s?

Whelan: I think we'll always play music, but I think it's at a high point right now. I think we have another great record in us. I'm not sure when though. Hopefully not in another seven years.

Wildcat: I heard Conor from Bright Eyes went to your first show on your first tour, but who is your most famous fan?

Whelan: Well, Conor is like a rock star. I don't think that any famous people like us yet. A normal person that likes us is the cooles. I'm not waiting to hear about Tom Cruise.

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