It’s been five years
To mark the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina - and in response to the Gulf Oil Disaster also deeply affecting the region – the folks at Air Traffic Control have produced “Dear New Orleans”, a digital-only benefit compilation, the proceeds of which will be granted to a range of New Orleans-based nonprofit organizations including Sweet Home New Orleans and Gulf Restoration Network.
To do our tiny part, we have a new song, “Crescent”, included on “Dear New Orleans” which will be released & available for download on Tuesday, August 24th at the Dear New Orleans site, as well as at the usual lineup of your preferred places of digital business (iTunes, Amazon.com, Rhapsody and eMusic.com).
Tying it all together nicely, Charles will be debuting the song the same night, Tues., 8/24, as part of Bird of Youth’s every-Tuesday-night-in-August residency at the Living Room here in NYC. The Bird of Youth players have graciously, even foolishly, agreed to be backing band for the song that night. Charles will reciprocate to completely different effect by dragging a couple of their songs (Bombs Away and a Squeeze cover) down a few drains.
About Air Traffic Control
Air Traffic Control is a nonprofit resource for activist and philanthropic musicians who along with the
Future of Music Coalition, have been co-hosting a series of artist activism retreats in New Orleans since 2006. Artists are given the rare opportunity to connect directly with the people of New Orleans, the tradition bearers and community leaders who are on the frontlines of rebuilding and sustaining this vital city.
Charles was honored to be invited to one of the retreats a couple years back and it was, without much understatement, life-changing. It also, to paraphrase Air Traffic Control’s own mission statement, instilled a sense of empowerment for what can be accomplished through activism and music.
About the Dear New Orleans comp itself:
The “Dear New Orleans” comp itself is a musically impressive affair and honestly, would be worth your tough-earned dollars even if those dollars weren’t going to worthy causes.
See the Dear New Orleans site for the stellar lineup & running order. And a free download from the comp.
About our contribution:
When ATC asked if we’d be interested in helping out, Charles had this grandiose notion of using one of his demos for our own upcoming record, writing new lyrics to reflect his experience on the ATC-sponsored NOLA retreat, the wonderful folks he met there, some of their stories, etc.
But then life intervened w/ a premature second baby so we submitted an entirely different demo of his, an early version of one of the songs for our next album. So technically, broadly-defined, a new wrens’ song…
About some of the Orgs doing the work:
Sweet Home New Orleans is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to support the individuals and organizations who define New Orleans’ unique musical and cultural traditions.
They began their work immediately after the levees broke in 2005 helping the New Orleans musicians, Mardi Gras Indians, and Social Aid & Pleasure Club members get on their feet, get to work, and revitalize their communities and the cultural economy of New Orleans. And they did this by raising & distributing over $2.5 million in financial assistance to more than 2,500 members of the city’s music community.
Gulf Restoration Network is a 16 year-old environmental group committed to uniting and empowering people to protect and restore the natural resources of the Gulf of Mexico. Since the storms of 2005, they have worked for a national commitment to the restoration of the coastal wetlands of Louisiana, the region’s natural storm protection, which are disappearing at the rate of an acre an hour. The BP drilling disaster has greatly increased threats to this ecosystem, and GRN has provided independent monitoring and advocacy since the first days of the disaster.
We’re honored to lend the little help we can, our song in this case, to Dear New Orleans. We encourage each of you to check out this amazing compilation and do what you can to help make a difference for the Gulf Coast.
For more information on Dear New Orleans, a free download from the compilation, and to learn more about how you can help the Gulf, please visit Dear New Orleans.
Long Live the King!
In other wrens news from July 31st, Charles and his lovely & talented wife ushered in a second son, Henry. Although premature by six weeks or so, mother & son are doing wonderfully, dad could use an epidural.
It’s been pointed out that this is the only thing associated with Charles that’s come early.
That now updates the Wrens’ scorecards as follows:
Jerry: 4 kids
Greg: 2 dependents
Charles: 2 self-directed entities resulting from procreation
Funny that that exactly and oppositely parallels the number of basic songs written.
About halfway through the four-year Gallipoli that was making the Meadowlands, we moved from Ft. Lee, NJ back to yet another house in Secaucus, our third there. On the first full weekend in the new place, I was home by myself cleaning up in the yard, trying to hide from neighbors that a band had moved in next door, the kiss of suburban death.
One of those neighbors, the one directly next door, came over from his yard, introduced himself as Dan and asked the general niceties you do when you meet someone who’s renting (us) the house next to the house that you own (him), raised children in, have a real stake in etc. and need to take a measure of the person the fates have cast in the role of new neighbor and adjust the new threat-to-peace-of-mind level accordingly.
Now I admit that I’m one of those folks that often, when I meet you for the first time in a situation like this, I’ll hear your name, and immediately begin a stupid yet intricate mental calculus on how everything I’m wearing, saying, even am, is coming across to you and trying to assess how all that in turn is being assessed, and so instantaneously forget your name, and hear almost nothing of what you say. I’m not proud of that, it’s more like shame really, but there it is. And as I’m correcting for internal rounding errors in how Dan would compute that a group of three well-past-thirty bachelors, living together in one house aren’t a suburban opium den or worse, a band, I gradually tune in that he is kind of going on and on about the film Caddyshack, which is airing that night in some sort of special anniversary package, if I remember right, and how funny Rodney Dangerfield really was.
Ty-D B., C’est moi
He changes topics and asks me what I do and determined to put the best neighborly foot forward, I tell him I work in advertising and that the two other also-rans I live with are in big pharma. He replies that he did some work in advertising and that “I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember, but the Ty-D Bowl Man – that was me”.
And I’m thinking, “great, we’ve got this common ground, advertising!”. Even though I’m sort of a charlatan in that, while I am working at a big ad agency at this point, I’m scrivenered away in Accounts Receivable which to advertising folks means something like, ‘you work in the accounting industry’. Which is also a total sham since I likewise had an absolute zero of any qualifications in either accounting or finance. Heck, I didn’t even finish my bachelor’s in jazz guitar. But that’s corporate America. Or at least New York. Or just me.
Anyhow…I seed my reply with handsful of the advertising jargon I’ve picked up from cooler actual-advertising friends – “oh, I do remember [about the Tidy Bowl Man account]; that’s great and must’ve been a big deal. Were you the copywriter for that spot or did you account exec. that or something?” [note jargon, improperly used].
“No,” he says, “the Ty-D Bowl Man – that was me. I was the Tidy Bowl man. I’m an actor.”.
Dr. B., C’est moi
“Oh…cool”, I feeble out as I’m completely reshuffling the few decks I’d mentally dealt both of us for this conversation while at the same time, some internal previous contextual alarm goes off telling me – really, re-hearing and reinterpreting for me – that in his opening salvo about Rodney Dangerfield, Dan meant the person, the actor Dangerfield and he doesn’t mean in the movie – or not just in the movie – but on-set. As in “I am his peer, we worked together, what a card”. And at that same moment I sort of see through the veneer of what is hopefully early/middle old age (Dan would’ve been about 70 at this point) and realize that at some level right below that, I can make out a face I kind of recognize – he’s that other guy in Caddyshack! The priest! No wait, it was a doctor - Dan is the doctor from Caddyshack!
Anyhow, we lived past the awkwardness of that initial meeting to be functional & perfunctorily friendly, if not close, neighbors. We let his dog “get away from him” and crap in our yard hourly; he let us crap up the sonic flagstone path between us with one billion consecutive mixes of “everyone choose sides”.
When we had some big-ish press stuff run after the album came out, he very, very nicely came over and enthused about it at length, groused about being an artist in a small town so close and yet so far from New York City, where he’d done a bunch of Broadway and commercial work over the years etc., which all sort of flatteringly meant that he now counted us as stranded artists too.
Anyway, all this because per some online news, Dan, passed away last Saturday, July 31st, of complications stemming from Parkinson’s Disease.
We liked Dan a lot. Dan, here’s to you. It was nice knowing you and our thoughts are with your family. I hope you and Rodney are having a great time.
...our second four-wren get-together in 10 days with new songs of Kevin’s & Greg’s gone over.
Back at home, Charles continues to be on veritable fire writing & recording (5 songs in the last week and a half).
Really, all around a red-letter week or so for the veterans and our most productive 10 days since our seminal work on quantum theory in the ‘20s.
…to the “making the record and the making of the making of the record” post
Ok, my gaze into the crystal ball of productivity may have been a little rosey, but not by too much. Our muzakal work-weekend started Thursday night greeting Peter, the fellow coming in from Texas to document our musical ‘leavings’, and set up for Friday. That’s standard beginner band checklist stuff by now: buy guitar, write songs, engage services of band in-house cinematographer, play first show…
Friday opened with classic Charlesian luck - driving to NJ, the front right tie rod of the van broke off coming into the toll plaza of the Triborough. Note to drivers: if you’re gonna lose a tie rod, the thing that connects the otherwise free-floating front wheels to the whole steering apparatus, better to do it at around 10mph than say, a life-ending 70.
The whole story is too mundane to type here, and we’ve all been down that Gilligan road before – this one ends w/ the Professor rescued off a highway island and is all on tape now anyhow. With this early-round knockout, the champ retained the title we’ve all battled over since our first German tour of the early ‘90s, Scheißebruder.
So a late start Friday, Jerry swung in from Philadelphia, we spent a few hours addressing last-minute equipment/technical needs, then ran through some songs and tracked a couple different takes each of five new ones. Or was it only four? Well to tell you the truth, in all the excitement, I kind of lost track myself. But being that these are 44-year-olds, the most powerful musicians in the world, and will blow your head…clean off…with their next rockin’ jamz, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?”. Well, do ya, punk rockers?
Really, the whole weekend was so great, so productive for us and kinda felt like the old days, that everyone left feeling 75 years younger. It seems that maybe some metaphoric lever has finally been thrown and the production line is now running at full cap. – e.g Charles went home and with the family away until Sunday, wrote & recorded two more songs and fully demo’d a third. That puts him only about 122 opuses behind Kevin.
A wren may rock on the moon yet.
I know, I know
…it's never clear - are they recording, are they not recording, they’re calling these two shows a tour but they’re always playing two shows, are two of them brothers or were they married or what…
Ok, so, in brief, we often post (often on Facebook ) about Kevin & Greg arranging new songs into a two-man dirge wrecking crew, Jerry meeting with Kevin in the beat lab, Charles logging in some quantity time Googling mic capsules & guitar pedals, but due mostly to adulty schedules, the four of us have only gotten together twice since we kicked it off for like the third time last January – once to get drum sounds, the second time we tracked two songs’ basics.
Well, tomorrow you can bump the counter up to three, and a big three at that.
Work Personal days have been arranged, babies have been banished to in-laws, pedalboards of ridiculous complexity have been hammered together from Ikea shelving, an hilariously talented filmmaker/cinematographer has been flown in from Texas to roll film and wire the home studios with tiny cameras (the better to record our own shenanigans after his departure (see above)).
We are shit serious this time.
The work whistle sounds at 10:00am and we go until night and then another manful 6 hours on Saturday. If we don’t come out of this with at least 10 new songs basic-tracked (most of them Kevin’s, one of them good), I’ll eat the same fictional hat I trot every time I make these proclamations.
But this time I mean it, baby…
Two-City Tour shirt remainders
You know how it is, life takes you where it does, and some of us just aren’t lucky enough to have it drop our boat on the shores of either Lake Philadelphia or the Baltimore Sea (unusually for me, that’s not sarcasm. I’m originally Philadelphian (more or less) and we’ve got a soft spot in our shared Jarvik 7 of a band heart for Baltimore, having played over 35,000 shows there, going back to Jerry’s college years at nearby State U.).
So even if you couldn’t attend our bi-state-area tour last month, you can now shop as if you did, lucky consumers. We’ve got a few leftover shirts from the shows, in a few different colors, and while supplies last, they’re for sale here in our store.
The camera phone is iffy, but the design is basically the same as the front page of our website, sans Darko-cum-Harvey rabbit. It’s a photo taken on Rt. 17 in New Jersey, showing tilted phone poles & power lines, the aftermath of the same storm that clobbered Kev’s house with a 90-year-old oak tree.
Design by a wren, hand-silkscreening by a wren, crappy photos by a wren.
Biting off more than they can chew…Since 1989.
As always, thanks, here’s hoping you’re well, and hopefully see you at the next one,
Maybe “national” is a stretch. Ok, even “tour” is a stretch. But with two consecutive nights’ shows booked for the first time in at least one SXSW ago, (Philadelphia, May 21st at the First Unitarian Church and Baltimore, May 22nd at Sonar), this, for us, constitutes a tour.
Even as I type this, bags are being packed, family farewells are in the offing, estate planning is under way, personal papers are being put in order, a tour bus has been arranged (SEPTA via NJ Transit), smoke-machine-repairpersons have been hired, vast amounts of road drugs have been grown, refined & processed…
[Clarifier: road drugs in our case being pretty much packaged snack foods (think: donuts) turning the dream cliché of “sex, drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll” into more like “conceiving legitimate children within the bonds of marriage, donuts & enthusiastically-performed song-craft in the rapidly-aging rock‘n’roll style”.
Again, for us at least.]
But what better way to ease back into touring than a wren-breaking two-day itinerary spanning as many cities, in neighboring states, over 90 miles apart?
We sincerely hope to see you there….