Actor/ Neighbor

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.

works progress admin

Last night...

...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.


Oh yeah, oh yeah

..forgot to mention, the working title of the next record is "funeral".

Actually not kidding.


…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.

Making the record and the making of the making of the record

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

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.

the wrens
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,

the wrens

The Wrens National Two-City Tour

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….

Show - Philadelphia, PA @ First Unitarian Church

On Fri May 21, 2010 we'll be playing in Philadelphia, PA at First Unitarian Church.

Tickets available here.

More about the show...

More info here, but our sweeping bi-state May tour commences in Philadelphia...

Show - Baltimore, MD @ Sonar

On Sat May 22, 2010 we'll be playing in Baltimore, MD at Sonar.

Tickets available here.

More about the show...

....and comes to an end over 90 miles away, in Maryland. How much younger we were back at the start of all this, in Philadelphia.

More info on both shows here.

Haiti Benefit show, January 27th, at the Bell House (Brooklyn)

Haiti Benefit show, January 27th at the Bell House (Brooklyn)

As mentioned last week, we’re playing as part of a larger benefit show for Haiti, and details (as well as tickets) are available today.

The show is Wednesday, January 27th, at the Bell House in Brooklyn, doors open at 6:00, and 100% of the proceeds will be split between Save the Children and Partners in Health.

All sets are short, stripped-down affairs and we should be on about 9:15 or so. Although with a line-up like this, it’s worth making a full evening of it:

NY State Senator Diane Savino

The Wahoo Skiffle Crazies

Pat Kiernan (of NY 1)

Here We Go Magic

Eugene Mirman

Matthew Caws & ? (TBA)

Eugene Mirman

Sondre Lerche

Todd Barry

The Wrens

AC Newman + Rhett Miller + Nicole Atkins + Charles Bissell as The Seekers

Ted Leo

Jimmy Fallon

Cold War Kids

…with others still to be confirmed (and note Charles’ ’60s Australian folkie turn as part of the Seekers cover set w/ A.C. Newman, Rhett Miller & Nicole Atkins). If you’re there between 6:30 – 7:30, enjoy free food courtesy of Great Jones Café, Dub Pies, and more. And there’s a special two hour edition of keyboard karaoke hosted by Sara Schaefer and fellow South Jerseyan, Joe McGinty, in the front lounge from 11pm-1am.

Again, tickets are on sale as of noon today (here). And if you’re not in the NYC-area but still looking for a way to donate the much-needed money for immediate help and long-term rebuilding, see our list of organizations already in Haiti, doing great and difficult work there (one post down the page), courtesy of our friends at Air Traffic Control.

And for whatever you can do, thanks very much,

the wrens

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