20th anniversary

Q409 Annual Report to Shareholders – pt.3

B-B-B-B…But so where does that leave us?

So although we haven’t started new recording yet (I know, I know, believe me), in a very real way, we’ve never been more ahead or more prepared. Or had more plans or ideas. Weird, I know, but sometimes such are one’s middle years.

the brighter star in the firmament
Kevin has been demo-ing for the last year or two, really for the first time ever (strange as that sounds), and he’s got over 100 songs recorded, mixed, with parts and pretty xylophones and rockly operatic lyrics wherein he embodies the character known only as the Rake.
Wait, that’s not us.
But he does have 100+ demos done and one of them's quite good. No, really.

the star's mysterious brother
And he & Greg have been getting together a few nights a week for quite a while going over those songs, working out parts & variations. Greg spent more money & time getting his guitar equipment together this year than in the previous 19 band years combined (multiplied by a large-ish whole number). He’s even been taking guitar lessons for the first time so clearly, someone’s buckling down. And he’s now a dad for round two, so the buckle comes off as well, ladies.

the other one who insists on singing
Charles?...also now a parent. In his case the stay-at-home-dad kind which means only a few half-hour-naps'-worth of available band/work time each day. And even that has to be fit around swapping Bed-Stuy gossip with like-minded neighbors over one of those top-half-open barn-style backdoors like an extra on Hee-Haw.

So to better put that time towards something productive and art-like, as of today, he’s hereby relinquishing & handing off all boring band-business stuff to our new foncy ponts management (see Part 2) and is now, officially, after a false start last summer, trading his “From the Desk of Charles Dickhead” business bond laid paper letterhead (with matching band gavel), for a guitar, a carbon mic and a Non-Remy Weft hair weave to try his hand making records again. He hasn’t been this jazzed about music since he was 40 and playing in Kenton’s band.

the cuddly likable one
Jerry has this way of holding his head that looks smashing on film. So band photos should be a breeze now. In his spare time, he continues to lead the world in the production of smaller MacDonalds (currently four street models to choose from).

Resolutions and Predictions

So, for like the dozenth time, official full-band recording starts next Wednesday, January 13th, 2010, at approximately 6:00pm E.S.T. in a New Jersey basement studio not far from Rudy Van Gelder’s original Hackensack one.
And bonkers as it sounds, I’m going on record predicting that we’re mostly done with the next album by say….June.
No, this June.
I don’t blame you for not believing me, I kinda don’t. And yet, there it is. In writing, no less.

‘Cause it really is about time now. The goal is to go from being one of the least prolific bands in indie rock, to one of the most, putting out say, two albums a year ‘60s-style, and deep-sixing whatever goodwill we’ve engendered over the years by flooding the market with product. Cheap, formulaic product with a hand-applied art veneer.

Or maybe we’ll just get going and see where that takes us…

Either way, thanks as always, especially for the patience, and may your 2010 be as fruitful as we fantasize our own will be,

the wrens

The Me(adowlands) Decade

Addendum to the addendum

Again, we don't have a press page and have always been iffy about putting up a whole page of flattering press (also too lazy to go ahead and write that press ourselves). But we were so knocked out that some people had put the Meadowlands on their lists of favorite albums of the decade that that we went ahead and broke our own little convention here and then again here when someone pointed out that we'd hilariously missed Pitchfork.

So now we're kind of stuck on this train (and it ain't a bad ride) and adding two more as an addendum to the addendum:

First, Steve Holtje put us in his Top Albums of the 2000s on CultureCatch, which like the other ones, is just bonkers. It means a lot to us because (1) Steve works at Sound Fix Records in Brooklyn so (1a) he hears a LOT of music and (1b) Charles actually shops there because (1c) everyone there is really nice and there's pretty much zero snob-factor...and (2) because Steve is a wonderful musician & composer in his own right.

And for those of you of the Facebook persuasion, James Bradley also put us in his Top 100 Albums of the Decade. James owns Sound Fix (notice a theme here?). So maybe consider this not only a self-administered back-pat but a plug for one of our favorite record stores anywhere.

Thanks, Steve & James, sincerely,

the wrens

Q409 Annual Report to Shareholders – pt.2

[approaches dais, clears throat]

"Thank you, shareholders and thank you to our parent company, Berkshire Hathaway. During this last fiscal year…well, you’ve probably read in the trade & industry journals that our cutting-edge R&D team is well under way with new product development and recording and…well, this is Wrens & Co. Inc. LLC and we will mic no drum before its time. So yeah, we both aren’t and we are..."

Here’s what we have done:

See our Report to Shareholders Part 1, here.

Here’s what we haven’t done:

Start recording yet.
Yep. Not a typo.

Here’s why: Um…

Um…we’ll get to that in detail later in this shiny new year. But for now, suffice it to say that a big part of what’s taken so long has been undoing/redoing 20-year habits of how we um, do things, especially how we make records.

Vowed when we were done the Meadowlands that we’d never make another record that way or take that long to do it, again. Of course, the irony is that it took about 6 years to set everything up to ensure that it would never take 4 years to make another record. See the kind of Lewis Carroll world we inhabit?

A not-insignificant part of all that is the nuts & bolts of running any small business, the knowing (or learning / cramming last-minute) enough about a sultan’s variety of aspects of music business to keep your own small-business boat not only floating but solvent, handling the more mundane emails & calls and things faxed, not too mention gaining the experience to make the big plays, head things off at passes, negotiate forks in the road, generate business clichés, etc.

And doing that yourself around real life (i.e. jobs, children and their ceaseless petty demands) seems to mean that as a musician, you often find yourself taking conference calls but rarely setting up mic’s.
Let’s call it Death by D.I.Y.

talk to our people

So in an effort to reverse that ratio, and for a thousand other reasons that are proved almost daily lately, it gives me nearly immeasurable happiness to announce that….we’ve signed on with official management – Ben Dickey, and his wonderful team of do-greaters at Constant Artists.
They technically start on the job the first week in January (hey, that’s this week) so be sure to drop them a line and present them with your “actionable” business model for bringing us acclaim and riches.

And they’ll quash it so we don’t have to.

With Ben riding at our side, the last piece of the apocalyptic puzzle is now in place and so begins the End of Days. Only regret we didn’t do this sooner.

Still to come: What’s to come?

Timeline 2010, wrens-style, in Part 3.

Q409 Annual Report to Shareholders – pt.1

Another year o-o-o-ver, a new one just begu-u-un…and so this is listserv.

Having knocked over nog in our rush to rip the last page from our Nuns Having Fun calendar, we wanted to now take a moment to drop a note saying thank you for pretty much everything that came our way band-wise this year. And to hope you in turn, had a great holiday time and have the best twenty-ten.

To recap the odds & sods of ’09…

Even by our time-tunnel wrens calendar, where months pass like days and days pass like picoseconds, 2009 came in like a lion and went out like another lion in a hell of a hurry, kind of pooping on our plans while it did.
Ok, that makes no sense. But as the year ran by, besides the mundane behind-the-scenes stuff that defines any job (even the coveted career path of ‘indie superstar’) we did get at least a few things done…

launch our new website, release a first official new band song in 10 years or so, post a hilariously & misguidedly & optimistically ambitious year-end wrap-up note like this one last January, trot out a few more demos, pretend to start recording a handful of times, record a new one on the fly for friends with cameras, play a bunch of shows, we laughed, we cried, we changed tenses, I think we all learned something, and to finish it all off, threw ourselves a three-show 20th-year party at Maxwell’s in Hoboken.

Actually, put that way, I can’t believe the year didn’t take us longer.

The 20th Anniversary shows at Maxwell’s were a hoot and meant a lot to us so again, our thanks to all who came out. For those of you who weren’t able to make it, the good news is that we were able to record two of the three shows with an eye toward releasing a live album. The bad news is that those recordings reveal a band operating on the level of trained animals struggling with human instruments, and a woodsy call-of-the-wild relationship to pitch.
So maybe we’ll just focus on the new stuff.

But what we do have from Maxwell’s are the “20 Years of Juvenilia” ep of unreleased older songs and the new 20th Anniversary shirts that we crowed about earlier. You can hit the links above to read more about each or just advance your token directly to ‘gimme’ and buy them in our store .

We were also humbly honored to have the Meadowlands end up on some folks ‘best albums of the decade’ lists. But not surprised, really. That record is tantamount to genius.
Kidding. You can read about that here. [UPDATE: and now also here]

Out: Old In: New

To put the finishing polish on our 20th year, we have an ongoing list of things you think of as old but are in fact, younger than us, on our Facebook & Twitter pages. Just to drive home how long ago 1989 really was.

And we drop the ball into the metaphoric Times Square of our sweet 2010 with a show in Boston, 1/16/10 at the Middle East. Note that our band turns 21 this year and so is legal to buy liquor as a corporate entity. Party.

And to head the big question off at the pass, we will have a new record in 2010….. Jerry will have a new copy of Midnight Oil's "Diesel & Dust", Kevin will have ‘Hasselhoff Sings, This Time with Strings’, Greg will have ‘Tarkus’, and Charles will have “Ornette Coleman: Now I Play Uke Too”.

Ok, we’ll get to that in Part 2...

Thanks, as always,

the wrens

Top Albums of the Millennium - addendum

...well at least 1% of the way into it

See what happens? With a nod to Kenneth Koch, one brag may hide another.

Last week, after a lot of moral wrestling, we put up a self-congratulatory list of folks that had the Meadowlands on their own respective 'best of decade' lists. And from that, over the weekend, a few people hit up our Facebook page with a couple others we didn’t know about:

First, Pitchfork put the Meadowlands in their Top 200 Albums of the 2000s too. We hadn’t actually heard of this website until now. Pitchfork, is it? I understand it’s fairly popular with the under-50 agricultural set. Well, thank you, “pitchfork”, and hopefully the link above will drive a little traffic your way - we’re always trying to help out newcomers on the alternative and college rock scenes.

Ok really, a great deal of thanks to Pitchfork, for a great deal of stuff. They've been very kind to us over the years - running a lot of news items that barely qualified a such, having us play their first Pitchfork Fest (which was a hoot), stuff like that. And the write-up that accompanies our entry in the list is pretty funny and very nice. So once again, thanks, ‘fork.

Secondly, Chris Campbell at the Huffington Post put the Meadowlands on his own Favorite Records of the Decade list at number…well, it’s ridiculously high. He may have been also.

Seriously, this one’s maybe the biggest honor – I mean it’s the Huffington Post. Finally, all those left-leaning benefits & causes we’ve been a part of have paid off in spades. We’re also now officially sanctioned as both Progressive and more hilariously, as news. Or at least that’s how we like to see it. Hope Arianna accepts our Facebook request now.

Again, all jackassery aside, our sincere thanks. All this has made our week. Honestly.

the wrens

behold this, our self-tooted horn

Hey, saw the light on thought I'd drop by

One of the stranger (but occasionally cooler) aspects about being a long-lived but less-than-prolific band that makes it to near-2010 (and with a slow-but-working internet connection) is that online, your older albums never die, they just continue to pop up here & there like that person from accounts payable you made out with at last year’s office holiday party. Or say, the undead. Not necessarily out to do harm or even embarrass, but making things kinda weird just by being there.

And people send you links to see it happen.

With our last album having come out in ‘03, we’re not exactly generating a hipster’s-weight-in-gold’s-worth of press lately. So it’s a really nice surprise - and a super flattering one as well – to find out some folks had put the Meadowlands on their Best-of-Decade lists of varying sizes (theoretically I guess, if the lists were long enough, we’d be on all of them. Like say, Top 110,343 Albums of the Decade).

Now, we should preface all this by adding that we’re kind-of of a mixed mind about posting this type of thing - notice we don’t have a press/reviews page. But making this dumb album almost killed me/us and the work that went into it & the depression that came out of it, dwarfed the small-beans industry setbacks that have become something of our ‘story’ (but more on that some other time). 
So this means more to us than you might think and figure if you’re here reading this, we're counting you in on whatever modest successes we have and so wanna share our good luck & news and say thank you.

And lest you still think we take all this (or ourselves) a tad too serious, probably worth a quick revisit to what we wrote about one of our own early heinous band photos (as opposed to our more recent heinous band photos).

That said...

behold this, our self-tooted horn

...behold this, our self-tooted horn.

We just squeaked in on Stereogum’s Gummy Awards list of top 50 albums of the decade at, well, #50. But this one means the most to us because it’s a readers’ poll and sort of boggles our micro-sized brains that there are enough readers that would vote our album up there esp. given how many great albums there have been in the last 10 years (a point driven home by looking at lists like these). But so, dear readers, thanks very much.

John Richards & DJ Shannon at KEXP also put the Meadowlands in their respective top 10’s . You’d think being dj’s they’d have better record collections. Seriously, KEXP have been awfully kind to us and are super nice folks, so thank you, John & Shannon. Our “pledge checks” are in the mail.

The following three were nice ‘cause we found them ourselves since they’re on blogs I/we actually already subscribe to via the moderny miracle time-suck of RSS. Both Oceans Never Listen and Heeb magazine put the meadowlands in their ten-year top-10s and as the friend who forwarded the Heeb link said, “it’s almost as good as being Jewish”. But actually, as a band we’re ¼ Jewish, ‘Bissell’ is a Yiddish word meaning ‘bit or piece’ and our label is Absolutely Kosher.
At this point we’re considering a run for the Knesset.

And in lieu of long lists, An Aquarium Drunkard has been doing sort of re-reviews of albums of the last 10 years, and were very kind on our sole aughts output.

Lastly, a couple blogs who gave us album of the decade. Just even typing that sentence seems crazy but hey, it’s your list. So truly, our sincere thanks to Thus Spake Drake and Babystew.

Again, hopefully this didn’t come off as braggy, it’s more that to not acknowledge these and say thanks would seem rude. And for us, it’s a wonderful way to finish out 2009 and as our master plans come to final fruition, we should have something new in 2010 to hopefully get all listy about.

Until then, as always, our humble & sincere thanks,
The wrens

20th Anniversary Shirts Now Available

As mentioned as part of our 20th at Maxwell’s, we've also made a 20th Anniversary shirt and it's now swap-able for fifteen of your dollars in our store.

With the design by Phillip Niemeyer of Double Triple in Brooklyn, the first batch was hand-silkscreened by Charles & Phillip at Charles’ house. You can see a photo of their Warhol Silver Factory-style production going down here, (charles is to the right of your screen).

The second larger batch was hand-screened by the band in the basement of Maxwell’s, mere hours before the 20th anniversary shows, (so definitely pop those under an iron or in the dryer before you wash ‘em). Pretty sure Radiohead have the same pre-show routine.

As proof that we’re as arguably/dumbly DIY (deep-six it yourself) as we claim, click on the shot below for a few more photos from the Ken Burns’ making-of-the-shirt documentary. They also serve to answer that other riddle of the Sphinx, what walks on eight legs at night in the basement? (A: the wrens in middle age making shirts before shows):

Unintentionally, we’re posed strangely similarly to the inner sleeve of the Tubes’ “Completion Backward Principle”. As we mentioned at the close of our last record… click here.

And while we’re merching our heads off, we’ve also added a black version of the ‘Keeping folks waiting. Since 1989’ shirt . Hard to tell since in the photos, the brown look black and vice versa, but trust me, they’re color-correct and stunning. While still being textually succinct.

You’ll find both of these for sale, along with the rest of this season’s line, in our corner store.

Thanks, as always,
the wrens

Merry Merch-making at Maxwell's

20th Anniversary EP Available

Consider the barrel-bottom scraped

As we’d mentioned, as part of our 20th at Maxwell’s, we compiled this smattering of unreleased
(read: iffy) older songs spanning ’91 – ’97; most never-before-heard, some for good reason.

With one exception, these songs pre-date any of our albums and were all originally recorded in the then-standard media format of stone tablets (as pictured below):

(”wrens, I bought this tablet at your merch table and most of the Commandments came off in the wash. I’ve sent a burning bush to PayPal”
- Moses)

Note that these are CD-Rs, folks, though lovingly burnt by us and shipped in a cover by Phillip Niemeyer of Double Triple Design in Brooklyn that slyly unfolds to become a poster:

..and the cover/poster back:

They're a wee labor-intensive since we're folding the posters by hand like master origamists and the run is limited at the moment to 200 (numbered, naturally). So for the time being, even in this post-cd age, we're charging $10. 
Once the covers are gone, we'll figure something out.
That also makes it the first poster we’ve ever sold but hopefully now, not the last.

Here’s the track listing (w/ year recorded):

1. The French Song (1991) 

2. Soft Castration (1991) 

3. Lips of Blue (1992) 

4. Don’t Be Shy (1997) 

5. Silverware (1992) 

6. 6th & Atlantic (1990) 

7. 65 (1991)

Makes a great gift for the holidays. Although at this point, given that we mail these ourselves, probably figure on that holiday being Groundhog Day.

They’re available here in our store.

20th Anniversary Maxwell’s Shows (last minute & final details)


Here are the hastily-assembled details for our 20th Anniversary shows tonight & tomorrow.

For tonight:

we’ll be joined by our old friends (literally), 12:01. We played with them exactly 20 years ago when we both just starting out in southern New Jersey.

And per voting consensus, our set list will be some kind of re-ordering of these old chestnuts:

I've Made Enough Friends
North To Nothing
Whats A Girl
Built in Girls
Our Brightest new Year
13 Months in 6 Min
ex-girl collection
I Guess We're Done
Pretty O.K.
13 Grand

We’ll be joined by some new friends on horns on “what’s a girl” and “broken”.

For tomorrow's early show:

we’re joined by (and some of us ‘with’) the wonderful Palomar . Our set is the “meadowlands top-to-bottom” deal so track listing is findable somewhere.
Our special guests include Beth Wawerna of Bird of Youth singing the duet “13 months in 6 minutes”, Lysa Opfer hitting the keys on “hopeless” and Briton Shell covering the baritone guitar part in “ex-girl collection”. Thanks, all.

And for tomorrow's late show:

it’s new song intensive with some old standards. Our friends Bob Fields, a great band from Hoboken with whom we played with many a mid-to-late’90s dive, have graciously reunited to play the show. We are honored.

For all three shows:

we’ll also have a new cd of some very old songs (think pre-Clinton era) and a new shirt commemorating our 20th year. The shirt and the cd cover (which stylishly folds out into a poster) were designed by Phillip of DoubleTriple and the shirts were silkscreened by little ol’ us w/ Phiillip.

Here’s the track listing for the cd:

The French Song (1991)
Soft Castration (1991)
Lips of Blue (1992)
Don’t Be Shy (1997)
Silverware (1992)
6th & Atlantic (1990)
65 (1991)

And finally, we’ll be recording all three shows – a first for us – in the hopes that if we sound passable as our cover band on at least say, 6 songs out of three sets, then we’ll put out a live ep.

Thanks again and happy birthday to us. Oh and to Kevin, who’s actual birthday is today.

the wrens

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