Kevin & Charles playing P.S. 154 Benefit Show

Howdy, all,

It has been a while, non? Even as four years of work on the album finally wrap up, actually leaving the house to climb on a stage, in front of people and flail a guitar like a man drowning.

Kevin & I (that's charles) are playing a benefit show for P.S. 154, a public school here in Brooklyn at which (full disclosure) our oldest attends kindergarten. So yes, daddy is singing for text books & pencils.

The show is this Friday, 5/30/14, at the Bell House here in Brooklyn and all of the other bands - who are pretty wonderful - all have at least a parent zoned for the same school.

Kevin and I will be playing a couple solo, a couple together, a couple new ones, a couple old ones, maybe a couple covers. Forewarned though that our rehearsal consisted of three texts:
Kevin: "I'm thinking of playing (song A) and (song B).
Me: "Maybe we should do (song C) instead of (song B).
Kevin: "Cool"
Me: "See you then"

So, to put it in technical music-theoretical terms, this may blow. I'm now sorta regretting I didn't just volunteer for the bake sale.

Anyway, here's the line-up, which is otherwise great:

8:30 White Collar Crime
9:15 Palomar, original line-up reunion playing stuff from Palomar I and II
10:00 The Big Bright (members of Olabelle)
10:45 Charles and Kevin (that's us)
11:30 Bambi Kino (members of Nada Surf + Cat Power + Guided by Voices)

You can buy tickets HERE.

Hopefully see you Friday and if you do go, say hi. Beers are nice as well.

the Meadowlands Turns 10 Today

cue party favors

It was half of 20 years ago today, Sgt. Pepper bought the band a copy of the Meadowlands. Probably for one of his more mature friends and hopefully w/ a discretely included gift receipt.

Meaning yeah, the Meadowlands came out exactly 10 years ago today, on Sept. 9th, 2003, which also means that our 'most recent' release pre-dates things like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Democrats in the White House, heck Bush's 2nd term, the show Lost, 6 albums and 3 EP's by Okkervil River, the Dinosaur Jr. reunion, some actual dinosaurs, the careers of Justin Bieber and Katy Perry COMBINED and the over 8400 separate and unique indie music micro-genres that gestated and died a quick bloggy death get the idea. But putting it in any of those terms does feel like saying it came out in the '70s. (choose your own century).

To commemorate so auspicious an occasion you'd think we'd be announcing some foncy ponts re-release of the album w/ bonus tracks, elaborate enviro-friendly zero-mass packaging and a photo of Greg shirtless, but we are not.

We plan to do a fancy re-release soon but for now, all late-night work shifts (except this one) are dedicated to finishing this record - the current depressingly life-devouring & exhausting one - and the idea of revisiting the last depressingly life-devouring caper, in order to milk out some sad bonus content, holds about as much appeal as well, milking anything really. Especially anything sad and 'bonus'.

So yeah, late to our own Meadowlands 10th Anniversary, as to all things ('keeping folks waiting, since...' et cet et cet..).

Instead, we're marking the anniversary w/ the first official Meadowlands 'album cover' t-shirt. Surprisingly, we've never done one. It will look something like this:

and is available now for pre-order here in our store and should be shipping in the next week or so.

I know, I know...ten years. And we put out a t-shirt. By the year 2043 we will have an entire mens' suit available a la carte with the next album incl. as pocket square. Totally gratis.

But if everything plays out like I think it's gonna, we should be marking the 10th anniversary of this next record in 2024.

A decade or two of thanks, as always,

the wrens

Another Year-End Wrap-up

(2011 edition)

Posted a very belated 2010-in-review last month here which mostly covered the start of (finally) recording. As promised, here’s a slightly less-belated overview of what we got done in 2011. And it’s shorter.

Essentially, worked all year through, which is to say every day or two for at least an hour or two, and…still not done come new year’s. Really, by the end of ‘11, the burning question on the minds of dozens (counting us & dependents) had become not, “where’s the record?” but ”did you sell the van?”.

Yes, yes we did, thanks. It involved stolen/unreturned license plates, a failed police report and gestures and profanity that embarrass me now, thrown out in the middle of our street to a man who was rolling up sleeves in prep. to kill me. But we sold it.

W/ recording, through 2011 we continued as before / below (tracking Kev’s songs w/ drums, then overdubbing & changing those) and we began overdubbing drums onto Charles’ songs. An important, if only geekly interesting, distinction between recording drums first & overdubbing them later: most albums you hear, esp. if they’re made in say, the last 40 years, are recorded drums-first (usually along with a guitar or two, bass etc., which may or may not be kept through to the final version). Then responsible recording engineers and their band-clients will overdub (that is, record on top of already-existent recorded material, in this case, those drums) the guitars, bass, vocals, cool loops, field recordings, requisite xylophone etc. after that, fitting them in sonically to the initially recorded drums.

Like anything else, this approach has its pros & cons, but trying to not go on for pages, let’s come back to that some other time, preferably over a beer and at least a few booths away from the nearest drummer or recording engineer (of which I’m neither).

Anyway, it’s sort of way less common to do the song first – that is, record a few hundred guitars, vocals, some low-end meanderings, work out an arrangement etc., and then overdub the drums onto that (and then change the song even more, of course…). But that approach was famously good enough for S&G’s Sounds of Silence and it’s worked out surprisingly well for us. And was sort of fun done that way to boot. Well, ‘fun’ if you’re us and fun is measured in the ease of drum overdubbing.

That’s really about it for us for 2011. The other thing that seemed to happen a lot that year was some friends’ & colleagues’ beginnings & endings in 2011. Ends first…..

Our good & longtime friend Cory Brown drew the curtain on Absolutely Kosher, the label he founded in 1998, putting out records by a sultan’s variety of great bands (Xiu Xiu, the Mountain Goats, Frog Eyes, Jim Yoshii Pile-Up, Pinback etc.). And us. It was our pleasure & honor to release our last record, the Meadowlands, w/ Cory on AbKosh and our love for him knows few bounds.

This article & interview w/ him sums up the standard reasons for the hiatus, mostly financial (here):

And 2011 marked the passing of Alan Meltzer. We got to know Alan when in 1995, he bought out Grass Records, our label at the time (later retooling it into Wind-Up Records), while we were recording our second album, Secaucus.

For a few months that spring, Alan was seeming more and more to be our career-savior, then for a while after that he filled the role of nemesis nicely. Biographically for us, the nemesis part stuck.

Beyond that, for a nemesis and all, I think Alan probably never gave us another thought, being pretty busy releasing Creed's oeuvre.
And we really only thought of him, I don’t know, every time we heard one of those Creed songs, which is to say every 6 ½ minutes for 5 years, shaking our fists cartoon-villainly in the air while muttering crap like, “You’ve made a powerful enemy, Alan!” or “that should have been me, for I am the brightest star in the firmament!”.
Ok, hopefully obviously, not serious. We’d gone our separate ways with no regrets on our side certainly. And clearly, the only way we’d ever have been a Creed, or as big as Creed, or had & recorded our own My Own Misprision, would have been locked in a room, with limitless space-time, alongside 100 monkeys typing Pearl Jam.

(Disclaim: these cheap ‘n’ easy Creed one-liners would have – I think – been ok with Alan. He had a pretty good sense of humor about all of this, at least w/ us. And besides, all career jokes ultimately point back to us).

We met again with Alan a few years back when Wind-Up reissued our earlier albums (to dozens of sales worldwide, presumably), ostensibly to bury the hatchet but I think both sides were relieved to find that the other guy wasn’t even carrying one. We’re happy that our relationship w/ Alan ended on a positive note. Alan was an interesting dude and our belated condolences to his friends & family.

On the cheerier side, beginnings in 2011….

There were a handful of friends who put out really nice albums, most of them debuts, that in our considered opinion didn’t get enough attention, so here’s a little list (w/ full disclosure: our own charles played on a couple of these and is married to at least one of them. In spite of that, all highly recommended):

* Palomar, who actually also went on hiatus in 2012; album/ep: Sense & Antisense

* Bird of Youth; album: Defender

* The Former Soviet Republic; album: The Former Soviet Republic Is Made Of This

* Overlake (in 2011, then called Big Lake); EP: Do You Love Me? Yes/No

Well, so much for short.

The wrens
Keeping folks waiting (for the end of any paragraph, most sentences, all blog posts and the occasional album).
Since 1989

Our SxSW Schedule This Week

our SxSW schedule:

Tues.: drop kids at school, inexplicably overdub even more guitars in living room in effort to finish recording before more due children are born

Wed.: proselytize on keeping other cities weird

Thurs: use phrase ‘day party’ a lot; eat sensible dinner at our respective homes (NJ, Penna., B’klyn).

Fri.: enjoy commemorative breakfast taco, read up on Austin. Email other band geeks to discuss reforming

Sat.: reflect how everything’s bigger in Texas, especially buzzes

Sun.: feel the burn…of a week like any other. Reflect on what we’ve learned. Look ahead to 2014 when we actually go.


Attached, please find…

An itemized invoice I sent Kevin, billing him for work done on one of his songs (ok no, not seriously billing him. Althooooough if he cut me a check, I’d probably cash it. For his is a generous personhood, while I am a small grabby man). Greg’s reply to all this: you need to increase your rates.

Really just illustrates both the relative shabby level, and general thrust, of our intra-band mockery & tomfoolery. As well as my own hilariously out-of-date office skillz-set and Word templates.

And really, the song was already pretty wonderful so I may be billing him for making it worse. But that’s business. Especially the cold business of music.

That said, please remit payment in full, Mr. Whelan.

Ok, today’s a work day, back to more song salvage. Update on all that later this week…

Year-End Wrap-up

2010, that is…

Yeah, 2010…actually not a typo. For years we’ve posted a year-end wrap-up of what we’d been up to the previous twelve months (you can pour over a few of those here). They’ve tended to be drawn-out semi-comedic affairs that were long on “we bought a computer” sort of news and short of any announcement of real recording (not counting a band-ful of false starts, laughably optimistically documented here or here, both from four years ago now, for ex.).

So it’s sort of funny that the first year we didn’t tie up in similar style was the end of 2010. Funny because that July – July 16th, 2010 to be exact – we actually did finally, for real, no poop, start recording a next record (readable in more detail here and here) and even more shockingly, have actually kept working pretty steadily since then. Yep, that’s 2 1/2 years of straight work almost to the day as I type this, sitting in a parked car with a napping also-2-1/2-year-old outside the Prospect Park Zoo. That's a lot of time. Better be good, boyos.

Now, we didn’t do the year-summ at the time because in one sense, this is/has become/has always been a very part-time venture esp. now that we’re all officially married-with-heirs and most of us have careers and stuff.

At the same time, once under way, recording work does get done pretty much every day for whatever hours can be shoehorned in. And like any good life-ruining all-consuming hobby, it devours most available free time, thought, milk money etc. Friendships languish, exercise routines are abandoned, grand-children reach maturity and leave the house while we tinker away making H-O gauge albums in the basement dressed in period costume (note: it wasn’t period costume when we went down there). Personal & band correspondence & news tends to get continually shuffled back to the bottom of the to-do list. And band year-end reports get delayed for years on end.

But specifically, from that weekend in July, 2010 on through the rest of that year, we tended to either be assembling & tracking Kevin’s songs (i.e. tracking drums) at his house when Jerry came up or tweaking & overdubbing the bejesus outta those same Kev songs when Jerry wasn’t attending. And Charles began assembling demos of his own musical crap parade at his Brooklyn home-cum-electronic-wonder-lair. Two-and-a-half years on, we’re now calling those demos ‘album tracks’.

Next thing you know, it’s the end of the year and the next next thing you know, it’s two years after that. At the current rate, we’re maybe a few months out from ear trumpets and easing ourselves into the Muppet balcony.

Anyway, not like it matters whether we generate recording updates on a rigorous every-12-months schedule or not, but for the interested, like most bands and your cool uncle w/ a blog nowadays, we do tend to hit up the modern social media with smaller news & updates, and a lot more often. Feel free to join in the slough of despond and hilarity at our places of Facebook and Twitterly business.

We’ll post a quick 2011 wrap-up (which summarizes neatly as “12 more months of the same”) later this week and then where we’re at w/ 2012 under our belt after that…

Then again, I seem to have just made a deadline / prediction / plan using standard units of your human time, so take even that with a some salt.

Until then, thanks as always,

the wrens

Schumann PLL: Sold

the Schumann did fly away

That’s something our four-year-old says about anything he’s doesn’t want, doesn’t want to deal with or doesn’t want to do etc., and with no real regard for grammatical sense. So as in ‘the dentist appointment did…FLY AWAY!”.
Or “I don’t have to use the potty, the poop did FLY AWAY!”. You get the idea.

Anyway, the Schumann PLL, that great white whale among guitar pedal enthusiasts is sold. And to Jack Black, no less.

Ok, it turns out that it’s not the Jack Black but still, a seemingly fine fellow with the same name at least and frankly, that’s good enough for us.

Let the purchase of even more finish-the-record gear begin! Or continue or whatever…

Thanks to everyone who wrote in about it. More news of the record tomorrow...

Schumann PLL for sale

Pedalboy nears adulthood…

You play guitar for three-plus decades, you tend to accumulate a few pedals along the way, maybe enough to earn the dumb infantile nickname ‘pedalboy’.

I've been putting off cleaning musical-equipment house for maybe oh...two-and-a-half of those three decades now. But finally starting with this, for some tiny sub-strata of musicianly geeks, the jewel in the crown that is my collection - the Schumann PLL, now for sale. If you have to ask what it is, probably no reason to read on. And definitely no reason to ask how much, since that’ll make us both feel weird. Trust me.

If you do know what it is, you'll also know it isn't available as an impulse-buy at Ash. And that it isn't exactly filed under 'affordable'. Now, I'm of a mixed mind about cashing in on the price inflation of these sort of hilariously collectible (read: overvalued) doo-dads, but in this case, it's the sad & rare case where I've luckily bought short and now need to sell long. Much as I love the pedal, I haven’t ended up using it as much as I’d planned and I could really put the money to better use & towards more practical finish-the-record type things like really good headphones, plug-ins, etc. (besides paying Christmas shopping balances, creating the illusion of income, etc…).

So putting it up here before going the ugly route of Ebay because, on the mathematically improbable chance that there exists someone out there who embodies the unholy trifecta of 1. into our band enough to see this, 2. into this pedal enough to read this and 3. into spending a couple grand to acquire it, I would love for it to go to them.

So yeah, implied & not a typo, selling for… I hope you’re sitting, preferably with a cocktail…$2,000 (incl. PayPal & shipping etc. as needed). Original signed and numbered (#66) cardboard box, one-sheet manual & power adaptor are all included.

Is it worth it? Debatably. Is it cool and unlike pretty much anything else I've had or tried or seen? Without doubt.

I’d really prefer a local sale (I'm in Brooklyn) if only to avoid the knuckle-biting of shipping. From my credentially end, I do have perfect feedback on Ebay as Tippymtcarmel; and am of course am findable here at Tri-County Wrens Headquarters, and our Facebook and Twitter locales.

And as mentioned, am selling partially to finance some recording-type stuff so I’d consider some very specific things to knock down the cash price:
- Sennheiser HD 600 headphones
- AKG K701 headphones
- Yamaha HS10W sub
- Hughes AK100
- baritone horn / euphonium
- maybe some cool 500-series comp, pre or eq

And obviously I love the weird in pedals, so anything along the lines of:
- Moog Freq box
- Synthmonger Pulsemonger
- Mini-Ark
- Digitech XP300
- Electro-Harmonix V256 vocoder

…etc. Try me. But again, this is supposed to be more about reducing clutter so I should really only take one or two things in trade + cash. "Should" but it's flexible. If interested, drop me an

Thanks, as always. And back a little later this week with a year-end wrap up & where’s-the-record update.

Happy Martin Luther King and Inauguration Day.

Now you can tour like a middle-aged part-time band because...

..the Wrens' van for sale

with a new LOWERED PRICE! That's right, we eliminate the middle guy and pass the savings on to you

EDIT: This is a reposting of all the van-for-sale stuff below, a bit edited to cover everything and now with a lowered price of $5200 (down from an optimistic market high of $7000).

As the touring cycle for the Meadowlands winds down (kidding, it’s Aug. 2011 and that ended like over 18 hours ago. Don’t be ridiculous).

Anyway, we are selling our tour-modile. It’s in vey good condition (trying to be used-car accurate here) and we’re really only selling because even as touring picks back up again w/ a next record, we’ll still probably be mostly weekends, flying to some of those etc. And to keep it insured – at either preposterous New Jersey or Brooklyn rates – and moving it from one side of the street to the other per the game of alt. side parking, is something of a drain right now.

Here's a stock photo of the type of van (not the actual van) in case you aren't familiar with the model. We can send or post real pictures after Wednesday, Aug. 10th:

And here are the details off the top of my head:

• It’s a White, 2002 Ford Econoline E-350, 15-passenger van. It’s that kind you see every third vehicle on the drive into town for South By Southwest.

• We’re asking [EDIT:} $5,200 to which is [LESS THAN] bluebook value and a little extra to offset the new windshield, tie rods, inspection etc.

• It has about 124,000 miles on it but in fairness, those were almost all pretty easy highway miles (a show in Atlanta, a show in Chicago, that sort of thing).

• It just passed inspection with flying colors

• It has a brand-new windshield

• Brand new front tie rods

• Pretty sure I have copies of all service records (mostly tune-ups)

• The CD player doesn't work and the radio has only two working preset buttons per ‘band’ (so FM1 has two, FM2 has two more, AM has two)

• Living in Brooklyn, someone had stolen the bumper. Weird, I know. The replacement bumper is now bent from someone parking into it and a bit rusty but otherwise fine

• It's in good shape and the body is in good shape, a trusty vehicle all-around

• Comes w/ all seats installed so can be configured anywhere between a 14-passenger van and a straight-up band/equipment van.

It's currently in Clinton Hill / Bed-Stuy Brooklyn (a couple blocks from the G train; 10 minute walk from C or J/M/Z). And if you have any interest, further questions or wanna come kick the tires, feel free to drop us a line via the contact page, here.

And as always, thanks for your time and we hope everything's going great,

the wrens

Charles u-streaming live duo show with jazz guitarist Chris Crocco

Feeling the CMJ burn yet?

Feeling the CMJ burn yet? Tired of indie rock pushing you around? I actually am and I haven’t left the house in years.

Well, if you’ve ever seen us (wrens) play and thought, “wow, I wish the one on the right would just put aside those cloying songs of heartbreak and loss so that I could really take in the guitar work” – ok, the odds you’ve said that without actually being me, are probably slim - then friend, I’ve got a show for you.

Anyway, I (charles, the one on the right) am playing a duo with the amazing jazz guitarist Christopher Crocco and it won’t be standard wrens or solo or even indie rock fare. More somewhere between the 'out' end of straight-ahead jazz and the outright free variety, courtesy Chris, and from me, an attempt to hide behind as big a veil of pedalboard trickery as I can manage, with the occasional swung note.

Basically I’m just gonna try not to embarrass myself.

Put another way and with an eye toward Halloween, I’m dressing up as a jazz musician; Chris will be donning the super-convincing costume of Regret.

The Particulars…

The show itself is this Friday at 9:30pm in Chris’ midtown C2 studio where besides teaching hopefuls like me, he’s been hosting an ongoing series of loft shows this past year with really amazing musicians like Francisco Mela, George Garzone, Peter Slavov, etc. that harken back to Sam Rivers' Bond Street loft space performances of the ‘70s or even W. Eugene Smith’s loft recordings before that, now documented in the Jazz Loft Project.

C2 Studios
257 West 39th St., 10th floor
Friday, Oct. 21st
Two sets: 9:30 & 11:00

Seating is sort of limited to about 35 or so, so if you’re interested in hitting up the loft in-person maybe also hit up the Facebook event and leave a reply.

More conveniently, if you can’t attend in-person, you can watch via the comfort of your divan and the miracle of a still-neutral net. The show will stream live here on C2 Studios’ U-Stream page.

About his Eminence and me

Chris Crocco has been the long-running guitarist with – and former student / protégé of – Boston/NY sax legend, George Garzone, as well as leading his own groups. This makes him the leading exponent – certainly on guitar anyway – of Garzone’s famous-among-jazz-geeks Triadic Chromatic Approach. For me, it’s pretty cool, weirdly comforting even, to be fitting in some tiny way into a musical ‘school’ of some kind, or even just a teaching history a la classical music’s “so-and-so studied with ___, who was a pupil of ___, who studied with Czerny”. (it’s always Czerny).

I’ve been studying with Chris off and on for the last couple of years which has fundamentally changed my guitar playing and even my approach to music. It’s also helped with focal dystonia - a whole ‘nother story but just watch my 3rd & 4th fingers fight it out some time. It’s a hoot.

And really, me playing jazz isn’t quite as out-of-nowhere as I make it out to be. Shocking as it may seem, especially if you’ve seen me play the guitar, I was actually a jazz major in school back when young Wyntons toured the Earth (remind me to tell you some sad-larious ‘worst player in the best school’ stories next time we share a beer).
More on that when I update the band bio (incl. Kevin’s own secret musical edu-tainment pedigree)…right after we redesign the website…right after we finish the new album…right after four horsemen or so ride roughshod over a burning Creation….

But I am humbly honored he asked me to play – truly. I’m also nervous as hell, fairly unprepared and pretty much in over my head. If I could figure a way to count this as my senior recital, 25 years late, at least I might actually finish my degree out of it.

Thanks as always and hope to see you there or waving from your computer.

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