Charles Bissell Details New Wrens Album And Teases 2021 Release: “Plans Are Afoot”

Gary Wolstenholme/Redferns

Charles Bissell Details New Wrens Album And Teases 2021 Release: “Plans Are Afoot”

Gary Wolstenholme/Redferns

New Jersey indie-rock greats the Wrens took seven years to release their 2003 masterpiece The Meadowlands, which now feels quaint given how long the follow-up has been delayed. We published a Progress Report on the LP when they were finally getting started on it back in January 2009 — which, due to time’s cruel and relentless march, is 12 years ago at this point. Not until 2014 did they confirm they’d signed a record deal to release the album for a label yet to be named. Later in 2014, they announced that the album was done. The following year, they again announced it was done, only to check back in several months later with another pronouncement that this time they’d finally finished it for real. Discouragingly, 2015 was six years ago, and the album has yet to materialize. The Wrens have not revealed a title, a release date, or even the name of their new label. Other than some demos and snippets that have made their way online, the project remains completely under wraps.

So when Charles Bissell strongly hints in a new interview that the album will be out this year in a new interview published today, you wouldn’t be wrong to greet the teaser with the same skepticism one might apply to Lucy when she promises not to pull the football away. Yet that’s the implication of Uproxx’s new chat with Bissell — one of the Wrens’ two singer-songwriters, the band’s public mouthpiece, and the guy who has been meticulously slaving away in the studio all these years. Bissell’s perfectionism apparently has a lot to do with the project’s long gestation time; he has often spoken about how slow and painful the creative process has been this time around, a sentiment he repeats in the new Q&A. Bissell’s cancer diagnosis in 2016 also surely slowed down the process. But now things really seem to be in motion. Probably.

Per Bissell, the Wrens have been in touch lately over Zoom to coordinate expectations for touring and album promo. He’s also been making plans with the label: “just really mundane stuff like, ‘Hey, if we were looking at a fall release, when would you need these masters by?'” He suggests a fall release would be preceded by a new single in June, but never explicitly confirms that timeline. He also has no plans to spill the beans about which label he’s dealing with: “I’m going to let them announce the record, because they’ve been so infinitely patient.”

Bissell says he looked to Homer’s The Odyssey for lyrical inspiration. Fittingly, the eight-minute “Three Types Of Reading Ambiguity,” which the Wrens released on cassette and leaked to YouTube a few years back, is “more representative than I think I would like it to be.” He elaborates, “There is one that sounds like McCartney was like, ‘Band On The Run and Venus On Mars aren’t quite ambitious enough, let me staple them together with bolts on their neck.’ That’s actually the album opener.” He also reiterates his statement from a prior interview that the album was really, finally done in June 2019, though he alludes to still nudging mixes after that point, and the interview implies that he hasn’t actually turned in the masters to the label yet.

Here’s Bissell’s explanation for all the times he previously said the album was done: “It was really just to make me finish and hand it in. Somehow if I went ahead and said it out loud, then I’d be forced to be done. But it didn’t really change anything, because I couldn’t solve the songs, I couldn’t figure out how to make them work. So you can want to be done, but that doesn’t mean you will be. Now it’s done, if that makes sense.” It mostly makes sense, but where this album is concerned, we’ll believe it when we finally hear from the label.

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