This year saw a few faint glimmers of hope that The Wrens might finally release their long-anticipated follow-up to 2003’s The Meadowlands. In May, the New Jersey outfit first teased the album’s release, going so far as to share a brief snippet of a new song. This was followed last month by news that The Wrens had signed a new record deal. Now, the band has announced that the album is, in fact, complete, thanks in part to frontman Charles Bissell’s recent near-death experience.
In a note posted to the band’s website, Bissell reveals that he began feeling ill just before the Thanksgiving holiday. When he made it into the ER, doctors revealed the extent of his illness, diagnosing him with “strep pneumonia, a collapsed lung, full renal failure … the works.” After Bissell was discharged from the ICU just days later, the band took his brush with death, as well as other lingering, unspecified inter-personal issues, as a sign to finally finish the record.
As Bissell explains, “For me personally, this whole thing has changed a bunch of stuff, including priorities that have kept me toiling away on music to the exclusion of a lot of other things. So that’ll change. Not sure what that means but it’ll be a lot more healthy. What it means more immediately is an end to the chasing of perfectionism with this record, which is only ever in part about the illusion of perfection anyway. And what that means is … the record’s done. It is what it is. And it’ll be fine. And that is ME saying that.”
Even when dealing with matters of life and death, Bissell maintains a stoic sense of humor, joking that if “The Hold Steady hadn’t beaten us to it, would probably now call (the album) The Wrens Almost Killed Me.”
Bissell didn’t offer any details in way of a release date, but does note that 2015 “should be a way better year for us, and hopefully for you.”
Read the full letter below.
Hope you Thanksgivings …were great. At my end, well you know how I’m always prattling & whining on about how difficult the record’s been to make, how little sleep for 4+ years now, etc. etc.? Of course you do. Yield-wise, it’s more my stock-in-trade than releasing actual albums. And while true, even I’m pretty tired of hearing me go on about it.
But all those art-for-crap’s-sake life choices came to a head at Thanksgiving. Driving up to Massachusetts that Wednesday, got sicker & sicker, fever, vomiting. Thursday morning felt worse, with a weird & unwelcome Rice Crispie effect to each breath, a cough output I’ll only describe as ‘cranberry’.
Had never been this sick, suspected something serious and am luckily married to a person wise enough to know when to make a run for the emergency room. Ended up crawling in the ER lobby, with strep pneumonia, a collapsed lung, full renal failure…the works. Apparently called sepsis which is when the various bodily systems join in a conga line, happily dancing their way out, shutting off the lights as they go. Like they were telling my wife ‘prepare yourself that it doesn’t look he’s gonna make this one’ sorta stuff like in movies.
Then as the ER crew is working away, I’m given a paralytic anesthesia that didn’t work so I can’t move but I can still hear & feel everything & lie there thinking how can they not notice I’m no longer hooked up to breathing apparatus and am no longer breathing but can’t make myself inhale cause I can’t move any muscle and holy crap I’m gonna die here listening to them talk about how I can’t hear or feel anything. And over a slow 5 or 10 minutes of not actively breathing realizing that in fact they must’ve hooked me up but that due the paralytic, I’M the one that doesn’t know. It was sorta like being buried alive inches away from everybody. And that was a hoot.
I should say, my weird experience w/ that anesthesia aside, the nurses & doctors there were to a person, amazing & nice. And their work makes choosing a career path of making music seem pretty indirect and puny.
Anyway, got out of ICU on Tuesday, discharged Wed. afternoon. Slowly getting better. Belatedly now giving thanks for a lot of things.
So our 25th year as a band was not a red-letter one for us personally. There was cancer, family woes, children’s issues (aren’t there always?), capping off with this near-death pneumonia. Some of that was directly attributable to the dumb ceaseless toil it takes, or at least takes me, to make a record. And while difficulty finishing one’s indie rock album falls on the list of First World problems only a few slots below “damn it, the yield on my fund dropped for the second quarter!”, the other more life & death stuff is obviously just common to the world. Which is to say our year was probably not much different than many of yours.
For me personally, this whole thing has changed a bunch of stuff, incl. priorities that have kept me toiling away on music to the exclusion of a lot of other things. So that’ll change. Not sure what that means but it’ll be a lot more healthy.
What it means more immediately is an end to the chasing of perfectionism with this record, which is only ever in part about the illusion of perfection anyway. And what that means is…the record’s done. It is what it is. And it’ll be fine. And that’s ME saying that. A few nuts & bolts have to be put back together when I get back home so we can ship all the rest off to mastering. But the it’s done and if the Hold Steady hadn’t beaten us to it, would probably now call it The Wrens Almost Killed Me.
So sorta hilariously anticlimactically, that’s that.
Hopefully, your holidays will be a loving delight. And here’s to 2015, which should be a way better year for us, hopefully for you and a better one for all the weird crap in the world.
Thanks as always,