The Wrens’ first two albums will be reissued next month by Wind-Up Records, adding a new chapter to a contentious relationship between band and label. The group’s 1994 self-titled debut and its 1996 follow-up, “Secaucus,” were originally issued by Grass Records, which morphed into Wind-Up shortly thereafter.
After disagreements about their musical direction, the Wrens were eventually dropped from the label, which retained ownership of the masters for the first two albums and has since passed on the band’s offer to buy them back. The new editions of the discs, due Nov. 14, do not include any bonus tracks or extra features.
“Initially they listened to it on the surface, but once it was run up the flagpole, I think it met a resounding chuckle,” admits Wrens drummer Jerry MacDonnell. “They didn’t even acknowledge it as a real offer.”
“It is what it is,” he continues. “The fact that fans of the Wrens will be able to get access to those records will be very cool, so they don’t have to spend $50 or $100 on eBay. We meet a lot of people who have done that.” MacDonnell adds that after all these years, the band would like to put the drama to bed.
“If [Wind-Up chairman] Alan Meltzer is reading this, maybe he wants to go grab a movie and bury the axe,” he says. Asked why Wind-Up was only now reissuing the albums, Meltzer tells Billboard.com, “Because the music is too important to keep in some vault. We have been on such a huge growth curve as a company, we felt we were never able to do justice to the material in terms of the necessary marketing, promotion and in-store placement.”
Also due the same day as the Wrens discs is a reissue of “The Uneventful Vacation,” recorded by Commander Venus, which featured a teenage, pre-Bright Eyes Conor Oberst. The album was originally released in 1997 by Grass.
Meanwhile, MacDonnell says the Wrens are in “the first 25%” of work on the follow-up to 2003’s “The Meadowlands” at bassist Kevin Whelan’s home studio. “We’ve been messing around during soundchecks and Kevin’s got a notebook full of songs that I hear dribs and drabs of,” he says. “In actuality, the hardest part of making a Wrens record is usually the logistics of the recording setup. But I think we’ve conquered that and created a very comfortable environment.”
The as-yet-untitled album should be out by next fall via Absolutely Kosher. “If people enjoyed ‘Secaucus’ and ‘The Meadowlands,’ I think they’ll really enjoy the direction this record is taking,” MacDonnell reports.