Admittedly, I didn’t know much – read: absolutely nothing – about the UK’s Wren until their handlers thrust the self-described “progressive sludge/noise rock” Londoners in my face with tantalizing comparisons to Neurosis, Old Man Gloom and Amenra. That, and with the crushing, colossal majesty and incendiary churn of their debut full-length, Auburn Rule, I was sold. Following in the leaden, work boot trudge of their Host and self-titled EPs and a split with a band called Irk, Auburn Rule is about the slow burn, chiselled dynamics and insidious swings between minimalism and “maximalism.” Today, we present a track called “Scour the Grassland” from Auburn Rule, available as of last week on Holy Roar Records, and let the band introduce themselves by answering a few basic questions of introduction.
Seeing as this is your first time around these parts, can you give a brief history of the band?
The band started about three years ago, initially as an outlet for Owen and Chris to share their creative ideas at the time. Since then, a few members have come and gone and in late 2015 we reached a lineup that further stabilized the conceptual idea of the project. On our first two releases our good friend Alex Wealands joined us as a fifth member and when he left to re-form Throats, Owen took the reins on primary vocals. At this point, we moved our focus to be a more restrained, atmospheric version of the band we had been until that point. We view this iteration of the project as the truest form of our shared ideas, and in some sense, our last EP, Host is essentially the first Wren release.
What’s the story behind your deciding to go with Wren as your band name?
For a number of historical and conceptual reasons. Primarily because it appeals to us aesthetically.
When putting Wren together, did you have a particular sound goal or direction in mind in terms of the type of music you wanted to play or did the sound just happen naturally?
Although the band has changed sonically since its inception the goal has always been to very consciously write progressive and atmospheric music whilst trying remain authentically ‘heavy.’ In the past, this was more of a ‘post-metal’ approach, but we’ve deliberately tried to shed that skin and move into noisier and more experimental territories. Our latest member, Seb joined five weeks before we recorded Auburn Rule and his interest in repetitive noise-rock bands like Noxagt and Shellac got us closer to the churning minimal, rhythm section concept we had in our heads.
How much touring have you done since your previous album and what do you feel you’ve learned from playing live that you’ve been able to apply to the new album?
Due to line-up changes our previous touring stints have been quite brief prior to this release. We’ve also found it somewhat difficult to put together long stretches of touring due to the usual demands of daily life. Instead, we’ve opted to organize short runs with bands we feel a creative affinity with in order to be tasteful about where we focus our time and efforts. Thankfully now, we’re in a position to put all our focus into supporting the release of Auburn Rule, as well as the future releases we have in the pipeline.
How long did it take to write Auburn Rule and what would you say were the major motivations that spurred you towards the creation of this new album?
Some elements of this record are around a year old, whilst other portions were written within weeks of being recorded. Once we reached the previously mentioned lineup state, it’s actually been quite effortless to write as Wren even with dramatically different song concepts. This has helped create what we feel are cohesive groups of songs even when dealing with vastly different tones and song ideas, which has allowed us to pursue experimentation further. As with other releases, the main motivation behind each song’s creation has remained the same and is largely the reason for Wren’s creative output as a whole. The titles Host and Auburn Rule directly reference our inability to not dwell in the stages of constant creativity. Without being too grandiose, we often feel at the behest of the actual songwriting process and each release is less of a choice as individuals and more of a necessity as conduits of our own creativity.
Was there anything that was done differently in terms of the way the album was written or recorded than what you had done in the past?
Auburn Rule was recorded with Misha Hering at Holy Mountain Studios and in discussions prior to recording with him we chose to track the album with minimal overdubs to retain a live feel we haven’t had on any of our previous records. Additionally, we got closer to our intent of utilizing the voice as a fifth instrument, buried in the mix as a textural element rather than a figurehead of each song. Additionally, Misha played synth on a number of noise interludes.
How would you characterize Auburn Rule against your previous recordings?
In our opinion, this album is a more fully realized version of the approach we began on our last EP. Reflectively, we highlighted certain finesse points that interested us most about our previous release Host and decided to pursue those when writing this record, whilst applying more space and tonal complexity. As always, we looked to expand our sonic palette on this release by making unique gear and amplifier choices, and by steering clear of traditionally high-gain metal guitar tones.
What does the title refer to?
The album title has a few meanings conceptually. In as much as Host was a nod back to the cyclical nature of creativity, Auburn Rule is a further refinement of these ideas, as previously discussed. Although, this as with all of our imagery, is deliberately painted in broad strokes so as to leave room for interpretation. The usual nature and autumnal themes are present throughout the album, as with our previous work.
What do you feel were some of the bigger lessons you learned in going through the writing/recording/dealing with Holy Roar processes in the creation of the new album?
This is the first time we’ve had multiple parties involved with the creation of any of our releases, so it’s been a learning experience in balancing everyone’s needs and expectations. Holy Roar is always massively sympathetic to our specific approach, which is a massive privilege and true honor.
Once the album is fully out what’s the plan? And what are your hopes for Wren going forward?
Aside from our release tour in which we will be performing Auburn Rule in full alongside the contributors that helped make the album, we will be continuing various works with our long-term visual collaborator. Additionally, we have two or three future releases currently being assembled, so we anticipate much more activity before the end of the year.