My Firsts: Kevin Whelan of Aeon Station | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, February 26th, 2024  

My Firsts: Kevin Whelan of Aeon Station


Mar 29, 2022 Photography by Ebru Yildiz Issue #69 - 20th Anniversary Issue
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My Firsts is our email interview series where we ask musicians to tell us about their first life experiences, be it early childhood ones (first word, first concert, etc.) or their first tastes of being a musician (first band, first tour, etc.). For this My Firsts we talk to Kevin Whelan of Aeon Station (and formerly of The Wrens).

Aeon Station is the new solo project of Whelan’s. His debut album as Aeon Station, Observatory, came out in December on Sub Pop. This was after The Wrens spent many years laboring over the follow-up to 2005’s The Meadowlands. In 2014, The Wrens tweeted that they had a fourth studio album completed and ready to put out, an album that it was later revealed was turned into Sub Pop in 2013, but Whelan’s bandmate Charles Bissell reportedly put a halt to those plans in order to develop the album even more. By 2019, Bissell was ready to release the album, but a disagreement between him and Whelan put the album’s release in limbo. Bissell subsequently stated that “The Wrens were dead.” Whelan is now using his new moniker, Aeon Station, to release some of the songs from the album that never came to light.

Read on as Whelan talks about playing the piano, crushing over Bono, and opening for The Fixx after recording one demo.

First word?

I have absolutely no idea—I asked my 83-year-old mother and she said, “I can’t remember your birthday, how would I remember that?”

First best friend?

My brother Greg Whelan, who is also a member of The Wrens.

First pet?

Never had a pet. My parents were allergic but I believe that was a lie and they just didn’t want to walk a dog or buy pet food.

First broken bone?

No broken bones. I did get 33 stitches in the forehead by running into a wall in third grade.

First time you had to go to the hospital?

To get my tonsils out. It seems like it was a ’70s thing to get your tonsils out

First time you fell in love?

I fell in love with my Snoopy stuffed animal. The doll had no dog ears so it sort of looked like a scary old man.

First person you kissed?

The first person I ever kissed was actually Jerry MacDonald’s (The Wrens’ drummer) wife, Bridget. Jerry and Bridget have been married for 25 years with four amazing children. Bridget is really the reason why The Wrens came to exist. We were looking for a drummer and I remembered that her boyfriend at the time was a drummer—so I called her up and asked if she would ask her boyfriend if he wanted to play drums. Over 30 years later, Jerry is still my best friend on the planet and truly the secret weapon on the Aeon Station songs.

First time your heart was broken?

I read this in the Peter Brewis of Field Music Firsts that he did for Under the Radar. I also love Field Music as an aside. However, I agree, the first time my heart was broken was when Tom Baker (Doctor Who) regenerated. I was so torn up about it, I believe I wrote about it in my diary for like two weeks: “how could they do this…” etc.

First movie you saw in the movie theater?

The first movie I saw in the theater without my parents was The Blues Brothers—which was also the second album I bought with my money. Those songs, the car crashes, the outfits were just perfect.

First TV show you were obsessed with?I lived in an area where we didn’t really get TV channels. We even had a huge antenna in the attic of my house. Even the channels we got were usually all snowy and weird.

First record your parents played for you?

The Mamas and the Papas. To this day, those songs have this weird vibe of sad harmonies, cool songs, and me wondering why my parents liked them.

First album you bought?

The first album was Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band 1979 movie soundtrack. Oh my god!!! With Peter Frampton, Bee Gees, Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, Earth Wind and Fire…and George Burns. Complete and utter madness but wow did I love that double record.

First favorite band? Actually, I would have to say it was Liberace. I started playing piano and his style and ability to play so well just mesmerized me. Even with all those rings, he could play so fast.

First favorite song? “The Night Chicago Died” by Paper Lace. The song is crazy as hell—super weird intro and it just moves through so many sections. But I had the 45, it was even broken. I had a nickel taped to the record player needle so the record could play without skipping.

First musician you had a crush on?

Wow. Hmmmm. I guess I would have to say Bono. When you see that glorious mullet in the “New Year’s Day” video it just commands you to love it and love him.

First concert you went to?

First concert was ELP—but it was not with Carl Palmer, it was with Cozy Powell. I was pretty disappointed that it was not Palmer but it was soon forgotten once Keith Emerson took the stage.

First instrument?

The first instrument was the piano my mother bought from her school teacher friend. It sat in the dining room. No one in the house knew how to play but I remember looking at it like it was some sort of weird time machine. The keys were busted up but when you pressed those keys together, it opened up the musicverse.

First band you were in?

The Wrens. I was only ever in one band. It’s like marrying your high school sweetheart.

First professional recording session?

I recorded a three-song demo with my brother in this wack-crazy studio in Atlantic City, NJ. The songs were absolutely horrible but it got us our first ever show which was to open for The Fixx. However, The Fixx canceled—we played but there was no “Saved By Zero” that night.

First time you performed in public?

I played Scott Joplin rags at this ice cream parlor in Cape May, NJ. It was one of those places where all the waiters and waitresses sing songs. I was the sole nerdy piano player who would accompany the singers and play a solo.

First bad review?

The first bad review is to this day one of my favorites of all time. The Wrens released their first seven-inch, which we were so proud of. We got one of our first reviews and all it said was: “Why do The Wrens exist?”

[Note: This article originally appeared as a bonus article in the digital version Issue 69 of Under the Radar’s print magazine, our 20th Anniversary Issue, which is out now. This is its debut online.]

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