Charles Bissell, Greg Whelan, Kevin Whelan, and Jerry MacDonald formed a band in the late 80s under the name Low. They eventually released a 7" under this name. They were signed to the label Grass Records soon after, but changed their name to The Wrens after learning about the popular slowcore group that was also named Low. By 1996, The Wrens had released two albums, Silver (1994) and Secaucus (1996). Both arrived to critical acclaim and a fair following of fans. Meanwhile, Grass Records was bought by Alan Meltzer, who wanted to focus more on popularity and hit songs. He tried to force the Wrens to sign a new, bigger contract, as well as to make more radio-friendly music, but the band refused. As a result, they were dropped from the label and production of their previous two releases was halted. Meltzer ended up changing Grass Records' name to Wind-up Records and signing the band Creed.
The Wrens continued to make music quietly. All of the band's members besides MacDonald lived in the same house, and they continued to write and record songs, while also keeping day jobs. Over the next seven years, the band was in limbo, searching for a new home while still trying to put a new album together. Finally, in 2003, the band released its third full-length album, The Meadowlands. The new album was a resounding success for The Wrens, achieving positive reviews in publications such as AllMusic, Pitchfork and praise from critic Robert Christgau. The album was described by The New York Times as a "nearly universally acclaimed disc of bright literate pop".
In late 2006, Wind-Up records finally reissued the band's first two albums.
Also in 2006, The Wrens recorded a cover of the song "They'll Need A Crane" for Hello Radio, a tribute album to They Might Be Giants.
The Wrens are currently working on a follow-up album to The Meadowlands.