Disclosure: Paul and Weston Nern are writers at The Post. Given the nature of the content, they were necessary interviews to provide the band’s perspective, so an exception was made to allow them to interview for The Post.
The time is 8:03 p.m. on April 29. It’s a typical Saturday at The Union, 18 W. Union St., as four bands are set to play and the doors for the night’s show just opened. A small handful of people are already trickling in, saying, “hello” to twin brothers Paul and Weston Nern of local band Rent Free. The band’s bassist, Michael Wells, is on his way to the venue. Wells, a senior studying music production, is graduating the following weekend, effectively making this show the last time Rent Free will be on a stage together for the near future.
Paul Nern, a junior studying communications and the guitarist and lead singer of the band, said the group initially thought Rent Free was going to see its last show last May, as Wells was originally planning to graduate early. However, plans changed and Wells decided to stay for another year.
After already experiencing the emotional build up to Wells leaving a year ago, the Nerns said now they have to face that Wells’ departure is reality this time around.
“We just exchanged lengthy texts earlier in which … (I said) that literally what we needed was him,” Paul Nern said. “He’s been a great friend to all of us and he’s been the perfect bass player for what we’ve been going for. The bases were loaded and we hit a dinger.”
The Nerns said they plan to be in Athens for the summer, so if they schedule a show and Wells is in town, they will absolutely have him play with them again. If they recruit a new bassist, they said the potential new member of the band would join with the understanding that if Wells is around, he and his bass will be returning to the stage with the Nerns.
“I’m gonna miss him, man,” Weston Nern, a junior studying business and drummer of Rent Free, said. “Michael just fit in really perfectly, because to fit in with twins like us who never shut up ever, you really just got to be the right vibe and he was.”
The last time The Post spoke with Rent Free for a print article, the group was getting ready to release its debut, self-titled EP. Fast forward just over a year and Rent Free released its new single, “The Nicotine Song,” in the early hours of April 29.
“This is a single for our EP; we have four songs coming out including ‘The Nicotine Song,’” Paul Nern said. “If people have seen us this year, they’ve heard all (of these) songs live. We self-recorded because Michael is an amazing engineer and producer and we’re going to release (the EP) as soon as he finishes the mixes.”
Wells said he will be in Athens for a little while after graduation, but beyond that there are not any plans set in stone for him to come back and visit.
“I’ve been blessed with Paul and Weston’s desire for me to be a part of their project and their enthusiasm for me wanting to play bass with them and just be a part of their stage presence,” Wells said. “I’m just happy that they allowed me to come along on the ride and I just love those boys … they’re both going to go far.”
To send Wells off, the band played the nine-minute “Jesus of Suburbia” by Green Day, taking in every second of the song’s bass, guitar and drum solos. It was planned that the rock opera would be the last song of the night, but a chant for an encore commenced. The boys obliged and the energy of the crowd once again intensified as the first few chords of “Burnout” by Green Day rang throughout The Union.
Now, the time is 1:42 a.m. Rent Free just closed the four-band show and a roaring crowd applauds and cheers for the trio, each of the boys looking at each other with ear-to-ear grins. The crowd has started to disperse, but the band’s friends and family stick around. They watch the Nerns’ appreciation of Wells and their time as a band materialize as they each hug him. Emotions are high as they each share heartfelt words with Wells, delaying the packing of equipment that marks the beginning of the end of the night.
“It has just been really fun coming down here to watch them,” Amy Nern, mom of the Nern twins, said. “It makes you feel young again, to just be down here in the front row and watch them do their thing.”
At the end of the summer, Wells will be moving to Nashville, Tennessee, to pursue a master’s in science of audio engineering at Belmont University. At the same time, Paul and Weston Nern will be on the verge of entering their senior year at Ohio University. Whether they’re in Music City or living up their last months in Athens, all three members of Rent Free will have the memories of house shows, nights at The Union and all of the other shenanigans in between for a long time.
“Love you, Mike,” Weston Nern said.