It is a beautiful, uncommonly warm Sunday in December. Shane Wells ’22 and I sit outside Wiggin Street Coffee on two Adirondack chairs. He is wearing a jacket studded with dozens of bright pins and patches. As he speaks, his earrings glitter.
“When I first started finding my own music, the first band I was ever into was Metallica,” he said. “Around eighth grade I entered a sort of emo/scene phase — I don’t trust anyone who didn’t — and in high school my friends started introducing me to, like, Andrew Jackson Jihad [now AJJ] and The Mountain Goats, my favorite band of all time.”
Now 20, Wells has been writing music since he was 16. At first he released music under the name Jenny Sector, which he also used for the occasional high school drag performance. Now his musical persona is Organs, and he uses it to earnestly tell the stories of his friends. On his most recent released album, Wounds Heal Here, almost every song is a letter to someone he loves, with a “me” and a “you” in each tender set of lyrics. Although his songs tend to follow the folk-punk format, and are often tinged with melancholy, they have none of folk-punk’s occasional dreariness. There are simple acoustic songs, but there are also dissonant, frenetic, electric songs that reverberate from one’s speakers. The album is an unexpected puzzle of many different sounds and feelings that somehow fit into each other just so.
Wells describes himself as a “human sponge”: someone who takes in the narratives of the people around him. Songwriting is, in a sense, his way of understanding and removing himself from these narratives. For a year and a half before attending Kenyon, he lived on his own in Nashville, where he unloaded trucks at a garden center and later worked as a line cook at a local café.
“I met a lot of very broken people with very intense stories … I would come home at four in the morning just sad and fried, wanting to put distance between myself and those things,” he said.
The music scene of rural Ohio could not be more different from that of Nashville, where, in Wells’ words, “there’s a really high barrier for entry with music. It’s a place people go where they decide ‘I want to take my music seriously,’ so everyone has kind of a chip on their shoulder.”
Wells came to Kenyon to be an English major — searching out some way of honing his ability to tell stories. Kenyon’s ragtag, close-knit music scene has been inspirational for him as well. He’s even joined the intense first-year punk band Chocolate For Dogs along with writing and playing his own music.
“Here, it’s different,” he said. “There are really only three places to play: parties, The Horn and Peirce Pub. There’s less competition, and it seems like the people here are a lot more willing to talk and listen. You aren’t the 18th person to shove your music under their nose that day.”
Wells’ punky, lyrical music can be found at https://woundshealhere.bandcamp.com/releases.