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Rent Free plays a set of cover songs by Green Day before a crowd singing and dancing along at The Union on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022.

Local band Rent Free strives for best audience experience

The three boys of Rent Free have built their band around the idea of saying “yes.”

Rent Free, a local band to Ohio University and Athens, is comprised of Paul Nern, Weston Nern and Michael Wells. Twins Paul and Weston Nern and Wells have all been actively playing music on their own since they were in high school. After meeting through a mutual friend, there was a nearly instantaneous realization between them that they needed to be making music together.

Paul Nern, a sophomore studying communications, and Weston Nern, a sophomore studying business, previously established themselves as The Nern Twins. They have been jamming in their basement in Zanesville, Ohio, for over three years, but the aspiration to eventually be in a band was different for the two of them. Paul Nern has always had that mental note in the back of his mind, even quitting basketball in order to learn to play guitar. Weston Nern continued to play basketball but was eventually inspired to start playing drums. 

Paul and Weston Nern bring equipment from their van parked in the alleyway of The Union in Athens, Ohio.

It wasn’t until they became college students that they started playing gigs. In the summer of 2021, The Nern Twins found themselves as the in-house entertainment for a Fourth of July party and the seed to keep playing live shows planted itself in their minds.

“We just said yes to everything,” Paul Nern said. “It’s a little harder (now) with three schedules, but that’s still pretty much our policy.”

The Nern Twins was asked by another local band, In Flow, to open for its show on the second night of classes of the 2021 Fall Semester. Paul Nern’s desire to become a band had come to fruition, but it wasn't until Wells, a junior studying music production, was thrown into the mix that they realized how much they were missing a bass player. 

“Weston and I will be doing our thing, and it’ll sound good, but Michael has this brain that hears the space that needs to be filled,” Paul Nern said. “He’s everything our sound needed with a bassist.”

Michael Wells, left, tests the microphone while his band, Rent Free, goes through soundcheck standards before their set starts that night at The Union.

Wells started learning to play his respective instrument when he was in high school but had previously played other instruments.

“I’m pretty good with rhythm,” Wells said. “In high school, I was always a drummer, and I play piano… (Bass) is an easier instrument to pick up if you know rhythm already.”

Wells said it’s kind of a fluke that Rent Free came together. The twins went with Wells to a show at The Union as friends and overheard him say he wanted to be in a band to someone else. Both twins knew it had to be their band that he joined, so they set up a day to jam together. After playing together for the first time, the Nern brothers almost instantly asked Wells to be a part of their band.

(Left to right) Rent Free bassist Michael Wells, leader singer Paul Nern and twin brother Weston Nern, who plays drums, lounge on the back patio of The Union after their sound check.

“Paul and I are obviously going to have chemistry because we’re twins,” Weston Nern said. “On stage or practicing or as far as general friendship goes, Michael has fit in perfectly.”

Rent Free played at The Biggest Cover-Up: A 2-Night Fundraiser for the Athens County Humane Society at The Union, 18. W. Union St., on Feb. 11, performing a set of entirely Green Day covers. 

“Rent Free is f---ing awesome,” Maggi Mattson, a former OU student, said. “Michael (Wells) sounds just like the (bassist) from Green Day.”

Paul Nern sings and strums simultaneously while a member of the audience waves their hands in unison throughout the band's set at The Union.
A crowd dances together in a pit up against the stage where Rent Free plays cover songs of Green Day tracks on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022.

Rent Free cites Green Day as the biggest collective influence on its songs with other inspirations including The Beatles, Neil Young, Blink-182 and Led Zeppelin. Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar and Taylor Swift are among the members’ other favorite artists. 

Ewan Seymour, a freshman studying music production and lead singer of local band This Violet Hour, thinks Rent Free did Green Day justice at the show. 

“They brought a lot of energy; it was really nice,” Seymour said. “They knew exactly what they were doing. Every individual member was so good. Towards the end, they commanded the crowd pretty well, and I really enjoyed the show.”

Rent Free has a Brick City Records deal and is currently working on putting out original music. Producer Troy Davis discovered the band’s Instagram and decided they were the best choice for him to work on a project with. 

The band followed its No. 1 rule of always saying “yes” and now have a plan to release a single and an EP sometime this spring. Rent Free enjoys playing covers as much as the next band, but the band is looking to increase the number of originals it includes in any given set for a show. 

Weston Nern, after removing his shirt during a high-intesnity set of Green Day cover songs, wipes his face from sweat in between performing songs at The Union.

For Rent Free, the band isn’t aiming to put out as much of a message per se. Rather, it’s focusing on a common goal. While each member of Rent Free gets a lot of joy from performing, having a record deal and making music, the band places the utmost importance on how the audience feels. 

“We just want people to have fun and enjoy themselves when they decide to go to our shows,” Paul Nern said.

To learn more about Rent Free and its live performances, watch the video here:


Tate Raub

Opinion Editor

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