The Apache Relay
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The Apache Relay

Nashville, Tennessee, United States | INDIE

Nashville, Tennessee, United States | INDIE
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Dec
15
The Apache Relay @ The Wolf Den at Mohegan Sun Casino

Uncasville, Connecticut, USA

Uncasville, Connecticut, USA

Dec
15
The Apache Relay @ Great Scott

Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Dec
13
The Apache Relay @ Rockwood Music Hall (Stage 2)

New York, New York, USA

New York, New York, USA

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Congrats to The Apache Relay for winning our Best of 2010 fans' poll. They are one of Nashville's youngest and freshest indie folk acts, gathering nearly 1200 fan votes. They made huge strides in 2010 with their gorgeously rootsy release of 1988, as well as a rigorous regional touring schedule. They wowed the masses with numerous local shows as well, including opening for Dr. Dog at Live on the Green this past summer. They preceded melodic indie rockers The Great Collide and playful singer songwriter Madi Diaz. Below is the Fans' Poll Top Ten, and thanks to all the bands for spreading the word about it! The composite chart results (including the vote of our jury of scene makers) will be out later this week, so be sure to check back for the overall winners! - The Deli


The message has been relayed. Those who were fortunate enough to stumble upon The Apache Relay’s performance at Bonnaroo this year are taking the word to music lovers everywhere, and it’s spreading like wildfire.
The Apache Relay Live at Grimey's
The Apache Relay truly are the next big thing. The four guys who make up this indie roots quartet hail from all over but were linked together through Belmont University in Nashville. Michael Ford, Jr., Mike Harris, Kellen Wenrich and Brett Moore are on the brink of a promising, even exploding, career.
The story of how this band came together is quite simple actually. Harris and Ford lived next door to each other in Belmont’s Pembroke Hall, where the two became friends. It wasn’t until a few years later, when Ford was playing solo acoustic shows, that he found out Harris had launched a bluegrass band with a few other guys and named it The Apache Relay.
“So I gave Mike a call and asked if they would play a show with me,” Ford tells us backstage at Bonnaroo. “Then, that formed from a little acoustic quartet into what is now The Apache Relay.”
This young, up-and-coming act already has two albums under their belt. Their first album, 1988, featured musical guests Jessica Lea Mayfield, Byron House and the Avett Brothers’ Joe Kwon. Harris says having these guests on their debut album was a dream come true for him.
The Apache Relay released their sophomore album, American Nomad, this past April, and the record has a slightly different feel than their debut. “We didn’t sit down and say, ‘OK, now that we have made our folk record, let’s make an indie rock record.’ We didn’t plan that out—it just evolved into that,” Moore says.
That said, one thing The Apache Relay say they tried to keep consistent with both albums was the feeling of intentionality, or as they describe it, coming from a place of honesty.
American Nomad has a bit more of a rock vibe than the first record, offering a brilliant cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “State Trooper.” Speaking of “The Boss,” Springsteen is a musician these guys credit as one of their top influences.
“Bruce is the musical forefather of all this musical movement which is really pure and based on honesty,” Moore says.
Along with Springsteen, Apache give props to bands like Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers, which is pretty impressive since Apache have actually collaborated with both of these bands already in their young career. In addition to these groups, the guys point to 1960s soul music and add Motown, The Beatles and Wilco to their list of influences.
When it comes to writing their songs, Harris says he believes inspiration is not always something you can pinpoint.
“It’s a very reactionary thing,” he says. “Maybe we will be at a festival like Bonnaroo and just randomly walk up on a band we’ve never heard of or planned on seeing. That’s the type of thing that is just neat to react to.”
Ford is the primary composer when it comes to the band’s lyrics. He says things are constantly popping into his head to write and that he is always being inspired. For him, being on tour has proved helpful in the songwriting process.
“Being on tour is awesome because you can pull from experiences and vibes from different cities and write songs based around that, so that’s been really exciting,” he says.
This year was The Apache Relay’s first year to hit the stages of Bonnaroo, and boy did they hit the ground running. Folks just walking by the lounge area that Apache Relay played couldn’t help but to be drawn in by the band’s overall enthusiasm.
Ford tells us that one of his Bonnaroo highlights from this year was when Mumford played Which Stage and The Apache Relay were able to be side stage for the show.
“To see the impact they’ve made and see tens of thousands of people together where everyone was so passionate, it was like this community,” Ford says. “I get chills even thinking about it. Those guys are amazing.”
Harris says he has a whole new outlook on Bonnaroo after coming down to Manchester and being in the hustle and bustle of things. “I just have so much respect for people that want music this bad. It’s such a man versus wild thing—stay hydrated, get rest—it’s serious,” he says.
This quartet does a lot of touring, and they spend a good deal of time together out on the open road. Their band is still fairly young, but thanks to the number of hours they spend in close proximity, they seem to have a good read on each other. “We know when someone needs company or needs space or whatever it is,” says Ford. “We don’t have a lot of dramatic moments.”
Wenrich, who has remained pretty quiet for the whole beginning of our conversation, takes the opportunity to chime in and say, “We all get along really well. Any band has its trials and turmoil on the road, but ours are generally about people taking their shoes off in the van or something like that. We don’t have big fights. It’s just like, ‘Man your feet stink. Put your shoes back on (they all laugh).’”
On a more serious note, Wenrich adds, “One of my favorite things about this group of people is that we all are somewhat different, but we are incredibly similar. I think that’s just a beautiful thing. We manage to get along so effortlessly.”
Before The Apache Relay leave, they’re kind enough to pull out their acoustic instruments and entrance us with their song “Set Me Free.” As they wrap up the tune and start packing up, a writer from Rolling Stone steps out from behind us and praises the band on what a wonderful job they have done.
The best is truly yet to come for this talented, easygoing group of young men. When asked what their future goals are, Harris replies that they only have one goal: “Keep having as much fun as possible,” he concludes. “I think that’s the only goal worth having.”
Check out our exclusive Bonnaroo Brite Session with The Apache Relay. - Brite Revolution


For our second day at Summer NAMM 2011, American Songwriter brought along the guys from Apache Relay to have some fun and test out some new gear. We hit all of the big names, playing some high-end Martin acoustics, messing around with some of Electro Harmonix’s latest toys, playing stainless steel instruments and checking out Taylor’s newest solid body electrics. Overall, it was a great day to be in Nashville.

Apache Relay prepare to make their mark on Summer NAMM 2011 at the Nashville Convention Center.

Our first stop was at Martin, where Mike Harris, the guitarist for Apache Relay, tested out the new CEO-6 Sunburst acoustic-electric guitar, which was designed by Martin’s CEO Chris Martin. The guitar combines the traditional “Sloped Shoulder” Dreadnought styling of Martins from the 1930s with modern accompaniments such as a Fishman F1 Aura pickup system and a Performing Artist Profile neck. The guitar retails for $3,299.00 and is available now. - American Songwriter


How has the sound of the Apache Relay evolved in the past few years, and how much of that do you think is influenced by your live show?
We first met and began playing music together because Michael (Ford Jr.) had an acoustic project lined up to record as a response to inspirational acoustic records such as The Second Gleam and Raising Sand. Michael needed a band of acoustic musicians to back him up, and Mike, Brett, and I had been jamming fiddle tunes for a few months so we needed a singer to play behind. The band was born somewhat out of necessity, the four of us rallying behind Michael Ford’s desire to make an acoustic record, something he’d never done as a member of multiple rock groups in Nashville.
However, after we finished 1988 and began touring and getting to spend a lot more time together, we discovered that we had a lot more in common musical than just an appreciation for folk music. We realized that we all love the energy of Motown and the music of Arcade Fire, Wilco, Radiohead, Springsteen, and so on. We also discovered that we had the abilities to go beyond the constrictions of acoustic music. We never made a conscious decision to become a rock band; it just kind of happened.
What does it mean to be a band from Nashville how has the city helped you guys?
Nashville really keeps you on your toes. It’s a constant source of inspiration and it’s great having so many industry people around you constantly. It definitely helps you feel like a small fish in a big pond.
What was the process of recording American Nomad like and how is this album different then previous releases?
The recording process for American Nomad was incredibly similar to recording our first release 1988. Both were tracked for the most part completely live, and both times we were crammed into small studios. In 1988 the drums were tracked live two feet behind Michael Ford’s vocal mic. On the new record, you can hear Mike Harris’ electric guitar (acoustically) in a vocal mic before it swells into the amp. We’re really inspired by the recording process of both acoustic and Motown records; a bunch of guys recording music live all together.

What does the future hold for the Apache Relay?
We’re currently on tour with G. Love and the Special Sauce which has been going great. We’re having our first national release on April 12th, American Nomad, which will be accompanied with a coast-to-coast tour with Ezra Furman and the Harpoons. Before that we’ve got another G. Love date in Dallas in the midst of two showcases and a handful of parties at SXSW. We’re also going to be playing a few dates with a band called Young the Giant that we’re all stoked about. - TRISTATE INDIE


If you want to make songwriter Michael Ford Jr. squirm, press him hard to define the sound of his band in a single sentence. As bassist, lead singer, and frontman for Nashville's Apache Relay, he knows how he feels about the aggressively twangy and melodic music he and his bandmates create. He just can't quite put it into words.

"Let me think on that for about six hours, and I'll come up with something concise," he says, speaking from Wilmington, N.C., last week on the first night of the band's current Southeastern tour. "It's so tough to do. Each person in the band has diverse musical tastes, and they all have visions of the band and what they want the band to look like and sound like. The overall sound just comes from that mix, from everyone's unique identities. A lot of times, people describe us as a rock band with roots influence. We're definitely inspired by much of the American Songbook and '60s soul and all sorts of stuff."

Ford and guitarist Mike Harris started the Apache Relay while attending college and sharing a dorm at Belmont University in Nashville. Ford had already earned a positive reputation around campus for his songwriting.

"I first started getting serious about writing songs late in high school," says Ford, who grew up in New Orleans. "Hurricane Katrina hit during my senior year [Aug. 2005], and my family moved from Louisiana to Florida right after that. My brother and I always had bands together, but my songwriting took off after that difficult experience with Katrina and the move, and then followed right through college."

Ford says the band name came from a suggestion from a friend who loved the 1995 kids' fat camp flick Heavy Weights. It was the name of a go-cart race competition between the chubby kids and their rivals.

"We're all '90s kids, and we loved '90s movies, including kids' comedy movies," says Ford. "At the and of that movie, there's a final race between the underdog fat kids and the athletic kids called 'the apache relay.' We felt like it was humorous reference — just a random '90s reference that we ended up embracing. The Myspace URL was available at the time. There's definitely nothing political or serious about it."

Ford and his bandmates — Harris, fiddler Kellen Wenrich, drummer Aaron Early, and kid-brother guitarist Brett Ford — have been on the road for most of the year, traveling and performing in support of a melodic and energetic collection titled American Nomad. They've mostly played across the Southeast and Eastern U.S., spending weeks as the opening act for Philly songsmith G. Love.

"We have a new drummer on this tour [Early], but the instrumentation and sets don't vary much from gig to gig," says Ford. "No matter the size of the venue or crowd, we try to give the audience everything we can. It's easy to let things intimidate you, but we try not to psych ourselves out."

While American Nomad has a few shadowy moments of melancholy (like the anthemic "Home is Not Places"), it's peppered with fun quirks (especially the cleverly orchestrated "Power Hungry Animals" and the title track) and occasional bluegrass/folk licks. Lushly produced by Nashville-based engineer Neilson Hubbard, it features most of Ford's recent originals including "Lost Kid," the second single from the album (it hit radio this summer). His chord progressions, hooks, and lyrics exude a sense of down-home musical confidence.

The new studio album also offers a soulful rendition of Bruce Springsteen's "State Trooper," a song that became a live show staple for the band.

"We all were influenced by Nebraska, and we played the song out of necessity in the very beginning because we didn't have enough material to fill the set," says Ford.

So far, most of the critical and popular reaction to American Nomad has been quite positive. Some have hailed them as Nashville's answer to North Carolina's Avett Brothers and England's Mumford & Sons.

While Springsteen's influence is most prevalent on the band's recordings, the Boss' earnest folk-rock sensibilities weren't always on Ford's radar. As a teen, he was more interested in harder, more modern stuff.

"My generation in New Orleans seemed really into Southern California rock bands," he says. "I started with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Mars Volta and got into hardcore and a lot of metal from there. Then I started listening to folk music and songwriters. Jeff Buckley's Grace was a huge record for me. Glee by the Avett Brothers was very big, too. In Florida, my musical tastes changed. I think it's like how phases of your life change."
- Charleston City Paper


If you want to make songwriter Michael Ford Jr. squirm, press him hard to define the sound of his band in a single sentence. As bassist, lead singer, and frontman for Nashville's Apache Relay, he knows how he feels about the aggressively twangy and melodic music he and his bandmates create. He just can't quite put it into words.

"Let me think on that for about six hours, and I'll come up with something concise," he says, speaking from Wilmington, N.C., last week on the first night of the band's current Southeastern tour. "It's so tough to do. Each person in the band has diverse musical tastes, and they all have visions of the band and what they want the band to look like and sound like. The overall sound just comes from that mix, from everyone's unique identities. A lot of times, people describe us as a rock band with roots influence. We're definitely inspired by much of the American Songbook and '60s soul and all sorts of stuff."

Ford and guitarist Mike Harris started the Apache Relay while attending college and sharing a dorm at Belmont University in Nashville. Ford had already earned a positive reputation around campus for his songwriting.

"I first started getting serious about writing songs late in high school," says Ford, who grew up in New Orleans. "Hurricane Katrina hit during my senior year [Aug. 2005], and my family moved from Louisiana to Florida right after that. My brother and I always had bands together, but my songwriting took off after that difficult experience with Katrina and the move, and then followed right through college."

Ford says the band name came from a suggestion from a friend who loved the 1995 kids' fat camp flick Heavy Weights. It was the name of a go-cart race competition between the chubby kids and their rivals.

"We're all '90s kids, and we loved '90s movies, including kids' comedy movies," says Ford. "At the and of that movie, there's a final race between the underdog fat kids and the athletic kids called 'the apache relay.' We felt like it was humorous reference — just a random '90s reference that we ended up embracing. The Myspace URL was available at the time. There's definitely nothing political or serious about it."

Ford and his bandmates — Harris, fiddler Kellen Wenrich, drummer Aaron Early, and kid-brother guitarist Brett Ford — have been on the road for most of the year, traveling and performing in support of a melodic and energetic collection titled American Nomad. They've mostly played across the Southeast and Eastern U.S., spending weeks as the opening act for Philly songsmith G. Love.

"We have a new drummer on this tour [Early], but the instrumentation and sets don't vary much from gig to gig," says Ford. "No matter the size of the venue or crowd, we try to give the audience everything we can. It's easy to let things intimidate you, but we try not to psych ourselves out."

While American Nomad has a few shadowy moments of melancholy (like the anthemic "Home is Not Places"), it's peppered with fun quirks (especially the cleverly orchestrated "Power Hungry Animals" and the title track) and occasional bluegrass/folk licks. Lushly produced by Nashville-based engineer Neilson Hubbard, it features most of Ford's recent originals including "Lost Kid," the second single from the album (it hit radio this summer). His chord progressions, hooks, and lyrics exude a sense of down-home musical confidence.

The new studio album also offers a soulful rendition of Bruce Springsteen's "State Trooper," a song that became a live show staple for the band.

"We all were influenced by Nebraska, and we played the song out of necessity in the very beginning because we didn't have enough material to fill the set," says Ford.

So far, most of the critical and popular reaction to American Nomad has been quite positive. Some have hailed them as Nashville's answer to North Carolina's Avett Brothers and England's Mumford & Sons.

While Springsteen's influence is most prevalent on the band's recordings, the Boss' earnest folk-rock sensibilities weren't always on Ford's radar. As a teen, he was more interested in harder, more modern stuff.

"My generation in New Orleans seemed really into Southern California rock bands," he says. "I started with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Mars Volta and got into hardcore and a lot of metal from there. Then I started listening to folk music and songwriters. Jeff Buckley's Grace was a huge record for me. Glee by the Avett Brothers was very big, too. In Florida, my musical tastes changed. I think it's like how phases of your life change."
- Charleston City Paper


The Apache Relay might've been on their way to becoming Nashville's answer to The Avett Brothers or Mumford and Sons, all amped up and unplugged — except for one small matter. "[The Avetts and the Mumfords] are acoustic bands with elements of rock," points out Apache Relay fiddler Kellen Wenrich. "I have the feeling that we're a rock band with elements of acoustic [music]."
He's talking about The Apache Relay of 2011 — the band responsible for a brand-new, exuberantly tuneful, irresistibly idealistic indie-rock album called American Nomad, as opposed to the group known as Michael Ford Jr. and the Apache Relay, which debuted two years ago with 1988, a singer-songwriter set supported by a thoroughly modern and newly hired string band.
Both albums feature the same core lineup: Besides Wenrich and animated frontman Ford, there's lead guitarist Mike Harris, plus Brett Moore on mandolin and keyboards. But in the time since they made the first one, they've turned into a bona fide, likeminded, egalitarian band of buddies. They've even locked in a regular rhythm section in bassist Adam Schafer and drummer Aaron Early.
The consensus among the quartet is that anthemic elements — more than picking — reflect their true musical identity. "It's funny," says Moore, "because I feel like most bands, seven albums into their career, that's when they make their special project. A kind of departure from their normal sound. Bruce Springsteen did The Seeger Sessions a while back, which is like his folk record, and hired a totally different band to do that. I feel like 1988 was that, but for some reason we did that first."
Ford may have been inspired at the time to write a batch of acoustic songs, but he'd also led an indie-rock band called The Hollywood Ten with his brother Ben. "I grew up playing in rock bands since I was, like, 13 years old," he says. "We all listen to that music a lot. For me it was returning to what's natural."
The four discovered that their listening habits very definitely transcended folk, bluegrass and folk-rock when they climbed in the car to tour and chose CDs for the ride. Moore says the conversations went a little like this: "'You're not putting The Seldom Scene record in? You're putting in In Rainbowsby Radiohead?'"
So they ended up stocking their own album with taut, energetic grooves and big, bright walls of reverb-drenched electric guitar, keys and strings — plus a cover of Springsteen's "State Trooper" and a tentative step toward Motown ("Watering Hole"). Moore describes what they're doing as reinterpreting the American Songbook for their generation. (For the record, The Great American Songbook they have in mind is a little different from the one Rod Stewart has been cherry-picking for the past decade.)
"I wonder sometimes if our generation is just focused so much on trying to recreate the exact sounds of the '60s and stuff," says Moore, "what is the music of our generation going to sound like 40 years form now? Not that we're consciously doing this, but I'm kind of excited about making the music exist for now. I'm not saying that our songs are what defines our generation. We're just one of a billion artists out there. But I think we're just trying to be in the now and be completely honest."
That big-picture sensibility comes through in their songs. Ford sings of freedom and belonging with youthful conviction, and his melodies feel tailor-made for lung-bursting sing-a-longs. "A huge part of playing live for me," he says, "is meeting people afterwards and feeling like there's no barriers, because you just played a show and you feel like you can communicate on this level that, if you hadn't just played music, you would never be able to."
And on that front — if not instrumentally — The Apache Relay can already rival the Avetts or Mumfords. "Those guys earned their fans one at a time," says Harris. "We're willing to do that too." - Nashville Scene


Discography

American Nomad
2011 4.12.2011

Photos

Bio

The Apache Relay was formed by chance in a Nashville college dorm when Michael Ford Jr. (vocals, bass) met Mike Harris (guitar, vocals). Ford Jr. happened to be looking for some musicians to help perform his own music live, when he heard about Harris’ newly formed band, The Apache Relay. Ford Jr. hired the trio, which also included Brett Moore (keys, guitar, mandolin) and Kellen Wenrich
(fiddle), to back him at a show and it was immediately evident that the four musicians had a unique chemistry and were on to something special.

The four-piece released their debut LP titled 1988 in 2009. Produced by Doug Williams, (renowned for his authentically raw approach with the Avett Brothers) the record was lauded by Paste Magazine as one of “The Eight Most Auspicious Musical Debuts of 2009”. The band’s ability to effortlessly blend acoustic sounds with ferocious rock anthem elements only hinted at the band’s capabilities.

Capitalizing on the initial success of their debut with relentless touring, The Apache Relay honed their sound and released their sophomore album American Nomad in April 2011, in the US, via indie stalwart Thirty Tigers. Produced by Neilson Hubbard, the collection of modern roots-rock tracks encompassed the eclectic range of influences the band meshed so well; a tinge of Bad Brains, some Suzuki training, jazz lessons, a lot of Beatles’ listening, a knowledge of traditional mountain music, a worship of Phil Spector and the love for the complex but accessible layers of bands like Arcade Fire. A few months later, Ford Jr.’s brother, Ben, joined the band as rhythm guitarist and supporting vocalist. The brothers had been harmonizing and playing together since the age of 12 and 13, so it was a natural fit.

Since the release of American Nomad, The Apache Relay, who round out their live show with the addition of drummer Aaron Early, have continued their regiment of non-stop touring, amassing a fervent fanbase and performing over 100 dates in 2011 alone, including coveted spots opening for Grammy nominated Mumford & Sons, and a breakout performance at Bonnaroo Music Festival. 2012 will see the band continue to tour in support of American Nomad including stops at SXSW, Canadian Music Fest, and Newport Folk Festival. The band’s first Canadian release, American Nomad EP, will be available through Dine Alone Records on March 13, 2012. The EP includes selected tracks from the band’s previous US full-length release. “They've got kind of an Arcade Fire meets boys raised on gospel and Bruce Springsteen approach to what they do, and they're called The Apache Relay. They're a fantastic live band.” - Huffington Post “The Apache Relay’s second album, American Nomad, is an excellent effort from a musically skilled group with evident appreciation for the rich, layered brand of American rock ‘n’ roll that pays homage to the road…” -Indie Shuffle