The image adorning the cover of the Apache Relay's self-titled album is striking, and seemingly not of its time, much like the Nashville band's music.
A man is caught midair, long locks flying as he plummets toward a waiting backyard swimming pool. Nearby, one buddy seems to be cheering him on, while another sits poolside in a lounge chair, lazily picking at an acoustic guitar.
It's an idyllic image, and a true-to-life one as well. The high-flying man is Apache Relay fiddler Kellen Wenrich, and he was jumping from the roof of an old Bel Air house the band rented when they traveled to Los Angeles to record their third full-length, which was was released this spring.
"We have some Airbnb masters in the band," says guitarist Ben Ford, recalling Wenrich's dramatic leap and noting the luck they had in finding the old ranch-style rambler. "It was super '70s inside. We ended up getting pretty attached to that house. We spent a lot of time there. Unfortunately, I think it's been purchased and bulldozed, which is kind of heartbreaking."
Ford and his cohorts will always have the memories, yet spending five months in a house right out of The Brady Bunch will probably recede in their minds as the sextet continues its rise through the ranks of young folk-rock acts. Just five years since forming at a Belmont University dorm jam session and releasing their first album, the Apache Relay has already toured with the likes of Mumford & Sons and Jenny Lewis, hit major festivals like Bonnaroo and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and headlined their own tours across the country.
When it came time to record new music, they left Nashville for sunny skies and the legendary Sound City Studios — renamed Fairfax Recordings after Dave Grohl's documentary introduced much of the world to the place where countless monster hits were born. The experience of moving together to a strange land to record was a bonding one, Ford says, since "we were all in it together, figuring out how to do it."
They figured it out just fine, judging by the lush sounds filling The Apache Relay, from the "Wall of Sound" vibe of album opener "Katie Queen of Tennessee" to harmony-laden love songs like "Don't Leave Me Now." Not only is the songwriting the best of the band's three albums, they just sound great.
"That room, I get why so many people have recorded there," Ford says. "It sounds so good. It sounds crazy, but I feel like you can hear [the room] on the records that have been recorded there. When I listen to those old Tom Petty records, I can hear that room in it, almost. It sounds weird, but it's true." ♦
The Apache Relay with Desert Noises • Thu, Oct. 23, at 8 pm • $10/$12 day of • All-ages • The Bartlett • 228 W. Sprague • thebartlettspokane.com • 747-2174