The Apache Relay released their fantastic third studio album, Apache Relay, back in April.  Since then they have been touring, playing festivals like Shaky Knees, and venues around the country, with no signs of stopping anytime soon.

Their most recent tour with The Weeks and Shelly Colvin brought them back to Philly on May 23rd at North Star Bar, but not without a stop earlier in the day at World Cafe Live for WXPN’s Free at Noon. Audio & Photos HERE on WXPN’s The Key.

To give you an idea of the kind of day these guys had; they started off finishing their Boston show on the 22nd, loading-out, and getting on the road at 3am to drive straight to Philly, arriving at World Cafe to load-in for the show at Noon.  They then had a quick few hours of sleep before loading into North Star Bar for the next show.

The Apache Relay @ North Star Bar | Photo by Tia Marie

The Apache Relay @ North Star Bar | Photo by Tia Marie

Through the haze of the day you couldn’t tell they were affected by the running around and lack of sleep once they hit the stage.  The Apache Relay have been one of my favorite live bands for years and they continue to get better every time I see them, Friday was no exception.  This band has their sound dialed in for every live performance, providing a streamlined signature sound in comparison to their album.  Their set runs smoothly between songs with little chit-chat in between tunes, providing a taste of both new and old songs to please any audience.  Each member provides a key piece to the package that is The Apache Relay.  From Mike Harris’ with his skills in the slide guitar and backing vocals, Kellen Wenrich’s key and fiddle additions (which got the audience pretty excited), Steve Smith’s drum perfections, Ben Ford’s catchy bass lines and backing vocals (can’t go wrong with harmonising brother, right?), Brett Moore’s (keys, guitar, mandolin) multi-instrument tasking, to Michael Ford Jr.’s attention to lyrical detail and killer dance moves.


Good as Gold
Sets Me Free
Katie Queen of Tennessee
Power Hungry Animals
Growing Pains
Can’t Wake Up
Lost Kid
Don’t Leave Me Now
Further North (Johnathan Rice cover)
Watering Hole


Photos by Tia Marie


I (TSI) got a chance to sit down and chat with the exhausted and charming frontman Michael Ford Jr. (MJF) and Kellen Wenrich (KW) before the show.  We talked about things both serious and ridiculous, as expected….

TSI: How have the new tunes been received, since most of the new songs haven’t been played before the album release and they’re quite different from American Nomad?

MFJ: Basically everything was restructured out in California while recording the new album and a lot of the writing was done out there.  I think it’s been received well. I didn’t know how American Nomad fans would accept the record, since it’s very different.  We’re very different people since we made that record.  We’re all in our mid-twenties now and have grown a lot musically since then.  Nomad now give us a base to work off of, with Nomad no one really knew about our band, we had to tour a lot before people really cared about us or knew our name, so it’s nice to have a little wind behind our sails.

TSI: Since the sound has changed on the new record, what were some of the influences going into that?

KW: I think a lot of it was subconscious.  For me a lot of it was the space we were in out in California and being in a pretty historic studio where some awesome records we all love were made.  I found myself listening to a lot of older music while we were out there and I think it just came out of that.
MFJ: To add to that, we were influenced by the idea of stripping a song down to just guitar and vocals first…
KW: …for the first time we were looking at even just a harmony and melody being interesting enough to work on their own first, which is something we’ve never done before.

TSI: Do you have a favorite track off of the album?

MFJ: Originally when we got all the mixes/masters back, my favorite track was “Terrible Feeling” because that song had grown so much from the original writing and recording  process.  It was really special to hear it mixed and mastered, it really came alive.  Right now I think “Forest for the Trees” is probably my favorite, I love how raw that recording and writing was.  I wrote that song in two hours and we recorded it in one night at Sound City, with a lot of the other songs it took us weeks to record, spending days on certain parts of songs.  That song is special to me because of that.

TSI: How long did the whole recording process take?

KW: Our first trip out to California was back in October of 2012 and we left LA in early May 2013 – there were islands of time back and forth between them.  Even when we were back and not in the studio, Michael probably wrote fifteen lyrical versions of every song and we all went through and added parts.  It was definitely a long process even when we weren’t in the studio.

TSI: Was Good as Gold a reworking of an older song?

MFJ: Yes!  It was originally called “Stay Naive”.  There were variations of “Good as Gold” called “Stay Naive” that we played live a bunch especially over the Gentlemen of the Road Stopovers.  The guitar part that ended “Stay Naive” became the chorus melody of “Good as Gold.”

TSI: What’s the story behind the album cover?

KW: We hired a stunt double who flew in from NYC (jokingly).  That was the house we stayed at in Bel Aire during the whole recording process.  We were in the studio for six days a week, so there were periods of going stir-crazy, so one day the guys went out, Brett and I were sitting on the roof for awhile and said we should jump off.  So the guys drove back and Brett and I just jumped off the roof, later that day Mike took an Instagram of it and said that should be the record cover.  So we recreated that and made it happen.

TSI: Festivals vs. Venue show – Do you have a preference between these since you play a lot of both?

MFJ: They both have their own special thing about them.  For me I would go with venue shows because everything is more likely to be dialed in with sound and lights, and have their own aesthetic with a full production aspect.

TSI: Favorite food while on tour?

KW: Vegan Tacos
MFJ: I used to not eat meat, so usually I would say that – now that I do eat meat again, I’m gonna go with really good hamburgers, somewhere…anywhere.
KW: Anything that’s good while on tour is just so hard.
MFJ: As long as it’s quality and local, that’s nice.

TSI: When you’re in the van listening to different music, how does it vary between the six of you?

MFJ: So much!  It’s not uncommon in one drive to hear Doom Metal, Dylan, Motown… I like to listen to rap sometimes. It’s so drastic, we all have so many different musical tastes.

TSI: What did you listen to on your overnight drive here last night?

KW: I was listening to this band out of Seattle called Cataldo – they really get me pumped, also Crosby Stills and Nash, LCD.
MFJ: you have to have those records that will get you through the night.  Everyone has that record.

TSI: What’s your favorite thing about playing in Philly?

MFJ: I love seeing Kellen’s family, they’re super awesome.
KW: I had a really good vegan cheesesteak… I do have a lot of family, so it’s always good to see them since I don’t make it up here that often.

TSI: If it’s the end of the world and you had to build and animal army to protect yourselves…Which animals would you choose?

KW: Definitely a mongoose because I’m terrified of snakes.
MFJ: First up is rhinoceros, those guys are tough!
KW: Can they be fictional or do they have to be real?
TSI: whatever you want them to be!
KW: I think the eagles from Lord of the Rings would be pretty cool for me to ride around.
MFJ:  My next is a hippopotamus, because those things are so fierce.
KW: Are you picking everything African?
MFJ: Oh yeah, I want to live in the Sahara.  Right next to the watering hole. I’m gonna have the rhinos on the land and the hippos in the watering hole…no pun intended…pun intended…
KW: Maybe a bear would be good to have around on your team. They could run, climb, and catch fish.
MFJ: My next would be a carrier pigeon.  If there’s someone else out there I want to be able to communicate with them and I want them to be able to communicate back.  Strength in numbers. Carrier Pigeon!
KW: I think the other guys would be happy with just a good hunting dog.
MFJ: Definately. I would get a bunch of bald eagles, so they could build me a nest and shelter.
KW: I think a camel would be a good one to have.  They’ll stay hydrated.
MFJ: I would have cows, heifer cows, the ones that you can drink milk straight from the udder.  Then if I get hungry I can eat the cow.  In the meantime I’ll just drink it’s milk and all the other animals could drink it’s milk.  Self sustaining community in the Sahara.

Be sure to follow The Apache Relay and download their new record, Apache Relay, out now!