The Apache Relay’s “American Nomad” grabbed my attention the first time I put it in my CD player a few years ago. An impassioned folk-rocker, steeped in the stylings of The Boss, and littered with boisterous sing-a-longs and uplifting crescendos, the record hooked me on the Nashville-based group.
I waited patiently for a follow-up, and this past spring, good news came to me via Facebook. All of a sudden, my friends were sharing about a new Apache Relay song called “Katie Queen of Tennessee.” Finally! I quickly clicked a link.
The song opens with an uptempo pickup, courtesy of a string section, before launching into a sort of folk-meets-Doo Wop-ish pop song. I was somewhat taken aback. The elements from “American Nomad” were starkly absent. That’s not to say I thought “Katie Queen of Tennessee” was a bad song, but it did not grab me the way “Power Hungry Animals” or “State Trooper” did.
When I spoke with The Apache Relay’s guitarist Mike Harris last week, the burning question for me was “why take such a different direction?”
“It’s never been a real conscious thing for us, other than we don’t want to make the same album twice,” he said. “‘American Nomad’ represents a time and a place for us.”
All of a sudden, “The Apache Relay” was cast in a different light for me.
Of course their latest record is different. For one, it’s three year’s removed from “American Nomad.” “A lot can change for a band in that amount of time,” Harris reminded me.
Harris said many of the band members were fans of 60s R&B and Motown music, and found their newer songs drifting in that direction. To help capture their evolving sound, the Apache Relay tapped Kevin Augunas, who has helped Jessie Baylin, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes, Needtobreathe and J. Roddy Walston & the Business put out some fine records, to produce the self-titled LP. “He had some really cool credits that we were all down with,” Harris said.
Augunas and the Apache Relay holed up on the other side of the country in Van Nuys, Calif. at Fairfax Recordings, once the site of the legendary Sound City Studios where Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumors,” Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Damn the Torpedoes” and Nirvana’s “Nevermind” were recorded.
“It’s probably the coolest studio I’ll ever get to record in,” said Harris. He went on to say that he liked the end result more than “American Nomad.” “I think we all do,” he said.
“The Apache Relay” was released in April. Something of a media frenzy followed. For months, every time I logged into my social media, I saw at least one post about the band, the album or the lead single.
If nothing else, the most recent record has been far better received than anything else in the band’s catalog. As it should be. Despite my comments above, after a few listens of “The Apache Relay,” it did grow on me. Tracks like “Katie Queen of Tennessee,” “Terrible Feeling” and “White Light” now rank right alongside my favorites from “American Nomad.”
“We’ve put a lot of time into learning how to play this record live,” says Harris. The band is embarking on an extensive North American tour which features a couple of stops in the Hoosier state.
“We take a lot of pride in our show, and we take a lot of pride in our touring,” Harris says. “Expect to have a great time, and come see us give it all we got.”
The Apache Relay play the Egyptian Room in Indianapolis with Trampled By Turtles on Sept. 17. They will return to Indy, this time at the Deluxe at the Old National Centre, playing with Wild Feathers, on Nov. 4. Visit. www.oldnationalcentre.com for times and tickets.