You already missed your chance. The Apache Relay was here bringing the masses heart and soul with their indie-Americana sound. But no longer. On September 21st, 2015 the band posted this on their social media pages, explaining that they are going their separate ways. Let me tell you why that is too bad.
The group formed in a dorm at Belmont University in Nashville, and grew to represent much of what the “Nashville Sound” has become: Indie rock with touches of folk, bluegrass, rhythm & blues, and pop. Pleasant harmony sits in a bed of modern production, and highlights Nashville’s emphasis on song writing, as opposed to song making. While this sound is growing into a formula for some, The Apache Relay was on the front end of it. Though they never quite achieved the status of other artists in their ballpark, like Local Natives or Fleet Foxes, they showed strong promise that they might.
The Apache Relay gained notoriety after their second album American Nomad when they opened a number of dates for pop-bluegrass all-stars Mumford & Sons. They also got some attention when their song “Power Hungry Animals” was featured in the movie The Way, Way Back. While not exactly a blockbuster, the film supported a pretty stellar cast, and shed an interesting light on The Apache Relay’s song. Look at it in the context of the promotional “music video” they made.
It’s essentially a trailer for the movie. The song plays while clips of video from the film plays over it. Yet it could totally work on its own. It doesn’t have the look of a music video, but with small changes in editing and color, it could. Take away the distraction of Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, and a few other actors you’d recognize, and you’d be left with a music video that nails the feel of the song. We see images of a coming of age story. A teenage boy struggles through smattering of classic themes: loneliness, romance, body issues, family, youth, father issues, a summer away, friendship, etc…
The beauty of this is that these are exactly the kinds of themes that The Apache Relay should be reminding you of. The modern “Nashville Sound” is built on them. Bands like Mumford & Sons and Local Natives rely on this nostalgia to complete their music. Their songs are striving for an emotional power in addition to just sounding good. Pop and Dance music is escapist; It makes you forget about your problems and just feel good. Adele makes you cry. Indie-Americana has an element of memory tied to it. It’s a return to roots, a call home. The blend of folk and bluegrass style with modern instrumentation and production is the old become new. The past become present. It’s a return to youth, to summer. To that time that you did that thing that changed the way you think.
This is why “Power Hungry Animals” is featured in the trailer for “The Way, Way Back.” Prominently. It comes in at the end. At the time when the trailer is showing you conflict and tension and growth and love. When the trailer needs to say “This movie has warmth and depth and feeling,” it uses this song, and it is the song that takes your interest in the kid and turns it into care.
Yet The Apache Relay is gone. But do not dismay! Front-man Michael Ford, Jr. has made an appearance or two, and their parting message specifically says the members are looking to “explore new endeavors.” There doesn’t seem to be any news on this front yet, but in the meantime, there are three albums of Apache Relay to work through. If that well runs dry, check out some other Nashville indie-Americana acts, like Humming House, Sugar & the Hi Lows, or Knoxville’s Cereus Bright. Hopefully that will hold y’all out until a reunion comes around.