Listening to the first moments of The Apache Relay’s new single “Katie Queen of Tennessee,” it’s easy to pick up on the Nashville sextuplet’s pop pedigree in the cloying violin twirl and breezy snare drum. It’s a sophisticated start to their self-titled sophomore album, an 11-song collection full of satisfying, layered moments due out April 22.
“We’re all very inspired by Phil Spector and everything he did with that wall of sound thing,” said guitarist Ben Ford said. “I think on this record we did try to channel a little bit of that, in our own way. Our musical tastes are very eclectic and I think on this record that’s coming out, we thought, ‘This feels right. Let’s go with it.'”
About five years ago, the Apache Relay started out as an instrumental project but the addition of Michael Ford Jr.’s dynamic lead vocals allowed them to expand to a thick Spector-ish wall of sound. A year or two after, Ford Jr.’s brother, Ben, joined the band.
“I never really thought about it, but that’s the gist of it,” Ford said. “Just a bunch of college kids screwing around.”
All that screwing around must have been worth something, as the band hits the Tractor Tavern Wednesday night on the tail-end of a tour that has stretched across the country from Wisconsin and also included a pit stop in Austin, Texas for SXSW.
The band actually narrowly avoided being a part of the car accident that left two dead during SXSW, an experience which rattled them.
“Twitter started blowing up and we found out it went down not far from where we played (that night),” Ford said, speaking the morning after the accident. “It’s so terrible and horrific. Fortunately we were all safe.”
It’s not all gloom. Ford and his cohorts have plenty of good things to concentrate on, as well, including a spotlight on Rolling Stone where they debuted “Katie Queen of Tennessee,” co-written by Los Angeles songwriter Johnathan Rice. Ford said that the song, while not necessarily representative of the whole album, helped set the tone when the band was in the studio.
“It’s pretty natural for us to lead with because it was the first song to come together in the studio and in some ways dictated the way we approached the rest of the record,” Ford said. “I wouldn’t say the rest of the record is as throwback-sounding, but sonically it was when we said, ‘Okay, let’s go with this.'”
Other indie bands will share the spotlight with the Apache Relay. L.A. quintet The Lonely Wild gets top billing, while Soil and the Sun get opening duties. Tickets are $10 and doors are at 8 p.m.
-Owen R. Smith, on Twitter @inanedetails