“It was the worst of times, it was the best of times, that’s more like it. The worst came first,” laughs Kellen Wenrich of the birth of his most recent project, Kellen of Troy, formed amidst life transitions, a breakup, and the demise of his band, Apache Relay. “There were a lot of things coming to an end then. But, I met my now wife during that time, and it was a renaissance period, a good time of change in my life.”
Wenrich, who was always a fixture on the Apache Relay stage (and now onstage in the backing band for The Devil Makes Three) with his fiery fiddle skills and mane of long red hair, began playing violin at age five. “My mom asked if I wanted to play violin or piano; when I chose violin she asked me why, and I said, ‘Because I can’t carry a piano,’” he laughs. “I started writing in high school like everybody does, and it was pretty grim. Every couple of years since then, I’d go in spurts of writing, but I’d never found a voice that worked for me until I started Kellen of Troy.”
Kellen of Troy moved from casual side project to main gig, as he spent the last couple of years writing songs for his 2017 EP The Sad Bastard and his brand new LP Posthumous Release. “I started writing to work through some personal stuff and force myself to do something uncomfortable,” he explains. “It’s a lot easier to be the side guy, you don’t have to put yourself out there emotionally, you just put the frosting on top of what’s there. To be the frontman is a bit more taxing, but way more rewarding. I’ve learned not to compromise what I want to say artistically, and not to whitewash anything, to chip away at anything that will obscure what you’re trying to accomplish,” he continues. “It’s an ongoing battle, but I’m getting better at it.”
Posthumous Release features ten country-tinged tunes brimming with road dust, reverb, and revelation. “I was listening to a lot of Simon & Garfunkel; I gravitated to tunes like ‘Cecilia’ and ‘Bye Bye Love,’ those nauseatingly peppy songs that have bone-crushing lyrical content,” he says with a laugh. “When you’re that melancholy, and your music sounds that melancholy, that’s too much for me. I don’t know if I hit the mark, but that’s what I was shooting for.”
“I made the album in my basement studio, and studio is a very generous term for what it is,” Wenrich laughs. “My buddy Jacob Edwards played drums, I had a friend play pedal steel on a couple of tunes, and I did the majority of the rest of it,” he recalls. “My friends say they didn’t see me for a year, but to me, it only seemed like a couple of weeks.”
However, there is one thing missing from Posthumous Release—the fiddle. “It was very intentional, I didn’t want to be able to rely on something I’d done for 20-plus years to be a focal point or a distraction,” he explains. “I wanted to articulate the story or the philosophy of the music with about being like ‘And here are some fiddle tricks for you,’ you know? It’s a nice balance right now to be able to play fiddle and shred with The Devil Makes Three a little bit, and then have my own thing going on.” Will Wenrich ever revisit the fiddle with Kellen of Troy? “Never say never,” he says.