Warren Thomas Fenzi, is, for me personally (José), one of those cases where I’ve immediately fell in love with the artist’s sonority and the way his music sounds honest and true. If that was not enough by itself (it actually would be), he played, during the first quarantine, one of the best home-live-shows I had the pleasure to witness in more than a year. When we invited him to play our own #AtYourHome show – about a year ago – he played alone in his bedroom. Just him, a guitar, a set of loopers, but a very very intense sonority. A set that not only made me dance around the room but also one that made me feel all the feels. And that, at that time, symbolized a huge hope for the future. And that was and still is, unpayable.
But first thing first, Warren Thomas Fenzi is an artist that we may categorize around Folk, Pop, and Rock elements. He is mainly a music-storyteller and a natural guitarist. He fosters “an ongoing curiosity and examination of the emotional disunion we often find ourselves in“, and his songs tackle and challenge us into that kind of spiritual and self-journey. While doing it, his sonority sounds deep and energetic, and with the kind of novelty that we tend to rarely find in today’s music.
Today marks the release of If I Had a Dime, the first release from an outstanding album Warren will be releasing this year. The track sonority hits me instantly. Both indie-folk, Americana, but also with bits of pop and rock, there is a tranquility and ability of singing that gets close to poetry, and the guitar in the back always sounds like the perfect company. Both electrifying, and slow-building-but-somehow-firing, I can’t quite figure out how Warren makes so many great songs that emanate his personal touch every single time, but still sound different, interesting, and hooking. To the point, I feel comfortable shouting this as one of the best songs I’ve heard this year.
The track also reminds me of what I like so much in acts like Lord Huron not only in sonority and the way it blends typical American genres but also in the way it smooths a musical journey of conscience and self-examination, without sounding equally danceable and totally identifying.
Written and arranged by Warren himself (who also plays electric guitar, vocals, organ, and electronic drums), the track is produced with the help of Colin Loynachan (engineering and mixing and also plays electric guitar) and mastered by Eric Martin. The photographic work is by Josh Hild, with illustrations by Anabel Johnson and designed by Alex Munro. And Warren counts with Leng Moua in the bass guitar and Brett Bjornrud in drums and percussion. With all these incredible people contributing to a beautiful piece of art that is both meaningful and super engaging.
Garden Street, the album
Entitled Garden Street, the album is a dual record, “that takes the listener one step farther along a pictorial musical path that explores the duality of life“. Entitling his musical production and mental capacity around. And that’s exactly what I feel with this first single. The album also “reaches for the rich fabric of diversity, dissonance, harmony, and the thin line we all walk between The Upside and The Downside”.
"Garden Street tells the story of an ongoing journey to a lifestyle and mentality that I wish to deepen as I grow older. A lifestyle that sees things as they are, not as I wish them to be. A lifestyle that practices and strives to look at situations from many angles and cultivates an understanding that nothing in this life is cut and dry, black and white, good or bad… but a complex, myriad of colors of which can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. It all depends on how you look at it."
About Garden Street, the Pandemic, and the Future:
Engaged by this marvelous piece of music we went in search of some answers, with Warren kindly agreeing on conceding us a thoughtful and honest interview. We talked not only about Garden Street and its meanings, but also about life as a musician during these Pandemic times, and about the exciting future ahead.
[WtMM] Can you tell us a bit more about the events that inspired this double release?[Warren] Absolutely. So this dual-album touches on a lot of different personal experiences I’ve had in my life and ultimately capitalizes on the lessons I’ve learned/am learning from the “mistakes” I’ve made along the way. Some of which are very recent, whereas others are more distant.
Over the past 10-12 years of my life, I’ve lived in Boston, MA, Orange County, CA, and then Minneapolis, MN for past 6 years. During my time in all of these places, I’ve had experiences (as I’m sure we all have) that have taught me who I am, who I am not, and who I want to be. Through the slow decay of a couple of long-standing friendships, a complete uprooting of my life, falling in love, having my heart broken, wandering the open road in my brick-of-a-van (aka Fred the Shed), and a deep yearning, to be honest with myself and those around me, Garden Street tells the story of an ongoing journey to a lifestyle and mentality that I wish to deepen as I grow older. A lifestyle that sees things as they are, not as I wish them to be. A lifestyle that practices and strives to look at situations from many angles and cultivates an understanding that nothing in this life is cut and dry, black and white, good or bad… but a complex, myriad of colors of which can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. It all depends on how you look at it.
Were the songs featured in both parts of the record written alone and then “tackled” from the two distinct perspectives? Are they the same feelings explored in two opposite perspectives? Or are these songs more like the direct product of two distinct feelings that extrapolate to the songs without the filter of perspective?
The process of writing these songs was a bit looser and the idea for the double-album didn’t really come until later once I decided on the 17 songs that I wanted to include in the full project. After working through all the songs, it became very apparent that I could sort the songs into two very distinct categories: Positive and Negative. This is what inspired the idea to make it a double album, with one album focusing on the positive perspective and the other album focusing on the negative perspective.
Are some friendships supposed to die?
Unfortunately, I think they are… some of them! But I like to look at the death of certain friendships as a sign of growth. It’s not something to be afraid of. Nor is it something to try and analyze too much or nitpick by attempting to figure out who is at fault. If I Had a Dime is actually very much about just this. The song paints a picture of an uncomfortable conversation between our narrator and a character named Polly. What starts out as a seeming self-examination, quickly turns into a blame-game where the narrator is internally trying to figure out why this relationship with this character named Polly is failing. In the end, it ultimately leaves the listener with a question rather than an answer. To me, this song is very much about the fact that we can’t always pin-down why certain friendships or relationships die… and that’s ok.
So, are these songs more like stories you are telling from your mind and feelings for the listener to identify with? Or do you feel they are more like “free” songs that are left to which one’s interpretation?
A little bit of both. I do think they could be interpreted in many different ways. I’m certainly singing and writing from my own experiences but I also feel like these songs could represent a lot of different things for a lot of different people. My goal is to be specific enough to give the overall theme I’m trying to get across but not too specific about direct meanings because I think people make connections with music based on their own experiences and hopefully these tunes do just that. If you know me, it might seem more clear what these songs are about… but if you don’t, I still feel that the message shines through. If I could achieve one thing with all of these songs, It would mainly be to help people open their minds and begin to question HOW they’re living their life, WHO they’re surrounding themselves with, and inspire them to continue to be honest with themselves (and those around them) by taking responsibility for their actions, thoughts, and feelings.
"Some of the most meaningful relationships I've had in my life are with people who disagree with one another but are willing to listen and learn from one another as well."
Do you feel that by not living with each other we can (mentally) evolve differently, and that can be a reason for the lack of understanding between each other?
Well, I definitely think we all evolve differently in terms of mentality no matter what, whether we’re living together or not. But as I’ve grown older, I feel like I’m realizing more and more just how profound of an effect the people you surround yourself with have on your life, your choices, and your overall well-being. I’m not really sure how to overcome that lack of understanding since it’s present pretty much everywhere in all of our lives… nor do I think it should be eradicated honestly. Some of the most meaningful relationships I’ve had in my life are with people who disagree with one another but are willing to listen and learn from one another as well. That’s the really important part and to me, that seems like the main issue. Nobody wants to actually listen to each other. It’s this “either you’re with us or you’re against us” mentality that is super frustrating for me. I do feel like the basis behind really any disagreement or lack of understanding USUALLY spawns from a lack of communication though. People aren’t mind-readers haha.
Do media, the daily news, and all the excess of information we receive every day influencing our relationship with each other tragically?
Well, there’s no doubt that it influences our relationships. Absolutely. Now, whether it’s influencing our relationships in a tragic way, could be up for debate. For instance, I truly feel like the influence of social media on our society has some EXTREMELY negative side effects. Going back to lack of communication, social media can really feel like an echo chamber a lot of the time. So if the goal is to actually work out an issue and move forward, I think we need a wide variety of opinions, influences, and perspectives to really get to the bottom of what the best route towards a better outcome would be… but social media can make that very difficult sometimes. On the other side of it, social media, news, and other outlets are INCREDIBLY important and are allowing us to have access and reach people in a way that’s never been possible before. It’s a very double-edged sword. Again, in relationship to Garden Street, I have very mixed emotions surrounding modern-day media and ultimately understand that it’s really how we use it because I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon.
Is the pandemic taking a blow on friendships (and love)? Or is it filtering the ones that really matter?
I think it’s definitely filtering the ones that really matter. I’ve grown much closer to my family and friends who, before the pandemic, I didn’t really talk to that much, so that aspect has been awesome! However, it’s also helped progress the decay of certain relationships… but I like to look at that as a good thing. This entire pandemic has really forced me to “cut away the fat” in my life. All those unnecessary obligations, relationships, and ideas became very easy for me to let go of when faced with so many limitations surrounding the pandemic. And for that, I’m super grateful. Love, however, has been difficult for me in the pandemic. Online dating or just approaching someone in real life and connecting with them has felt increasingly difficult among people’s differing comfort levels. I’ll just say that I’m certainly looking forward to meeting new people, in real life! My soul is thirsting for human interaction right now haha.
In terms of sonority is this double-record different from your past works? Are these songs fit to be played both solo and with a band (and with an orchestra/quartet?).
It’s definitely different. Colin Loynachan (the co-producer of these albums) and I specifically set out to achieve the most digestible, feel-good vibe with Garden Street: The Upside. It’s very much tailored towards the feel-good nature of uplifting, pop songs. Garden Street: The Downside, however, is much more experimental with sounds and production. I absolutely love all different styles of music and I feel like I was able to quench my thirst for the “ear candy” music that I enjoy so much, as well as explore my love of experimental and less commercial sounds with the second album. Throughout 2020 I wrote about 40-50 songs, so these 17 tracks are what made it out of all those tunes. Both Colin and I’s mentality going into this was “If the song is good, you should be able to play it in ANY setting with any instrumentation”. For instance, if a song is really good, it’s good no matter how you play it. That’s how we were able to choose which songs to include and I feel like all of them are able to be performed in multiple forms. I love performing solo, I love performing with a full band, and I CERTAINLY love performing with an orchestra or quartet!–
What are the songs on each side of this record that you feel the stronger feelings or that hit you the most every time you play/sing them?
One that sticks out immediately for me is Boston at Night (to be released as the third track on Garden Street: The Upside). This song is very much about a very specific relationship I had while living in Boston, MA. It’s the only time I’ve ever been in love with someone. It’s also the only time I’ve ever told someone I loved them. The song capitalizes on the inward struggle of opening up to someone you care about in the hopes that the feeling is reciprocated. That song probably rings the truest in terms of direct emotion for me.
Do you feel that after doing a record like this there are still unfinished businesses in your head regarding these particular feelings? Or do you feel this record perfectly worked like a catharsis for you?
Oh man, definitely unfinished business! And that’s actually what I’m trying to get at with all of these tunes… the acceptance, understanding, and embracing of things NOT being finished. I honestly don’t think they ever will be finished, and though I’d like to think so sometimes, I don’t think that’s what would be best for me or even something I would enjoy. The songs are however healing for me in the sense that I’m attempting to look at these experiences through the lens of gratitude that there is still so much more to experience, feel and work towards. Lookin’ back, moving forward.
Last year you released “Live in the Atrium” a brilliant live release that impacted us with an incredible sound quality that makes us feel right there with you. What you felt it was the reaction and the consequences of releasing a big record in the midst of a Pandemic year?
Well, since that album was a video album that I released incrementally, it was probably the best-case scenario for something to release during the pandemic. The only downside to that release was that we had a performance lined up to do a live show in that exact room, for a live audience… but that didn’t work out for obvious reasons. It definitely was a challenge to accept the loss of some momentum we had been gaining prior to the pandemic.
Do you expect the reaction to this new record to be different? Are you prepared with the reaction people can have regarding matters that are so close to each one’s earth’s, and that many times we don’t know how to resolve them by ourselves?
With some of these songs being very much about specific people, I definitely get anxious thinking about whether these people will know the song is about them. So that makes me a bit nervous. I think the reaction to this album will absolutely be different though. I’m not exactly sure how people will interpret it and I have no idea what exact songs people will really connect with but if experience has taught me anything, it’s that there’s really no way to tell what’s going to resonate with others and, oftentimes, it’s not the song that you think will.
Isn’t life the ideal time to learn how to forgive?
Yes. Forgiveness of others and oneself… and jeez are those both difficult haha. I actually was watching an interview the other day with a successful actor and the interviewer asked what this actor felt was the most common trait out of all the most successful people he had met. Surprisingly he answered “The ability to forgive themselves. Every single successful person I’ve met, regardless of their career, have all had the ability to forgive themselves“. That really hit home for me because I feel like, as an artist, I’m constantly looking at past projects and thinking to myself “Man, I wish I would have done that differently”… but I think it’s always going to be that way since we’re constantly growing and improving. This idea behind the importance of being able to forgive yourself and move forward makes a lot of sense to me.
In a logic of pay-it-forward can you tell us about 3 different new artists you’ve been listening to a lot and that would deserve more attention from listeners all over the World?
Totally! The top three that come to mind would be…1) Hemma 2) Fringe Pipes (aka Colin Loynachan) and 3) Loud Sun.
Are you eager to play these (and other) songs live? How have you managed to control the anxiety of not playing live for almost a year (?)?
I’m absolutely DYING to play these songs live with a full band haha. I have a solo show coming up which I’m really looking forward to but playing with a full band is very much on my mind. I’ve honestly been doing alright with not playing live this past year. It’s been a blessing in disguise since it’s really helped me focus purely on the recording side of all these songs. I am hoping that the time is right as we get these releases underway so we can start playing live shows again though.
Do you feel the pandemic will change the context of live shows in the upcoming years?
Absolutely. I think at first, people will be quite timid, but as we become more and more comfortable, I honestly feel like more people will be going to events than ever before. People are dying to get out and see live music!
"I would love nothing more than to reach as many people as possible, but with the one condition that they truly connect and get something positive out of my art."
Can we expect WTF to be a World phenomenon? Is that the goal? 🙂
Short answer: Yes! Long Answer: Yes BUT only if that means having a positive influence on the lives of the people who connect with my art and me as an artist and a person 🙂 In other words, I would love nothing more than to reach as many people as possible, but with the one condition that they truly connect and get something positive out of my art.
Is there any question you would like to ask us?
Out of all the artists you’ve interviewed/connected with, what’s your main takeaway??
WTMM: I would like to say that main takeaway is actually not music itself, but how we learn to think about ourselves through musicians and through their lives stories (and their songs). An album like this one is both important for us in the musical way (because it rocks) but mostly because of the meaning it transmits. We've also been through some rough friendships, and through some loss, and only by learning with each other we can be better to ourselves, let alone to others... I think that's our main takeaway.
We take this opportunity to invite you to play some shows in Lisbon when is safe to travel again. Will you take us on this challenge?
Absolutely. Yes. 100%. I’m there baby!
You can and YOU SHOULD check on Warren Thomas Fenzi and the follow the links bellow for more from him. He will be releasing a lot of songs in the near future, and we can’t wait for every single one of them. Trust us, on this, you won’t regret:
Main way of getting behind Warren’s art: