Napa musician Zak Fennie is only 26, but he is feeling the tug of nostalgia for his youth. This is the inspiration for his new EP (extended play) recording, “Kids Ride Bikes.”
It will be released on major platforms, including Spotify and Apple, on Friday, Sept. 27, under his new brand, Half Measures.
“It’s a big deal for me because I’ve rebranded with a new name,” Fennie said. “I’ve been playing so many shows as Zak Fennie, and a lot of the music is covers. I wanted to differentiate the songs that I create myself. I considered a lot of names before I decided.”
He said he found “Half Measures” in a scene in the Netflix series “Breaking Bad” in which a character admits “he no longer has the luxury of pulling his punches, and that would have to commit himself 100% to every action he took from that point on. The name is meant to be a reminder to myself of where I came from when I was unsure of myself, and I decided I wanted that to be my commitment to my supporters, that I would be putting 100% of myself into my art and my performance. No more half measures.”
“I’ve always liked the tongue-in-cheek (sense of the) phrase. Also, I just finished my associates degree (at Napa Valley College) so Half Measures seemed to fit.”
“Kids Ride Bikes,” the first recording as Half Measures, marks a significant departure in style for Fennie, who has performed throughout Napa as a solo artist on an acoustic guitar. “I’d hit a wall with acoustics,” he said.
For “Kids Ride Bikes” he wanted to move into styles “more electronic, indie, pop, R&B and hip-hop.”
To create the EP, he turned to a long-time friend and Napa musician Gabriel Walker, who produced the recording in his home studio. Walker has considerable experience creating sounds for the genres that were new to Fennie. He is also an accomplished, competitive beat box artist, who can mimic an astonishing array of drum sounds and other musical instruments.
“Zak and I have been playing together for a long time,” Walker said. “I took it as a fun challenge because we are such good friends. My goal in recording was to help further his project.”
“We started with a keyboard melody, and an idea,” Fennie said. “I was watching over his shoulder, learning as we went along. I realized that if you always just work by yourself, you never learn anything new.”
The new EP comprises three songs, titled “Kids,” “Ride” and “Bikes.”
Fennie, who grew up in Napa, said he got the idea as he was riding his bike through a neighborhood where he used to live. The song “Kids” grew out of “a wave of nostalgia for that innocence,” he said. “That freedom that you had when you were riding your bike. I wanted to rekindle those emotions of freedom and wanting to retain youthfulness. You grow up, get your driver’s license, and yes, it’s more freedom, but with responsibility.”
This became the song “Ride,” infused with wistfulness. “We all want to go back to being a kid.”
“So we had ‘Kids’ and ‘Ride’, what was the third part?” Fennie said. “Bikes. So we had the name but I thought what can I write about bikes that Queen hasn’t already done?”
He found the answer in a conversation with his dad, who came of age in the Vietnam era. “I heard about all of the controversy.” “Bikes” became the final song about “having to grow up.”
“I think it’s relatable,” he said. “We were trying to achieve a goal, to make people get back to being a kid. I think we have something special.”
Fennie and Walker agreed that musical collaborations are on the rise in Napa. “We’re trying to create a more inclusive community among musicians that wasn’t there before,” Walker said.
Fennie has also produced a video for his new music, which is available on YouTube, and he will be performing at Stone Brewing, 930 Third St., Napa, on Sunday, Sept. 29, from 1-4 p.m.