Warren Thomas Fenzi brings desert sound to Minneapolis tundra

The local musician will release his EP “Viven” on Dec. 4, channeling west coast roots and northern flare.

Warren Thomas Fenzi poses for a portrait on Sunday, Nov. 25 in Minneapolis. Fenzi said his music is inspired by internal struggles as he learns about himself, which he hopes will connect people to his music.

Jasmin Kemp

Warren Thomas Fenzi poses for a portrait on Sunday, Nov. 25 in Minneapolis. Fenzi said his music is inspired by internal struggles as he learns about himself, which he hopes will connect people to his music.

by Ksenia Gorinshteyn

For some, writing songs can be a daunting task. For local singer-songwriter Warren Thomas Fenzi, the process is more like coloring in a coloring book.

Fenzi comes up with chord progressions and melodies followed by drums. Before adding lyrics, he records voice memos of random syllables that later become sensical stories.

“I imagine a coloring book where I’ll have that, and I’ll have a recording of a voice memo of me,” Fenzi said. “I’ll sit down and almost fill in lyrics where I was singing syllables.”

The Arizona native combines a desert sound with orchestral instrumentals and acoustic story-telling. He began writing songs in high school that closely resembled those of Neutral Milk Hotel. 

“I remember playing [my first song] for my aunt and I made her cry,” Fenzi said. “I think that’s when I … realized you can affect people really heavily with music.” 

Fenzi began recording his music while attending Berklee College of Music. A multi-instrumentalist, he recorded each part of a song on his own and stayed up until 7 a.m. to finish the recording process.

“It was my first experience recording all the instruments but feeling so inspired,” Fenzi said. “I had the song and I was like: ‘Holy shit, this is it. This is real.’”

These moments came about more often as Fenzi released his first album, “WTF,” in 2017. On the album, each song flows seamlessly into the next and lyrics reflect stories of self-growth. 

“As an artist, I’d say that my goal is to connect with people in … finding some sense of relief through my experiences … that other people can connect with,” Fenzi said. “While pushing boundaries of sound design and ultimately creating something new.”

This concept has continued to inspire Fenzi through his current residency at Icehouse. He’s also a member of local music collective Kremblems, where each member plays in others’ bands. The members also live with each other.

“He was just a drummer when I first met him,” said Karl Remus, a member of Kremblems and Fenzi’s college roommate. “I’ve basically seen the entire genesis of songwriting and guitar playing and other instrumentation.”

Fenzi’s current project is an EP titled “Viven” (“they live” in Spanish) which will be released locally on Dec. 4 at Icehouse and for streaming on Jan. 4. The three songs on the EP act as a whole unit, transforming the project into a cinematic experience.

“’Viven,’ I think, is a good explanation of where I’m coming from [and] where I’m trying to go with my music,” Fenzi said.

The EP begins with the song “Hey Viven!,” presenting multiple questions to a character Fenzi has created out of the word.

“It’s like that … coming to terms with making the right choices in my life … almost being honest with yourself,” Fenzi said. “It’s like, ‘Hey I’m choosing to try to be a better person.’”

The EP then moves into “Teach Me How To Hate” and, finally, “Viven (Reprise).” While these three songs are fuller and heavier than the songs on his debut album, they continue to feature Fenzi’s roots.

“Growing up, all my favorite records were records that were like a full piece,” Fenzi said. “I’m really drawn to musicians and artists that are really good story tellers [and] put thought into the full project being a cohesive piece.”

In addition to his own projects, Fenzi plays drums for Remus’s band Lucid VanGuard and 26 BATS!, both part of Kremblems. He pushes himself to create daily, and this energy motivates his bandmates to do the same.

“[Fenzi] is one of the most hardworking musicians I’ve ever encountered,” said Bailey Cogan, the lead singer of 26 BATS!. “He will just get on a roll and write two or three songs in the span of maybe one or two days.”

Since moving to Minneapolis three years ago, Fenzi attributes much of his creative energy and stamina to the other musicians around him, particularly those in Kremblems. 

“I feel like I’m constantly reminded that I should be super grateful about the people I’m surrounded by,” Fenzi said. “That mentality of like, willing to go to any length to make these dreams happen, that’s completely what we’re all about.”

For Fenzi, this is how he wants to tell his story — the way he knows best.

“I could go work a nine-to-five or do something,” Fenzi said. “But … I have no doubt that nothing would be as fulfilling as what I’m doing right now.”

What: “Viven” release

When: 9:30 p.m., Dec. 4

Where: Icehouse, 2528 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis

Cost: $6 advance, $8 doors

Age: 21+