From a corner booth in Jukebox bar, Sam Getz taps his fingers to the retro-soul cut "Use Me" by Bill Withers. A favorite cover tune for his band Welshly Arms, it wails from a jukebox that also holds his blues-rock songs.
"Sometimes I lock myself away with records by the greats, like Lightnin' Hopkins," says the lead singer and guitarist, still keeping the rhythm.
Like a TV junkie on Netflix, it's what he calls blues binging. And by mixing classic influences with good ol' Black Keys-style rock 'n' roll, Welshly Arms has emerged as a near overnight success. Their first single, "Two Seconds Too Late," blew up with more than 25,000 YouTube views in its first day online. Then came electrifying gigs at Austin's South by Southwest and Los Angeles' Hotel Cafe — a rare feat to accomplish in only two years.
Their throwback rock has even reverberated from screens both small — on the CW's The Vampire Diaries and The Originals — and large — for movies The D Train, in theaters May 8, and The Boy Next Door.
But the biggest rush came when the Cleveland Indians used their song "Dirty Work" in an ad and invited them to perform at Progressive Field.
"It's just surreal," says Getz.
And now, Welshly Arms will release their long-awaited self-titled album May 5 and follow it with a May 9 House of Blues show featuring local acts the Modern Electric and Teddy Boys.
While Getz's soft voice barely eclipses the jukebox tunes, he howls, growls and slinks onstage with the swagger that echoes the icons he locks himself away with. His ease is a result of performing since age 14 with the Sam Getz Band that his drummer father helped him start.
"My dad and I have always communicated through music," reminisces Getz, who has performed with Rolling Stones' Mick Taylor and Fleetwood Mac's Peter Green. He was a part of the poppier Cactus 12 band and toured with singer-songwriters Stephen Kellogg and Kate Voegele before forming Arms in 2013 with high school pals.
One spin of the new album and it's apparent why they have such an explosive fan base. They bend genres and take sonic risks that keep the ear occupied and the fingers tapping. While songs like "Leave It All Behind" invoke a haunted, moody gospel effect familiar to their EP Welcome, the sentimental closing track "Who Knew" Getz penned for his father draws on a softer sound.
"Our relationship meant so much more after I had a son," Getz says. "There's a line about how I've been saving all the stories he's told me. Playing for the Indians, that's a story I'm going to tell my own son one day."