Welshly Arms frontman Sam Getz disputes the notion that the band’s hit single “Legendary” is about them.
Lines such as “Cuz we’re gonna be legends, gonna get their attention” were inspired by old-fashioned Cleveland pride and determination.
“Being a massive Cleveland sports fan, I channeled a little bit of LeBron James,” says the lead singer and guitarist from a tour bus headed from Detroit to Burlington, Vermont. They’re just two stops in on a three-week, 16-city tour that wrapped in March.
But the song, one of four tracks on their 2017 Legendary EP sounds like prophecy right now. It’s just the latest success notched by a group that sold out its very first gig at the Beachland Ballroom in 2013.
Even people who don’t know the Welshly Arms name probably have heard the band’s music. Their songs have soundtracked TV shows such as The CW’s The Vampire Diaries and Netflix’s Sense8, commercials and trailers for the likes of Miller Lite, Indian Motorcycle, the Quentin Tarantino-directed film The Hateful Eight, and a national TV-and-radio campaign for the Cleveland Indians.
At the same time, Welshly Arms has toured seemingly nonstop throughout the United States and Europe. On July 3, they kick off a monthlong gig opening for Thirty Seconds to Mars.
In fact, one of Getz’s favorite tour memories occurred while playing a major festival in Bern, Switzerland, last summer. He was watching a weekly top-10 video countdown and began to wonder: What kind of stuff is popular over here? “It gets down to, like, No. 3 or 4,” Getz recalls, “and it was our music video [for ‘Legendary’].”
Their appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live last year reveals why. The tunes are an ear-grabbing mix of rock, blues, soul and gospel. The performances are raw energy tempered by years of collective experience.
Bassist and vocalist Jimmy Weaver hypothesizes that, in a world of shifting trends and tastes, the band emerged at exactly the right time, when their sound was just what people wanted to hear.
“We started as something for our soul,” he says. “When we play live now, we don’t go into it worried about, Do we look cool enough? Are we loud enough? Do we have the right clothes on? No, we just kind of go up and have fun.”
The band traces its beginnings to a Sunday afternoon cookout at Getz’s Avon home in 2013. Weaver was there along with drummer Mikey Gould, whom Getz knew from their days together in power-pop/punk band Cactus 12 and Bay Village native Kate Voegele’s tour band. Also there was Brett Lindemann, a keyboardist and vocalist, who all three had played with in various bands during their high school years.
They ended up jamming in Getz’s basement. “It almost became sort of a regular Sunday thing,” Getz says. “Because of that, we actually started writing songs together. I had a little studio there, too. So we, conveniently enough, were able to start recording the songs that we were writing while we were jamming.” The sessions yielded the 2013 EP Welcome.
The foursome, who christened themselves Welshly Arms after “The Love-Ahs with Barbara and Dave” skit on Saturday Night Live, followed up with an EP of covers ranging from the Sam & Dave hit “Hold On, I’m Comin’ ” to Golden Earring’s smash “Radar Love.”
Then in 2015, husband-and-wife vocalists Bri and Jon Bryant, who had served as studio musicians during the recording of full-length Welshly Arms, joined the permanent lineup. “That was a big evolution for us, to add that to the full-time sound of the band,” Getz says.
The six-piece signed with Universal Music Group’s Republic Records last year.
Getz notes that Lindemann has begun using synthesizers along with the piano and organ, while Weaver has grown as a recording engineer and producer. Fans should notice the changes on a new album due out in early summer. “We had to evolve,” Getz says. “At the same time, we still keep the other foot in that blues, gritty, soul kind of world.”
Welshly Arms still records in their hometown, if not Getz’s basement. “The fact that we do record all our stuff on our own in Cleveland makes it possible to be able to stay on it and work on it so much,” Getz says. “We all put 100 percent of our energy and all that into this band. I think that is what it takes.”