Late last year, Cleveland blues and soul rock band Welshly Arms played to their biggest Bay Area audience to-date: Oracle Arena. The Alt-105 annual holiday concert, Not So Silent Night, was held, like in recent years, at the home of the Golden State Warriors. The members of Welshly Arms are sports nuts who root for their hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“It was crazy to have your dressing room be where the players get ready; the enemy, so to speak—to be in their house,” drummer Mikey Gould said in a recent interview.
The Cavs and Warriors, of course, have become arch-rivals, playing in the NBA finals each of the last four years. The Warriors have won three of the four matchups, but Welshly Arms aren’t bitter about that, nor are they fazed by playing in the enemy’s territory, as they will when they return July 17 to the Shoreline Amphitheatre, opening for Thirty Seconds to Mars.
“We’re light-hearted about it,” frontman Sam Getz said. “We love our [Cleveland] teams and we support them fully, but it doesn’t, at the end of the day, get in our heads or mess us up. If the Cavs were to be beaten … it’s not gonna ruin the show that we’re planning that night. It’s not gonna make us resent any fans that might be wearing [the opponent’s] jersey. I would hate if that was more important to us than our music or our fans.
“I like bringing up when we’re in a city where their team actually has beaten us,” Getz said. “I like to just beat everybody to the punch.”
Getz, Gould, keyboardist Brett Lindemann and bassist Jimmy Weaver are Clevelanders through and through. Even before the four of them came up playing in different bands in the subburbs of the Midwest City, Getz’s and Weaver’s fathers played together in a rock and roll band in the ‘70s. But their fathers weren’t even the ones to introduce them. That happened naturally through another friend as they were looking to find likeminded kids to jam with.
Getz, Gould and Lindemann never attended the same school, instead coming together at church, and were able to bond over music.
“My dad is a drummer and played all kinds of music,” Getz said. “Country, he had a rock ‘n roll [band], classic rock cover band. Then he played Motown stuff.”
His father also had an extensive record collection that turned Getz onto Motown, the blues, classic rock and British Invasion. He loved blues so much that he and his dad started a blues rock band together when he was just 14. Together they opened for the likes of Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green, Mick Taylor of the Rolling Stones and blues rocker John Mayall.
Gould, meanwhile, fell in love with punk rock because it was fast and fun to play. Lindemann’s mom and grandmother were both classical and jazz piano instructors, and Weaver was classically trained and played in school orchestras growing up.
“We’re all influenced by many different things,” Getz said. “At the core … Motown seemed to be one of the things that really we all were drawn to, and that ‘60s, ‘70s rock ‘n roll was our common thread.”
Welshly Arms’ sound has evolved into a cohesive concoction of blues, garage and classic rock, Motown and Brill Building pop.
Their sophomore album, No Place Like Home, which was released in May, leans even more toward gospel and funk on tunes likes “Sanctuary” and “Indestructible.” The former is about finding safe haven in a time when life in the U.S. seems uncertain and bleak, and the latter about pining for a woman out of one’s league.
“It’s cool that everybody brings in these other elements of things that they were really influenced by,” Getz said. “I think it is the reason that our sound is where it is.”
The gospel influence is largely due to the 2015 addition of backup vocalists Bri and Jon Bryant, who the band first included on its self-released 2015 debut album. The church choir singers were made full-time band members soon after.
That first, self-titled LP followed three years of gigging around the Cleveland area. The band settled on its name based on a 1990s Saturday Night Live skit, a favorite show of Gould and Getz.
“I think we thought maybe we would change it down the line when we had a real show or when we were gonna come out with a record, but then it stuck,” Gould said. “I’s a great reminder to us [that] for all the … success and everything; just not to take it too seriously and to still have a good time—and we do.”
Welshly Arms has since signed with Republic Records, and No Place As Home, which was released the day after this interview, is the first for the band on a major label. This had Gould and Getz both excited and anxious. For the first time, they and their bandmates had more people to please than themselves.
“The audience is broader and we have a platform that is really exciting to be able to take our music a little further and get it into more people’s ears,” Getz said. “But with that comes some pressure and some expectations … that make you feel a little different than we did three years ago.”
For the first time, the band didn’t have complete control of recording and producing. The members also had to work around much busier touring schedules. Instead of gigging around regionally, they were suddenly playing larger halls and even arenas, as in the case of last winter’s Oracle show.
“It grows and grows, and you’re on the road all the time, and you’re trying to finish records and you’ve got people with opinions that you’re working with and all of a sudden there’s deadlines and you’re trying to finish up records,” Getz said. “You do freak out a little bit when you make decisions for the sequence. … You wonder, ‘Is it right? Is it good?’
Rather than keep wondering, Gould, Getz and their bandmates are looking forward to hitting the road again and seeing what fans think.
“I do enjoy being a part of the creative process, being in the studio and making something from nothing,” Gould said. “But it’s not like the experience of getting the feedback right away, which is always what I really enjoy about performing live—to have that immediate connection.”
Follow editor Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter.