Welshly Arms proud to be part of big year in Cleveland; bluesy quartet set for two Rock N’ Blast shows this weekend at Progressive Field
Behind every song is a story.
Sitting across from Sam Getz and Jimmy Weaver at Lucky’s Café in the resurging neighborhood of Tremont, it quickly becomes apparent that theirs is one rooted deeply in friendship. The duo’s respective roles and personalities, later corroborated by pals/founding bandmates Mikey Gould (drums) and Brett Lindemann (keyboards), are evident in a breakfast conversation over coffee, waffles and a Midwestern shovel’s-worth of eggs, home fries and bacon known as “The Shipwreck”. Getz, the group’s front man guitarist and a born leader, handles the lion’s share of questions about the evolving formation of Welshly Arms – a bluesy, Cleveland-bred rock quartet set to release its first full-length LP later this fall. Weaver is slightly more selective with his contributions, interjecting thoughts when it best complements the anecdote at hand. “I switched to the bass because I don’t do well in the spotlight”, Weaver light-heartedly acknowledges. “I like to stay in the background and enjoy the music without having to worry about being the showman.” While that may be true, his modesty masks his reputation as the group’s unofficial music director. While his own percussion responsibilities help hold down the bottom of the groove, Gould readily defers – “Jimmy’s the engine of the group. We wouldn’t sound the way we do without him and he’s really grown into a genius producer and engineer for a lot of people around Cleveland.”
The origins of this soulful set of twenty-somethings date back much further to Cleveland’s west side in the 70’s when best friends Tom Getz and Dave Weaver played together in a high school band of their own. Their sons would not meet until many years later after Sam – raised in a rural area of Ashland – and the rest of the musically inclined Getz family returned to his father’s hometown of Avon Lake. It was a geographic, Dylan-esque “Simple Twist of Fate” that would soon put three-quarters of the Welshly foundation in place.
Music history is dotted with artists – ranging from Ray, Aretha, the Staples Singers, White Stripes and Kings of Leon – whose early beginnings can be traced back to the church in some fashion and for Getz, Gould and Lindemann, it now represents a serendipitous meeting place for three teenagers who never attended the same school. The trio played for the congregation on Sundays, but inevitably rehearsals evolved into late night hangouts that allowed the boys to share their musical tastes with one another. “Sam was always kind of my bad influence,” jokes Gould, whose life in a military family included his birthplace of England and subsequent stops in Texas and Michigan before settling in Fairview Park. “I grew up in a strict home and wasn’t really allowed to listen to good music, but [Sam] was always trying to turn me onto the blues and rock ‘n roll.” Before long, Gould was wearing out CD’s from the Sex Pistols, Jimi Hendrix and Green Day. Lindemann began tackling the keys at the age of five when he joined the steady stream of students cycling through his North Olmsted home for piano lessons from his mother, Connie. While his studies of classical music and jazz led him to the work of Bill Evans, the influence of players like John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) and Charles Hodges (Al Green) also started to settle in.
The final piece of the puzzle fell into place during the early high school years when Weaver – who played in several community orchestras growing up under the tutelage of two classically-trained parents – spotted Getz lugging his Les Paul up a nearby driveway while the former was practicing at a then-bandmate’s house. With the need for a new guitar player in mind, Weaver’s curiosity led to an exploratory knock on the Getz family doorstep. Upon answering, Sam’s mom, Wendy, recognizing the bloodlines of the best man in her wedding many years prior, beat Jimmy to the first question – “What’s your last name?”
Supporting local female artist Kate Voegele at the time (in an interesting twist, all four members of Welshly would go on to join Voegele’s band at various points), Getz had too many commitments to explore the possibility of adding another, but would later form the group Cactus 12 with Gould and Weaver. Hints of what was to come can be heard in the mellow track “All I Can Do”, but the project lasted one album before life took the friends in various directions – even away from Cleveland in some cases, as Getz toured with several acts nationally for almost 8 years. Meanwhile, Lindemann attended college in Chicago.
A backyard BBQ in Avon Lake during the summer of 2012 brought things full circle. The foursome had always stayed in touch, but only now found themselves in a position to entertain the idea of building something lasting together. That afternoon led to a Sunday ritual of basement jam sessions and before long, with the help of an old Will Ferrell “Saturday Night Live” skit that produced a name befitting of the group’s collective sense of humor, Welshly Arms became a reality. With Sam’s wife, Stefanie, out-of-town, they turned the Getz household into a makeshift studio and recorded their debut EP in just one week, beginning with the single “Two Seconds Too Late”. This past winter, the guys holed themselves up in a rental home on the Lake Erie shores of Marblehead to write and record songs for their new album, produced an original track (“Never Meant To Be”) for Positively Cleveland’s new brand campaign and flew to Los Angeles for several shows in front of national programmers and music supervisors – a move that has resulted in several licensing deals for TV and movie promos. Welshly then headlined a near sellout concert at the Beachland Ballroom in April to build on what’s becoming a big year for the hometown rock n’ soulers.
In talking with each member of the band, there exists an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the opportunity to be pursuing this dream with this group of friends at a point when Cleveland’s revival has never felt more within reach. “For us, this couldn’t come at a better time,” says Gould. “When we were younger, we all had thoughts about moving to Nashville or L.A. because that’s where we thought we were gonna make it. We’ve all gone to those places and done those things, but in coming home, it feels like we built something here. With each other.” Arguably the most well-traveled of the group, Getz adds, “People in this city work extremely hard and we try to embody that in the way we approach our music – we put our time and our sweat and our tears into it. Our music can be a little greasy, a little gritty.”
A successful career in the music industry doesn’t always afford the chance to align your support system with a city you love, but Welshly Arms seems to be on the verge of pulling that off. “It’s been unbelievable,” Lindemann reflects. “I went on to play with a bunch of different people over the years, but [this group of friends] was always the band for me. If I could hand pick three guys to play together with, it would be this. It’s just crazy that it’s happening. It’s a blast.”
-TribeVibe contributor Court Berry-Tripp (special thanks to Mark Chipello & Position Music)