How Welshly Arms' Legendary became the surprise gospel rock hit of the summer

Welshly Arms

“Sixteen million Spotify streams feels pretty good!” says Welshly Arms drummer Mikey Gould. “It’s awesome to see Legendary connecting with so many people in so many places around the world.” He’s talking about the band’s recent single, which is, to use record industry parlance, blowing up all over the place.

It’s the power of the playlist: you find your song on a number of influential Spotify lists and suddenly it’s exploding. Those millions of streams. 400,000 plays on Soundcloud. More than half a million Shazams. TV exposure. It feels like a career-defining moment for the Cleveland group.

The video for Legendary was released just last month. It starts with a bank robbery and ends with the band in animal masks, being driven around the streets of Los Angeles by a woman armed with a pump action shotgun. Musically speaking, it’s a gospel-tinged slice of cinematic LA noir, capturing the hazy, widescreen feel of the city in a way that songs occasionally do — think Bran Van 3000’s Drinking in LA, REM’s Electrolite, or Screenwriters Blues by Soul Coughing — songs that somehow capture both the city’s dramatic allure and its dark underbelly.

“The video shoot was a lot of fun,” says Gould. “It was awesome to see what went into the production and getting to cruise around LA with a police detail escorting us. It was great timing wise because we shot it during the dead of winter in Cleveland so to get to roll around LA with the top down on a sweet vintage car felt really good.”

Welshly Arms formed in Cleveland in 2013. Some of the band had played in high school bands together, some had moved away and came back, all shared a love of classic rock’n’roll and thundering R&B. And while Legendary may show the more atmospheric, elegiac side of the band, there’s plenty of fire in their other work, from the fierce slide guitar on their cover of Sam and Dave’s Hold On I’m Coming — used on the trailer to Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight — to Bad Blood, a thumping slice of distinctly modern blues rock.

But what about that name?

“It comes from an old 90’s Saturday Night Live sketch with Will Ferrell and Jimmy Fallon,” says Gould. “Sam [Getz, band frontman] and I used to sit around watching that show when we were teenagers and we always used to quote that sketch. I think we originally had the name as a place holder… but then we liked it so much it just stuck.”

After a summer spent travelling — the band have played big outdoor shows on both sides of the Atlantic, including slots at the legendary Rock am Ring and Rock Im Park festivals in Germany — the band head back to Europe in September, a jaunt that includes a visit to London’s Hoxton Bar & Kitchen on September 12 (full dates below).

“I think people at Hoxton can expect a good foot stompin’, whiskey drinkin’, rowdy sing along,” says Gould. “We love the energy when the crowd gets involved and we consider everyone in the room as part of the band for the night. What makes us unique is that we have a rule to never play the same show twice. We always try to mix it up live, coming up with jams on the spot and trying to always keep it fun for us and the crowd!”

Welshly Arms Tour Dates

Jul 22: Mile of Music present Live at Houdini Plaza, Appleton, WI
Jul 29: Oswego Beats & Eats Series, Oswego, IL
Aug 09: Wade Oval Wednesday, Cleveland, OH
Aug 15: Rockwood Music Hall-Stage 2, New York, NY
Aug 17: Old Rock House, St Louis, MO
Aug 18: Record Bar, Kansas City, MO
Sep 12: The Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen, London, UK
Sep 15: Soundcheck Festival, Gottingen, Germany
Sep 16: New Pop Festival Baden, Germany
Sep 17: Ampere, Munchen, Germany
Sep 19: Zoom, Frankfurt, Germany
Sep 21: Docks (Reeperbahn), Hamburg, Germany
Sep 22: Luxor , Koln, Germany
Sep 23: Frannz Club, Berlin, Germany
Sep 24: Hydrozagadka, Warsaw, Poland
Sep 26: Grelle Forelle, Vienna, Austria
Sep 27: Mascotte Zurich, Switzerland
Sep 28: Serraglio, Milan, Italy
Sep 30: Thrival Music Festival, Swissvale, PA

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Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.