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27.05.2018, 12:50
“There’s a lot of parallels in music and sports”
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INTERVIEW: The title-deciding day at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 will feature a performance from American blues rock band Welshly Arms

»EHF CL Channel »2017-18 Men's CL
»Final Four
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“There’s a lot of parallels in music and sports”

Welshly Arms hail from Cleveland, Ohio; a part of the US they say has played a significant role in forming their identity and  shaping their music. These origins mean the band have made their way from humble beginnings through hard work and dedication to their craft – a struggle mirrored by all the teams on court at the VELUX EHF FINAL4. Ahead of their performance, which will include two of the songs from the upcoming album ‘No Place Is Home’, we spoke with lead vocalist and guitarist Sam Getz and drummer Mikey Gould about their career highlights with Cleveland’s sports teams, the parallels between the struggles of athletes and musicians, and of course, their music.

Let’s start with the focus of the VELUX EHF FINAL4: What do you know about handball?

Sam: We don’t really have professional handball over here so when we were in Germany last time – it was about a month ago and there were some pretty good games on TV – we were watching then. That’s really our only exposure to the sport, just a little bit on TV when we’ve been in Germany.

Your songs have been used in sports campaigns and you’ve played at sporting events before. What can you tell us about those experiences?

Sam: I’ll start by saying the sports that are really popular in America are baseball, that’s kind of our favourite pastime, and then there’s American football and basketball. Cleveland, our home town, happens to have a very good baseball team, and a very good basketball team, and a very, very bad American Football team [laughs]. Our first experience playing in a stadium or an arena or anything like that was at our baseball team’s, we call them ball parks – so it’s an outside, open-air stadium. Right when the game ended we played for 25 minutes to the whole stadium, so we’re looking at all the seats around the field and that was really an amazing experience, because it’s somewhere we also grew up going to watch the sport. To play our music there was really cool.

Your new album is called ‘No Place Is Home’. How much is your hometown, Cleveland, part of the band’s identity?

Sam: It’s actually pretty influential and the reason for that is, it’s a part of the US we call the Mid-West – it’s kind of known for being hard-working, a lot of the jobs are a little more ‘blue collar jobs’, using your hands, it’s more physical work. It’s not like a big financial district, or ‘white collar jobs’. There’s a mentality when you grow up in the Mid-West, which would be like Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cleveland – those kinds of cities, that you just have a certain grit and hard work ethic. It’s sort of a pride. We really like to represent that area and we’re prideful of being from there, so it influences our music because I think the kind of music we make is a little bit gritty. It has a lot of soul to it, and that kind of comes out of that sort of environment. It’s also, I’ll use the word ‘scrappy’, I don’t know if that makes sense – but you sort of have to like fight for everything when you’re from that area.

Mikey: It shapes you in a way too that you don’t really take these new opportunities for granted either. You work for every little piece that you get. That’s kind of what’s pushed us to get where we are now.

For handball teams playing at home can be very influential. Is it special for you to play at home in Cleveland?

Sam: It is. It’s always a really good time. We started there and we spent a long time learning how to play as a band and writing our first record, and doing all that before travelling, so we really set our foundation in Cleveland. Playing a concert is very much like playing a hometown game, where you’re in front of your audience and your people. You get that support, that love, and that’s really cool.

Mikey: It’s awesome too cause, as we grow, so do the venue sizes, and that means for home too, so a lot of the places we always dreamed of playing when we were younger, we get to play at those places now.

A lot of the players on court in Cologne have dreamed of making it to the VELUX EHF FINAL4 and playing in LANXESS arena. Was there a venue that stood out for you in that way, that you have now played at?

Sam: That game I mentioned earlier, but that was probably so special because it was not only the first time we were doing it, but it was at that ball park that we grew up going to. That felt really, really special. Last year, or actually this winter, we played a concert in an arena where the Golden State Warriors play. Now, the Golden State Warriors are the Cleveland Cavaliers’ arch nemeses – they’re our biggest enemy because we keep having to face each other in the NBA finals. This past winter we actually played in the arena that is the home court of our opponent, and that was kind of interesting too and sort of special in its own way. I remember walking in the back, through the tunnels and stuff, where the locker rooms and everything are. We were set up in one of the locker rooms and it just felt so weird to be in the opponents’ locker – it felt kind of dirty [laughs], so that one sticks out too.

You’re going to play two of your own songs, Legendary and Sanctuary, at the VELUX EHF FINAL4. What can you tell us about those?

Sam: They are both kind of cool when you put them to sport. ‘Legendary’, it’s all about what I was saying, how Cleveland has inspired our music – that grit. It addresses the struggle of trying to be the best, or at least the best that you can be. I think there’s a lot of parallels in music and sports. ‘Legendary’ really addresses that – for us, the struggle in music was just trying to make the best music we could, get it in front of people, and not listening… People aren’t going to like everything you put out, and not everyone’s going to like every song. You have to be able to filter the feedback you get.

We might put a video on YouTube and we can get a lot of people making fun of it or doing something that really as an artist, it’s really hard – it can shut you down or it can make you better. So that’s what that’s song’s about – believing in yourself and knowing that you have what it takes. I think that one is cool in this setting, especially with the best handball teams. They’ve all gone through that struggle. All those guys weren’t always as good as they are now, you know. ‘Sanctuary’ I think is cool because it’s really about having that safe place or that thing that’s safe, so I think again there’s sort of a parallel – if you love handball, if this is your life, that’s something that you have worked really hard to do, then this is it, this is the finals, this is the sanctuary.


TEXT: EHF / ts
 
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