Arts & Entertainment

Press Pass: Welbilt

WelbiltFairfax-based rockers Welbilt should write a thank you note to beer. Seriously.

Of course the band’s catchy-melodies and hook-laden rock tunes have provided the heavy-lifting in Welbilt’s ascension in the D.C.-area music scene, but when the group needed an extra push, beer was there.

In 2002, Welbilt won the “Road to Town Fair” battle of the bands contest, sponsored by Rolling Rock. As a result, Welbilt opened the renowned Town Fair concert in Latrobe, Penn., where they were followed on stage by the likes of Sevendust and Nickelback. They were also awarded the opportunity to cut a four-song demo for Virgin Records with producer Andrew Murdock (Godsmack, Avenged Sevenfold). Thank you, beer.

When the band needed money to finance albums, Budweiser stepped up with a sponsorship through the Budweiser True Music Live Program. In return, the band only has to mention the company’s name once per set and if they choose to drink on stage, they only drink “the King.” Again, thank you, beer. You have been a tremendous help to the members of Welbilt.

“In many different ways I would say so,” guitarist Buddy Speir says with a laugh.

The band, which also includes frontman/guitarist Nate Ihara and drummer Bill Ledbetter (their bassist recently left the group), has had a sobering amount of non-beer-related successes as well. For instance, again in 2002, they were chosen to open D.C. 101’s Chili Cook-Off on Pennsylvania Ave. And all of these shows, the Chili Cook-Off, the Town Fair gig, the demo CD went down within six months of the band’s first show together.

“It was pretty crazy,” Speir says. “At the time of all of that stuff we were barely even a band. Overwhelming would be a good word.”

The quick start out of the gates was a boon to be sure, but it was not without its drawbacks, according to Speir. And once Virgin passed on the demo and the early heat had started to cool, the band was left in unfamiliar territory.

“Other bands coming out of the gate build up their following and figure out what they’re about,” Speir says. “We didn’t get used to the grunt work you need to put in as a band. Once that demo deal with Virgin had evaporated, we were like, ‘Where do we go from here?’”

The pass by Virgin wasn’t the end of the road for the band. They finished out their first full-length album with Murdock, adding eight more tracks to the four-song demo to give their fans A Beautiful Mess. Since then Welbilt began to establish itself as a staple in the Northern Virginia/D.C. live music scene and using the strength of their high-impact live shows to burn their names, and their tunes, into the minds of music fans throughout the area.

“For us, it’s about stretching out to people that don’t know what’s going on with us. Some people would have heard about us because of the press or something, but that doesn’t tell you about us,” Speir says of the band’s packed schedule that includes a gig at Jammin’ Java on Jan. 13. “It’s all about playing gigs. There are a lot of opinions on how to market yourselves, but when you don’t get on stage or you don’t do it well, you’re really not worth a whole lot.”

Fans attending the show on Saturday will likely hear some tunes from the band’s 2005 EP, Due to the Current State of Things, featuring the power ballad “December.” That track, which reminds equally of Default and the more-recently chic Fall Out Boy, has been a favorite on, with over 42,000 hits.

Of course, gratitude for any resurgence buoyed that song will be directed at the group’s favorite benevolent refreshment. After all, the money used to record Due to the Current State of Things was provided, in part, through funds from — surprise, surprise — Budweiser.

“You go through the avenues that are available to you to move forward,” Speir says. “You take it where you can.”

As for that thank you note, Speir says they gave Bud a shout out in the liner notes, and that they continue to maintain a good relationship with the beer maker. And should the beer gods continue to smile on the group as their career progresses, well, Speir and Co. will be only-too-happy to drink to that.

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