Welcome Home: The St. Louis rockers are truly ‘Just Happy To Be Here’
Welcome Home basically live on the road. The St. Louis alt rockers spent 34 days on the road in May and June, followed by another 12 come July. They have found their pace, and though it’s not always easy—especially when the AC breaks down two days into a 34-day summer tour—they wouldn’t have it any other way. “You kind of just get lost in the routine of driving, unloading, playing, meeting all these cool people, and then you just pack up and leave,” bassist Kenny Ruiz says. “I think the weirdest part was my mom calling me everyday and being like, ‘So where are you at now?’ and I’d be eight hours from where I was the day before. But it was the best summer of my life.”
With their sights already set on a tour for late fall, they have no plans on slowing down. The group has its roots in St. Louis, where vocalist Nick Pirrone made Welcome Home a reality, recruiting Aaron Selby (guitar), Ruiz (bass) and brothers Austin Jones (guitar) and Brandon Jones (drums) to finish the lineup. They started out as friends in a local scene, growing closer as they took to the touring lifestyle.
“The music scene in St. Louis is great,” Ruiz says. “With touring the country, you kind of see how every scene is different. St. Louis is definitely unique and special to where it’s basically what we grew up with. We’d go out and see everyone playing shows.
“But the biggest decision we had to make is more or less rather than playing St. Louis twice every month, we’re now trying to play St. Louis once every six months and just continue playing new markets all the time. So we’re kind of trying to just establish ourselves, more or less, as a consistently touring band.”
Yet this time on the road is what have given this band their sound—and their experience. The young band, who only solidified their lineup a year and a half ago while wrapping up their second EP, “Where All My Hope Was Buried,” has conquered a feat that can take years for a band to do. For, in that year and a half, Welcome Home have not only produced and released their debut record, but it’s a solid first album at that.
Just Happy To Be Here is brimming with pounding rhythms and emotionally raw vocals, mangled with compelling bass lines and guitar riffs that could be described as both polished and jagged, put together and pulsating. Tracks like “Foolish” slow down the pace of the record, placing an emphasis on Pirrone's commanding vocals, with songs like “Wait” boasting the group's full, impassioned composition—a sound that is specifically Welcome Home.
The record was produced in St. Louis, and it was a group’s worth of effort and influence that created an album that’s as potent in pop punk as it is laden with rousing alt rock. The band thrived in the studio and the team they worked alongside—a winning combination that helped create a cohesive and compelling freshman release. They recorded with Cody James, who they also worked with on their first EP. "Bringing a familiar face like Cody in to the recording process really made the recording process extremely fun and relaxing," Ruiz says. "Cody is one of the nicest and most talented people we know, and we've recorded with him before, so it wasn't much of a thought whether or not he was going to be apart of it."
They also worked alongside Allen Hessler—a man behind so many of the best artists in the scene. “We brought in this guy Allen Hessler, and he’s worked with Real Friends, The Wonder Years, Motionless In White. I mean, his resume speaks for itself,” Ruiz says. “It was a little daunting at first. You know, having that big name come and work with us.”
But working with the big name—daunting or not—seems to have paid off. They’re playing to audiences who are singing along, and it’s blowing them away. When we chat, the group were just decompressing after a house show in Terre Haute, Indiana—which, Ruiz believes, is one of the best shows they've ever played. For them, returning to a venue and seeing the passionate interaction is what they live for.
“There were familiar faces singing the songs, but then there were people that maybe have seen us before, but we just had never had the chance to converse with them. But there were definitely people that I didn’t recognize that were singing the songs,” Ruiz says. “With the new record being out, it was weird looking up and seeing people sing the songs we’ve been playing for months now, but now everyone can actually hear it and own it. It was just cool.”
But being back at home is just as exciting. With an album release show marking their first hometown gig in six months (“We’re itching to be back home,” Ruiz says), Welcome Home are taking it full circle. And really, they’re just happy to be here.
Want more Welcome Home? Pick up a copy of Just Happy To Be Here here, and check out their social links below.