The Lumineers: Popular Preachers of Sorts

The Lumineers seem to be the most chart-friendly band I’ve chatted with all year.  The band’s self-titled debut LP recently reached #17 on the album charts.  The album has sold 130,000 copies to date and has reached #1 on the “Independents” chart.”  In addition, the album’s first single has been doing quite well and the accompanying music video has recently been added by CMT.  The band are currently a featured artist on VH1’s “You Outta Know” and also found themselves performing on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno on July 25th.  They just played locally at the XPoNential Music Festival in Camden, alongside Wilco and Counting Crows.  However, it’s not so much the commercial success that seems to excite the band.

I recently chatted with drummer and vocalist Jeremiah Fraites and he tells me “It’s been really crazy.  Obvious highlights are the sold out shows,” (They sold out a local date here at Johnny Brenda’s in April.) but he tells me that what the band really enjoys most is the opportunity to “Play with acts that we really enjoy.”  The band is about to do a short string of dates with Old Crow Medicine Show and The Milk Carton Kids, including an August 4th stop at Philthy’s own Electric Factory. Jeremiah recounts hearing the call from OCMS’s booking agent saying, “They specifically asked for you guys,” and acknowledges it as “A big honor… I wish there could be more dates.”  He tells me that he hopes fans can expect “A great night of music.”

 

The Lumineers got their start in NYC about a decade ago with Fraites and Wesley Schultz.  Although, the two shortly relocated to Denver, Colorado, considering the practicality of surviving as up-and-coming musicians in NYC was just not terribly promising. “I don’t think it was so much Denver, as it was not the East Coast… We had to work so much,” Fraites tells me, reflecting that he felt like they were, “living a lie,” calling themselves “musicians,” but spending the majority of their time working menial day-jobs.  He also tells me he feels there’s, “A lack of a music scene in NYC.  There’s just too many bands. There’s this false image that you can make it in NYC.”  He concedes that, “Yeah, if you’re Jay-Z there’s a scene,” but claims that in NYC they, “Couldn’t engage in music the way that [they] should’ve been,” and claims that Denver is a much nicer place to “Shack up and treat music like a job.”  He tells me that Denver is a really great place to, “Write really good songs and go on tour,” as opposed to NY, which would seemed to simply provide the opportunity to play locally to half-a-dozen friends and family a few times a month.

But location wasn’t the only thing about The Lumineers that changed with their move to Denver.  They also gained an additional member.  Neyla Pekarek, a Denver native, joined the fold after responding to a Craigslist ad for a cellist.  She broadened the band’s aesthetic, adding a certain feminine whismy.  She also went on to learn mandolin and piano.  The band’s current sound is an amalgamation of nearly all things associated with Americana, embodying influences from traditional folk, to alt country, to southern rock balladry, and gospel anthems.

Although the The Lumineers’ musical proclamations are often epic, their subject matter tends toward simple observations of a simpler time.  The majority of the songs on their debut could easily have been written nearly a century ago (Although the production kind of gives away that that’s not the case… not that that’s a bad thing.)  The album’s heaviest track, “Big Parade,” is a protest song of sorts, in the tradition of 1960s’ best folk.  The song explores all of the existential implications of the spectacle that is an American parade (If you really listen, it’s a ten-ton-truck of a statement.)  The album’s best track, however, is it’s first, “Flowers in Your Hair,” which clocks in at under two-minutes.  The song, which rings heavily of Bringing-It-All-Back-Home-era Dylan, explores the notion of growing up and coming to terms with all of the “truths” we had been inundated with via our elders and children’s books and includes a number of bumper-sticker-catchy nuggets of wisdom, most prominently, “It take s a boy to live.  It takes a man to pretend he was there.”

As for what The Lumineers have planned for the rest of the year, Fraites tells me, “We’ll be touring extensively.  We’re going to be out on tour for the next 107 days of this year.”  But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t new music already in the works.  “I’d like to get used to writing on the road,” Fraites says: “We already have five or six new songs.  We don’t wanna make fans wait five years for the next album.”