The Lumineers are an American folk rock/Americana band featuring founding members, Wesley Schultz (lead vocals, guitar) and Jeremiah Fraites (drums, percussion). The pair were writing and performing together in Ramsey, New Jersey in 2005. Neyla Pekarek (cello, vocals) joined the band in 2010. They are known for their energetic live shows and international hits. I vaguely knew of their music. The only song I was familiar with was “Ho Hey” from their debut album. When it was announced, they would be one of the opening acts for U2 on the North American leg of the Joshua Tree Tour 2017, I was curious how they would be live. My husband and I saw them perform on May 20, 2017.
Wesley Schultz was born December 30, 1982 in Ramsey, New Jersey. His best friend was Josh Fraites who died at the age of 19 of a drug overdose. Schultz would connect with Josh’s brother, Jeremiah (born January 17, 1986). The two would find solace in music, songwriting and performing. According to Fraites, they were doing “crappy covers” with “no focus; it was a mad, random mess.” Frustrated with the lack of progress in their music careers, the pair would relocate to Denver, Colorado. They would place a Craigslist ad which Neyla Pekarek (born September 4, 1986) would answer. Pekarek is a classically trained cellist who had hopes of becoming a music teacher when she answered the ad. She joined the band in 2010. The Lumineers’ first single, “Ho Hey” was used in 2011 for the CW song Hart of Dixie. Social media created such a buzz. The band would pass on deals with major record deals in order to sign with Dualtone Records, an independent label. Their debut album, The Lumineers, was released on April 3, 2013 to positive reviews. Their second album, Cleopatra, was released on April 8, 2016. They have also done music for various movie soundtracks including two of The Hunger Games films, Pete’s Dragon (2016) and Storks (2016).
Their style of music is in its simplicity. Fraites once said the simplicity of their
Style is that “anyone who can play an instrument can play a Lumineers song.” They’ve been influenced by everyone from Bob Dylan to Guns N’ Roses. They’ve been compared to Mumford and Sons, who play a similar folk rock; however while Mumford and Sons play “instruments in massive buildups. The Lumineers by constant, stay sparse, barely getting around to using an electric guitar” (Jon Pareles, The New York Times, February 10, 2013). The Lumineers can still rock out without the electric guitar. I like the sparseness of their music. You can feel every hit on the percussion and each story is easily a great toe-tapping tune. Each story tells a story with Schultz as the storyteller. Many of their songs have been inspired by real experiences and interactions with people. One example would be the song “Cleopatra.” Schultz said he was inspired to write the song after a conversation with a female cabdriver who shared her story during a cab ride.
While all their songs are great. I have a few favorites. One of them is “Ho Hey” from their debut album. It is the song which introduced me to them. It’s an example of their simplicity. The instruments featured is a guitar, drums, tambourine and a mandolin. According to Schultz, the song was created as a kiss-off to disinterested concert goers, as an “effort to get under people’s skin at shows in Brooklyn, where everyone is pretty indifferent” (www.songfacts.com). The shouts were added to the song to “get someone’s attentions.” “Ho Hey” is definitely a song that you can’t help but dance and sing along. I like the sharp hits of the percussion especially the tambourine. Another of my favorites is “Ophelia” from their second album. The line “Oh Ophelia/You’ve been on my mind since the flood” at first had no meaning. According to Schultz, he doesn’t know why he said the line or what it could mean. “Sometimes the truth comes out of just blabbering and blurting things out” (www.songfacts.com). The song came to be a story how the band has dealt with their sudden fame after the success of their debut album. I’ve come to see the line as Ophelia is fame and the flood, their sudden success which fits the meaning as it developed with the band.
In conclusion, when I saw them at the Rose Bowl, my expectations of their performance was not high. However; by the end of their set, they had two new fans, as my husband and I really enjoyed how they performed. They rocked out with great beats and awesome lyrics. The Lumineers is a refreshing change in music. Their simple style is their greatest asset. As one commenter on a YouTube video said, “Real instruments, real meaning, real inspiration, real goosebumps…real rare.” The Lumineers are a return to a time when music was the artists and their instruments. No fancy sound effects. No electric distortion. I highly recommend you give The Lumineers a listen. Even if you think folk rock is not in your musical taste. They may surprise you with their storytelling, their music and their talent.