A few months ago a band from Denver played a concert in the back of a Chicago bar to a mixed crowd of fans, friends and patrons who were just trying to get a drink. The "stage" was tiny , the acoustics were awful and the crowd was loud. In spite of that, the trio soldiered on with their set, stepping off the stage and into the crowd where they breezed through songs side by side with audience members who couldn't help but stomp-clap along. Other bands might have quit, or heartlessly rushed through the rest of their set. But this band didn't. They brought their melodies into the crowd and made everyone remember their name; The Lumineers.
Since that small show at Villians, The Lumineers have released their debut album, appeared on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, played South by Southwest and come back to the Chicago area to not only sell out their headlining concert (with the Kopecky Family Band) but to also add a free daytime show for the fans who weren't lucky enough to score tickets. The last couple of months have kept band members Wesley Schultz, Jeremiah Fraites and Neyla Pekarek quite busy but they were kind enough to share some of their journey.
"It's been unreal. A lot of bands would kill for even a tenth of the opportunities we've been given and earned and it's been unreal. I don't even know how to describe it. It's been a whirlwind and overwhelming and amazing and everything in between," states Fraites the drummer, percusion and all around suspendered crowd leader. "We used to tour in a van, a Ford Winstar," interjects Pekarek, cellist, vocals and mandolin, with a laugh, "but we've recently upgraded to a fifteen passenger van and somehow that seems to be full already. Six people, plus all the gear and some guests that we've been able to take along...it fills up quick."
It seems as though the van isn't the only thing The Lumineers have been able to upgrade after the release of their self-titled, debut album. "We used to travel around with a suitcase, literally a very small suitcase and a duffel bag for our merchandise," Fraites adds. Looking around a jam packed concert hall in Evanston's 'Space' boasting beautiful exposed beams, brick walls, swanky light fixtures and a violet glow with a proper merch table in the back, it's hard to believe that this is the same band that sold their LP out of a suitcase just months ago.
"We've placed a heavy emphasis on melody and specific chord structures that move us in anyway whether it's happy or sad. It doesn't matter if the song is serious lyrically or about a death or something important, if it's not packaged properly per se with a good melody, people might just tune it out," states Fraites as Aretha Franklin's 'You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman)' filters through from the adjoining bar. It's their melodies that they then ask of the audience to sing along, from the chanting HO HEY's in 'Ho, Hey' to the split call and answer of "Keep your head up, keep your love" in 'Stubborn Love'. The Schultz's raspy croon is met with a pounding beat and the beautiful lilt of Pekarek's vocls and strings. They are twangy and melodic and high energy. They are cheerful yet honest.The Lumineers command the stage, switch instruments in a frenzy and never forget to get the audience involved, even on national television.
"We actually saw it all together," said Wesley, lead singer, guitar and lyricist about their April 4 performance on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. "We were playing a show in Boise at the time and had just gotten back to the hotel and were all pretty exhausted but it came on almost right as we got back, we had filmed it maybe a month before that, or maybe a couple months or something but it seemed like worlds away...like a lot of time had passed. But it was very cool, definitely exciting. A lot of people have since said hey that was really neat. It was cool." As is their style, TV cameras didn't stop the band from getting the audience to clap and chant along, proving the The Lumineers aren't going anywhere but up.