by Catherine Elliott | Photos by Lyndsey Byrnes

The Lumineers: 'Mumford and Sons opened doors for us'

Interview: US stars on 'real' music in a world of David Guetta and Calvin Harris


The Lumineers: 'Mumford and Sons opened doors for us'

Photo: Lyndsey Byrnes

The Lumineers hail from Denver, Colorado. Their soft-folk sound is impossible to dislike an have been favourably compared to bands such as Mumford & Sons and Of Monsters & Men. Their self-titled debut album peaked at No.11 on the US Billboards back in April, and No.13 in Canada. The lead single, the delightful ‘Ho Hey’ peaked at No.1 on both the American alternative and rock charts and they release their debut album in November, 2012.

We recently caught up Neyla Pekark, Wesley Shultz and Jerimiah Fraites in East London to discuss the need for organic music in a world of David Guetta and Calvin Harris, why they don't believe bands who claim to party hard all the time and going hat shopping on Brighton beach...

Bands like Mumford & Sons and Of Monsters & Men have scored huge success over the past couple of years. Why do you think there has been a revived interest in folk-inspired music recently?
Welsley: Well I think popular music just cycles, and there have been so many bands that have been doing this stuff for years, so I feel that’s helped prime peoples ears over the years to get down with this kind of music. I think that Mumford and Sons and Of Monsters & Men and even we are capitalising on that.
Jerimiah: It’s interesting though because on the flip side, you have people like Bassnectar and Skrillex who making tons of money and playing festivals worldwide. Maybe it might have something to do with the iPod generation of listeners. People might want a break from that sort of thing.

You've been compared to Mumford & Sons. Are you happy with the comparison?
Neyla: Yeah they’re a really great band, we got the opportunity to see them a couple of weeks ago out in Denver, their live show is really, really exciting. They opened a lot of doors for this kind of music.
Jerimiah: I don’t think we're sad about the comparison (laughs).
Wesley: I don’t think you can ever choose the band you’re compared to, you just make the music that gets you high and that gets you going.

A lot of people are less keen on being compared to such massively successful bands...
Wesley: Yeah we joke that we dislike Mumford and Sons, but there really is something great about that band. They’re doing a great job. But I do think that it’s a very easy comparison to make.

Do you think that in a world of David Guetta, Calvin Harris and Chris Browns, people are in need of something a little softer and a little more organic?
Jerimiah: Yeah I have thought that before.
Neyla: I think going to a live show and seeing people actually playing instruments is almost a novelty to some people. Growing up in an age filled with pop music and pre-recorded tracks, it’s almost a novel idea to see someone play live.

Watch 'Ho Hey' below

The Lumineers have risen to success through word of mouth. Was this part of the plan, or just how things worked out?
Jerimiah: We didn’t really have much of an option of a choice.  Our piano player Stealth kind of showed us the way with his band at the time, they were doing the same thing. They were touring all the time and relentlessly going out there, playing house shows and sleeping on people’s floors and living the grimey lifestyle, but doing what you love.  We didn’t really know any other way to do it without a lot of money, so that’s what we were doing for about two years.
Wesley: We tried to play once a week, and keep just learning from our mistakes. There was one time where we played two or three times in one week, and it was just way too much. Then when we met those people in Denver like Jerry was just saying, they taught us how to really ride it out and hit the touring circuit.
Who would you say are three of your key influences? Are you inspired by any modern artists, or are your influences more retro?
Jerimiah: Were pretty varied, for me one of the most influential artists are the Felice Brothers. I went to a show with Wesley in Kingston New York, it was in the middle of nowhere in an old church that was converted into a bar/venue. The way they communicated just blew me away. They got a really emotional response from the audience and I think there was something none musical that I took away from that show. I just thought ‘wow that’s really important’. Not only playing instruments, that’s like the bass line that has to be good, but doing something none musical is also good for the audience 
Neyla: I listen to a lot of kind of different music, at school I sung in a barber shop quartet...
Jerimiah: She won internationals! 
Neyla: I wasn’t really listening to anything that was contemporary; I listen to a lot of jazz. I grew up on stuff like Dylan as my dad loves him. 
Wesley: Tom Petty and the Heartstrings are a huge favourite of mine. 
What's the most unlikely song that you might play on the Lumineers tour bus, or would find on your iPod?
Wesley: One band we really like are Y La Bomba, we toured with them on the West Coast of the United States, they have a great new record out that really is fantastic. 
Jerimiah: I really like Kid Cudi, we listen to a hell of a lot of Kid Cudi I think it’s safe to say. It’s a nice release because we wouldn’t want to listen to the kind of music were making all the time, it’s good to change it up. 
Neyla: We actually don’t listen to a lot of folk, like any. 
Wesley: Yeah I’ve never even heard one Fleet Foxes song, I’m not even that familiar with Mumford’s catalogue. 
As a band who make generally gentle, folk-inspired music, when was the last time you went clubbing, and who parties hardest in the band?
Neyla: I don’t think we really go clubbing, but we went bowling after one show which was yeah… pretty rowdy (laughs). We all tend to work pretty hard and we find that it’s really difficult to party a lot on the road because you have to wake up the next day, were kind of finding that balance.
Wesley: I think sometimes you find that if you party too much, and you try to do cool things after the show you find that feeling good and being healthy is a lot cooler than going out and getting f*cked up. 
Neyla: It’s such a commitment as well, to be hungover the next day, because we always have a million things to do. 
Jerimiah: With our schedule, there really isn’t an opportunity time to go out and get wasted, you’re the only one that’s going to feel it so you’re kind of shooting yourself in the foot. For instance Drake, he is always talking about how hard he works and how he just never goes out, and I totally believe it. I don’t believe the people that say things like ‘hey man I just wrote these lyrics on a pizza box’
You're heading on tour across the UK in October and November with the Civil Wars. Is there any part of the UK that you are most looking forward to visiting?
Neyla: I haven’t been over here at all before this trip, so everything will be new for me. 
Jerimiah: I’m really looking forward to going back to Brighton Beach, I bought a hat there five years ago and I’m definitely in need of a replacement. 
What can we expect from your live shows?
Wesley: Our record is more cinematic, but our live shows are more primal.  We were talking about David Guetta before, it seems his goal with live shows is to create something that’s glossy, perfect and larger than life. I think one of the things that we try to do live is to let it all hang out, so quite the opposite. We don’t try to be perfect at all. 
Thank you very much to The Lumineers. Their self titled album will be released in the UK in November. 

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