The Lumineers did not come across The Dishmaster’s desk by accident. I’m on a constant hunt for new music, which includes an overloaded news feed flooded with music blogs and magazines. But with all that research, I rarely find anything worth listening to. You can therefore imagine my shock and happiness when I found The Lumineers. I discovered them through Paste Magazine, who voted them one of “The 20 Best New Bands of 2011.” I immediately listened to their EP, followed by playing their Daytrotter session on repeat. When I reached out to their team for an interview, I was elated when they invited me to their “Ho Hey” video shoot, which was filmed at a broken-down, old hospital that is also the home of some familiar movies, including Saw and Pearl Harbor. Though I was briefly afraid that ghosts might attack me, my nerves were immediately calmed when I met the band. They had been shooting all day and somehow still managed to sustain their fun, laid-back energy. I’m told by their manager that they revved up their dedicated, suspender-wearing extras with a live performance prior to the shoot, and it’s no surprise that everyone loved it. These guys are good. Our interview took place a few days later. They answered all my questions with the right amount of humility and honesty. In fact, after forty minutes I said, “I’ll let you off the hook. I’ve kept you way too long.” The band then said, “No, ask us anything. Keep going if you have more questions.” I took their bait and held them hostage even longer. Their self-titled debut album hits stores April 3rd. Enjoy the interview, and watch their “Ho Hey” video below.
As the daughter of a dentist, I’m intrigued by your name. How did you come up with it?
Wesley Schultz (Lead Vocals, Guitar, Piano): We stole it. We were playing at a place in Jersey City and they accidentally called us the name of a band performing the following week.
Why the move from New York to Denver?
Wesley: We wanted to move to the middle of nowhere and write songs. It was pretty random. We wanted to go somewhere new and cheap. It’s an absurd proposition to tour and live in New York. We wanted a low overhead. But we didn’t expect to find the really great music scene [in Denver]. There was a huge community of musicians.
How did Neyla join the band?
Neyla Peckarek (Cello, Piano): I just finished school and I had nothing on my plate and didn’t know what was next. I got a teaching degree and they don’t hire a lot of teachers in [December]. I checked the musicians page of [a Craigslist ad]. They sent me a couple of tracks and it was a pretty natural fit right away. I wasn’t looking to be in a band at all. It forged naturally. They wanted to go on tour, and I said yes.
Did you always know you wanted strings?
Jeremiah Fraites (Drums): No. That was a long discussion for months. We knew we wanted something different [and we thought of] upright bass. Somewhere along the way we switched to cello and placed the ad.
Wesley: But now we have electric bass.
Why did you change your mind about having the electric bass?
Neyla: I had a friend from college, and I asked him to play upright bass. He brought an electric bass to the recording, and it sounded sick. It pigeon-holes you less into that bluegrass genre.
Do you get along on the road?
Neyla: There are few people I can travel with. I think that’s part of the reason why we are together–because we get along so well.
I read that you did a thirty day tour and crashed at people’s houses.
Wesley: We had a bunch of leads. We either knew someone or we played shows, and someone would offer us a place to stay.
Neyla: People are really kind and just open their homes to complete strangers.
Is it possible to sustain relationships when you tour that much?
Wesley: It takes a lot of work. It puts stress because you’re gone. You have to be creative, but it’s not exactly the best breeding ground for a successful, long-term relationship.
Tell me about your writing process. Is it collaborative?
Wesley: Usually someone comes up with a basic idea and then we work on it together. I’ll write the lyrics and we’ll flesh out the ideas together.
Jeremiah: Me and Wes lived with each other for a year when we first moved to Denver, which was really beneficial [to writing music].
Neyla, when do you enter the writing process?
Neyla: There’s usually a skeleton, and I add the padding for it.
Wesley: There’s always an idea first. We aren’t the band that smokes a joint and says, “What do you think of this, dude?” We wake up in the morning, sober, coffee, come up with ideas and work on it in the best hours of the day.
Is it true that “Gun Song” is about your relationship with your father?
Wesley: My dad had passed away, and his socks were still in his drawer. I went in there to grab black socks, and I pulled out a gun. It made me think of all the things I didn’t know about him. That was the spark of the song.
There’s a lyric I have to ask you about. “It takes a man to live, it takes a woman to make him compromise.”
Wesley: It could have many meanings. People can interpret it as they should. My sister is a big inspiration. She’s married to a Green Beret, and they say behind every man is a great woman. And they embody that. It was kind of a shout-out to that.
Ah. I read it as, “A man experiences life, and the woman reigns him in.”
Wesley: It’s more like, “It’s easy to live for yourself, but it’s harder to make compromises.” It’s about people living for more than just themselves.
Has your sound changed since you first started? Were you always folk rock?
Jeremiah: No. When Wes and I first started writing I wanted to be truly fresh. I got over that. We aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel. With trial and error, we know more of what we don’t like. But categorizing is more for a press release.