With their smash hit Hey Ho, American folk rockers The Lumineers announced themselves as a force to be reckoned with on the pop scene. Appearing at a time when the studio reigned supreme (2012 saw button-pushers David Guetta and Calvin Harris dominate the charts), the song arrived like a much-needed breath of fresh air. Five years on, and The Lumineers are still getting back to basics, an approach that continues to resonate with fans all around the world. Preparing for the band’s upcoming Australian tour taking in Metro City on April 22, founding member and drummer Jeremiah Fraites spoke with CHRIS PRINDIVILLE about creative inspiration and the joys of returning to our fair shores.
Early morning interviews can be a challenge. Unfortunately, I am not what you would call a morning person. It takes my brain a little while to get going once it has been roused from sleep.
It is in this fuzzy and fuddled state that I await a phone call coming from the other side of the world. My phone rings. The nerves kick in and my thoughts immediately sharpen. Game time. The voice that greets me from the other end of the line is warm and friendly, and its soft American drawl seems to calm everything down. This soothing sound belongs to Jeremiah Fraites, one third of folk rock giants The Lumineers, a band poised to take on the world.
Our conversation begins conventionally enough by going back to the early days. Jeremiah sees the the move to Denver as a key turning point in the creative development of the band.
“I’ve been in Denver for 7 years now, and I’ll never forget when me and Wes [Schultz, the other founding member of the band] moved there from New Jersey: there were a lot of people we were told to listen to,” he says. “There’s a song we play every night called Where the Skies are Blue, and it’s by this guy called Abraham Hovey, and it always seems to bring up that sense of place for me. I definitely believe that the terrain, the people, all that stuff, feeds into the music whether you are aware of it or not.”
Where The Lumineers fit into the current musical landscape becomes our next talking point. Fraites believes that the predominance of electronic music on the charts has left many pop fans hungering for something real. “There’s a lot of stuff coming out that sounds stagnant and boring. People are so inundated with artificial music that it is only natural for them to seek out things which are a bit more warts and all, a bit more raw,” he says.
For the band, this back-to-basics approach has been liberating. “We feel that we can leave in a take that isn’t perfect, that feels raw, and all this helps us to communicate more directly to the listener,” says Fraites.
Managing to stay true to your ideals, however, becomes a little bit more problematic when you are the opener for the biggest show in town: U2. Joining Bono and the lads on their 30th anniversary Joshua Tree Tour in May, The Lumineers are about to hit the big time. Despite all the fuss, Jeremiah takes a pragmatic view of things.
“We grew up as huge fans of U2,” he says. “It’s a massive honour to go out on tour with them. I think they see themselves in us, in that we are a young band on the rise like they were 30 years ago. We share that drive. So with that in mind, we can go out and perform without that pressure.”
But before all that, The Lumineers are making their way to us in Australia. And while this is not the band’s first time down under, Jeremiah explains that each visit is special. “We have come 3 or 4 times before, Australian fans are crazy” he laughs. “You guys really show the love and appreciate the music. It will be great to come when it’s a bit warmer. Previously we have been there during your winter. We’ve missed out on that Australian summer.”