REGARDING MUSICAL NICHES: It's clear that the Lumineers have built themselves a home in a rather hospitable basin. Given the recent folk resurgence in the mainstream—or at the very least, the major tributaries that feed into the unforgiving rapids of FM radio—the Denver band's foot-stomping, damned earnest folk music has been exceedingly well received. They've found themselves adorned with all of the trappings that a working musician desires: publicity, booking, management, legal representation, label support, and the list goes on. However, according to Neyla Pekarek, the band's cellist/mandolinist/vocalist, this is of no real concern to them. "In a lot of ways, I think the type of music we're making is pretty arbitrary. If it happens that this folk scene is perpetuating that, we dig it.
"In fact," Pekarek continues, "I think we'd all agree that the pivotal event that really got this thing in motion was our residency at the Living Room in New York City last March." It was there that the Lumineers' current manager found them, excavating them from the immense amount of tasks a working band must complete to achieve anything.
When discussing additional tipping points, Pekarek also cites a special and intimate show that the Lumineers played at the cozy Valentine's venue in Portland in 2010. Though the audience was relatively small, every soul in that showroom was rapt with the band's spirited set, much of which was performed without amplification. Everything about the band felt lithe and unfettered, and that freedom was remarkably contagious. Once-local director Ben Fee was one of those humbled spectators, and he whisked the band away to film a music video in the vacant apartment above Mississippi Studios almost immediately after their set. Since then, Fee has directed the majority of their reel; the most notable is the recently released video for the rabblerousing first single, "Ho Hey," which has aired on CMT, VH1, and MTV.
This blast nearly coincides with the joyous release of the Lumineers' debut full-length; until this point, the band had only released some self-recorded EPs, often scattering them around like ashes to friends and fans on long stretches of tour. "And it was great having those rough drafts going in," says Pekarek. "But we were able to do a lot of things in a real studio with a producer that a home studio just can't provide, such as live tracking." This is particularly important given the band's dynamic. They genuinely enjoy each other and their performances are fueled from a brimming hive of collective energy; that is something that needed to be conveyed on their recording.
From the rollicking Americana of "Classy Girls" and "Dead Sea" to the more subdued, introspective moments of "Slow It Down," the raw emotion that has and will continue to propel the Lumineers to success remains thoroughly intact from the live setting to tape. Singer/guitarist Wesley Schultz's voice inhabits a coarse and effortless croon, while drummer Jeremiah Fraites' tasteful fills and Pekarek's classical string arrangements help to carefully flesh out Schultz's skeletal acoustic compositions; no moment feels overly produced. Surely this can be attributed to the band's simplistic yet admirable mission statement: "We're just trying to write songs that make people feel good," says Pekarek. "And there's truly nothing better than a live show that gets the crowd stomping and singing along."