Words: Jennifer Lynn
Image: Scarlet Page
Mention The Lumineers and chances are only the hardcore musos among your mates will know who you mean, despite their newfound US fame and a sold- out London show in September this year. However, mention how much you love that song from the E.ON Energy advert and they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about. “We’ve had a lot of offers lately to have our songs used in commercials and TV shows,” says cellist Neyla Pekarek. “It definitely helps with the exposure of the song, that’s for sure, and our big hope is that people hear the one song, like it and then go buy the album.”
The album, the band’s self-titled debut, has been a long time in the making. Frontman Wesley Schultz and drummer Jeremiah Fraites were both living in New Jersey when they began writing songs together back in 2005. So how did Denver native Neyla become the missing piece in The Lumineers’ puzzle? “Well the cost of living there [in New Jersey] was pretty high, so about three years ago the guys decided to move anywhere cheaper, and Denver was kind of a random spot on the map,” she says. “So they moved and they placed a Craigslist ad for a cellist. I’m not really a big Craigslist cruiser, and I wasn’t really playing much cello then either, but I saw their ad randomly and answered it, and I guess the rest is history.”
A cellist isn’t exactly a standard requirement for bands these days, but for The Lumineers’ sound, which Neyla calls “kinda acoustic folk”, it works. Their album is packed with easy listening, handclapping tales of love and life, and the aforementioned ‘‘E.ON song’’, Ho Hey, provides the perfect gig sing-a-long. “Wesley writes the lyrics,” says Neyla. “Some of the songs are autobiographical, but sometimes he’s just the Storyteller General. Whether he writes from personal experience, or other stories that he hears, I think his goal is always to be a storyteller.”
With a sell-out US tour under their belts, The Lumineers are heading to the UK this month, supporting Nashville duo The Civil Wars. As with many other bands, they’ll be increasing their live performance power by adding some extra ‘touring members’. “In the studio we jumped around and played all the instruments, and had a couple of people come in for different things, but it was hard to emulate live,” explains Neyla.
“Originally we would travel as a three piece, or maybe a four piece, for travel’s sake- we only had a minivan! We couldn’t fit anybody else in there,” she laughs. “And you know, it’s also hard to find somebody who you want to travel with that much, but whom you also agree with on a musical level. It’s an interesting relationship with a bandmate; it becomes a financial relationship, they’re your roommate, and your co-worker, so it’s hard to find people to fit that mould. We found two really awesome guys; Ben who plays bass, and then a guy named Ulvang who mostly plays piano, but he tries a little bit of everything.”
So where is Neyla most looking forward to heading on this tour? “I was super excited to go to London back in September, and that was really neat, but I think Scotland could be even cooler,” she says, despite my reassuring her that we’re not a nation that’s easily offended. “London was really amazing, but I think with a lot of big cities there’s the same sort of feel about them- they have a lot of the same shops and the same vibe- whereas I think slightly smaller cities have a nice, more local feel.”
And the best part of the whole adventure? “Travelling is amazing,” says Neyla. “It’s a pretty surreal thing to be able to do this for work. Before touring, and the band getting bigger, I was working four jobs; hostessing at a couple different restaurants, nannying and I was a substitute teacher, I got a teaching degree at college. I didn’t get hired as a full- time teacher, so I joined the band and they talked me into going on tour, and I guess it just kinda stuck.”
“It was a big deal for us all to be able to quit our side jobs and just make music for a living, we weren’t really planning on this level of success, so I think we were all pretty excited to be able to do that!”
Like with any job, there are downsides to making music, and the meteoric rise to fame that goes with it. However, unlike most artists, Neyla has no complaints. “Fame is an interesting thing, and recognition too, but we’re just really thankful for anybody who’s listened to the record,” she says. “We joked a lot previously about doing Letterman or Conan, and it’s been a big transition in the past six months, but we’re very grateful.”
After a ridiculously successful 2012, what’s next for The Lumineers? “More touring basically!” Neyla laughs. “We get to be at home for about a week and a half after Europe, then we do three more weeks out in December, then we’ll be home
for Christmas. We’re playing two big shows for New Year’s in our hometown in Denver, and then we’re off for the whole month of January, so I’m looking forward to that. I think I’m gonna sleep a lot!” And who could deny her that?
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The Lumineers’ debut single Ho Hey and their self-titled album are both out now. You can read Scotcampus’ review of their Glasgow gig here.