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- The Lumineers
Instead, she has been part of two hit albums and is set to play some of the biggest stages in the United States this spring.
“I had just finished school. I was going to be a music teacher and I had just moved back home,” Pekarek said in a recent phone interview. “I had never been in a band before. I’d been a cellist. I wasn’t a guitarist or a drummer or something. It didn’t really interest me, to be honest. But I went to shows a lot and had friends in bands. I basically was looking for anything to keep me busy while I looked for a teaching job.”
By the time Pekarek came into the picture, Schultz (lead vocals, guitar, piano) and Fraites (percussion, piano) had already spent eight years laying the groundwork to take the Lumineers beyond local band status.
Based in New Jersey for most of that time, it wasn’t until 2009 that they decided to move west to Denver. By then, Schultz and Fraites had grown frustrated at not gaining more success on the New York City area scene and by the high cost of living there.
Things began to click in Denver. By late 2011, a debut album, funded by the group’s management, had been recorded and the Lumineers were starting to tour. And in December 2011, a first break came when the song “Ho Hey” was used in the season finale of the CW television series, Hart of Dixie.
The song became an online hit and soon a few radio stations started to spin “Hey Ho,” which got record labels interested in the Lumineers. The group, though, passed on major label offers and signed with indie label Dualtone Records.
The band’s self-titled album came out on Dualtone in April 2012. By that time, “Ho Hey” was already beginning its climb up the Billboard magazine Hot 100 singles chart, peaking at No. 3 on that chart, while topping a half dozen other genre charts.A follow-up single, “Stubborn Love,” topped Billboard’s Adult Alternative chart and went top five at Rock Airplay and Alternative Songs.
Powered by the singles, The Lumineers reached No. 11 on Billboard album chart and topped 1 million copies sold, while giving the trio a pair of 2013 Grammy nominations. It’s no surprise that when time came to start working on Cleopatra, that the challenge of following up a hit album weighed on the trio – especially Schultz and Fraites, who write the Lumineers’ songs.
“There was absolutely pressure in a different way,” Pekarek said. “I think we felt pretty pressured on the first record as well, especially because we were kind of putting all our eggs in one basket at that point. It was like, well, this is our one shot. It was basically all the best songs Wes and Jer had written up to that point and hoping it takes, and it did, which was really exciting. And I think this time around, the fact that we even have fans waiting for the music, is really exciting and luckily, this one, too, has taken well.”
Pekarek for a time wasn’t sure how things were going as Schultz and Fraites were writing for the Cleopatra album.
“Basically Wes and Jer were holed up in a house in Denver for about six months and wrote the record,” Pekarek said. “It was kind of mysterious. I didn’t hear any of the tracks until about a month before we went into the studio. Even then, it was like I went in [to record parts] for about 10 days and didn’t hear the final product for quite a long time after that. They were keeping it pretty close to their chests. I get it, that it’s a lot of pressure. It’s just a lot. But it was an interesting experience. It did feel quite different than the first record.”
The album retains the folk rock feel of the debut, but it’s darker lyrically and also a bit heavier, as the group plugs in for more of the instrumentation. But the sure-footed melodies of songs like “Sleep on the Floor,” “Ophelia” (which has some of the stomp and cheer of “Ho Hey”), “My Eyes” and “Angela” carry the day and deliver on the promise of the first album.
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On this tour, the Lumineers are joined by opening act Susto, which is promoting its new album, & I’m Fine Today. It’s an eminently listenable collection that transcends Americana genre boundaries through the adventurous additions of strings, horns and synthesizers.
But Susto frontman Justin Osborne feels his band will be a good complement to the Lumineers, and at least one track, the infectiously optimistic “Jah Werx” is likely to enchant crowds who come to hear the Lumineers play “Ho Hey,” others may not.
“I think there are going to be people in every single one of those crowds that love us, and there are going to be people in every single one of those crowds that probably don’t,” said Osborne, who’s grateful for the opportunity. “But I think that’s kind of the point of us being on this tour, to bring something extra for people who might be into music that’s a little bit more edgy.”
If you go:
The Lumineers with Susto
Bankers Life Fieldhouse
March 10, 7 p.m., prices vary, all-ages