Interview with The Lumineers

Jeremiah Fraites and Wesley Schultz of The Lumineers

Jeremiah Fraites and Wesley Schultz of The Lumineers by Bruce Broadway ©

Many years after the worldwide success of the 2012 breakthrough hit Ho Hey and the three studio albums The Lumineers, Cleopatra and III which all reached number one in the US album charts and went straight between number one and two on the Billboard Global 200 chart, the American indie folk-rock duo The Lumineers who said mobile phones should be banned at live shows are still on top of the world, both as a pair and as solo artists.

In fact, as they continue working toward making music as a band, Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites released one solo album each at the same time in 2021: multi-instrumentalist and composer Jeremiah Fraites put out an 11-track melodic ambient album titled Piano Piano, made out of serene and soul-soothing piano music, whilst band lead vocalist Wesley Schultz came up with Vignettes, a collection of blues and folk sound consisting of 10 new cover renditions of classic songs by Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Sheryl Crow and more – all inspired by different life stories.

Both Jeremiah Fraites and Wesley Schultz are in for an interview about music, inspiration, life and what it’s like to have released solo works simultaneously whilst remaining bandmates and close friends.

The Lumineers playing at the Brixton Academy in London, UK, in 2016, credit by Drew de F Fawkes

The Lumineers at the Brixton Academy, London, UK, 2016, by Drew de F Fawkes ©

Jeremiah, Wesley, what do the releases of your solo works mean to you and how did you come up with your albums’ titles?

Jeremiah Fraites:

For me, this means a lot, that I was finally able to release my first solo album. The album has been a long time coming, hence the album title Piano Piano. Piano Piano – which my Italian wife Francesca came up with – translates as Little by Little in Italian. I thought that was really cool because the album has been such a long time coming since I started. I think one of the songs called Nearsighted is literally about fourteen or fifteen years old and here we are fifteen years later finishing the album. Really proud of it and little by little, or piano piano, having finally been able to finish the album.

Wesley Schultz:

The album is a love letter to the songs I played first when I started out making music in bars and coffee shops. These were the ones that taught me how to write, in a way. By learning cover songs, I found a voice of my own. The title was an idea Simone Felice, my producer and friend had – where each song has its own vivid scene in a film.

Wesley Schultz of The Lumineers, credit and copyright by Bruce Broadway

Wesley Schultz of The Lumineers by Bruce Broadway ©

How does it feel to have your fellow bandmate releasing a solo album at the same time?

Jeremiah Fraites:
I think it’s wonderful. I think it’s really great. I think it shows the maturity and the testament of our long relationship. Me and Wesley started the band, The Lumineers, more than fifteen years ago and I think that we’ve worked pretty much like an exclusive relationship with each other, creatively. I think it’s really healthy to be able to branch out and work on material that’s different from The Lumineers. I really don’t think that either of us worked on stuff that took him away from The Lumineers; if anything, I think it will only enhance it. I think it was healthy that we were able to go off and do our own thing only to come back to writing as The Lumineers stronger and better. I think it’s wonderful.

Wesley Schultz:
It’s great to see Jer putting this classical style music out into the world – it really showcases some of the things he does that are sometimes subtle but always powerful, to what we do together in The Lumineers.

Jeremiah Fraites credit by Danny Clinch

Jeremiah Fraites of The Lumineers by Danny Clinch ©

What achievements are you most proud of?

Jeremiah Fraites:
Besides finally releasing this solo album, because it’s been such a long time coming, I’d have to say, just trying to get better at the piano. In terms of maybe superficial achievements, just being able to play internationally. I love the idea that with The Lumineers we are lucky and fortunate enough to be able to play large shows in the United States, but also over in Europe, and beautiful exotic places like South Africa, and Japan, going down to Australia, and things like that. I think we’re really, truly blessed and lucky. From us playing international live shows, I was able to meet my wife many years ago in Italy. So, I am forever grateful for our international exposure and ability to do that.

Wesley Schultz:
I’m most proud of having autonomy over our albums and writing. Unlike a lot of bands and performers, Jer and I write all the songs ourselves and record them without any interference. It’s tremendous freedom and I feel grateful for it and proud of us that we’ve stayed true to what we love.

What was your dream job as a child and what would you be doing today if you weren’t a musician? Did you have a plan B?

Jeremiah Fraites:
My dream job as a child was actually to be the best soccer player in the world. As an American, it’s a particularly tall task because I wouldn’t say the United States is necessarily known for having some of the greatest soccer players in the world. But I was really good at soccer as a child and really wanted to do that. In high school, I discovered the drum set, and I guess you could say I fell in love with music. I didn’t really have a plan B, to be honest. When I found music in high school I went all in and that was it for me. I never really had a plan B. I knew that even if I was broke at forty years old still living with my parents, but I was a musician I’d still be happy for it. I never sought money or fame or anything like that. I just wanted to be a great musician and happy waking up every morning and doing what I was able to do.

Wesley Schultz:
I was going to be a psychologist – I studied to be one and my father was one. It’s always been fascinating, the idea that you could try to listen and help people help themselves. I also think it develops empathy, this way of thinking – which is very helpful in songwriting and developing characters in songs.

Which one of your songs are you most attached to?

Jeremiah Fraites:
I would say a couple of songs that I’m really attached to. One would be a song called Chilly, off this album Piano Piano. And another one would be called Arrival. I’m really particularly proud of the songwriting I was able to achieve in the song Arrival; particularly, the end of Arrival I think it’s a really cool outro that I came up with and got to work with a ton of great musicians. I’m obviously emotionally attached to all my songs off this album, but if I had to choose a couple, I would go with Chilly and Arrival.

Wesley Schultz:
There are so many personal songs off this solo album, I’d say the ballad My City of Ruins – is somehow more relevant after 2020 than even when it came out in 2002. “The boarded-up windows, the empty streets, and my brother’s down on his knees” – lines like these ring so true in these recent times as they did during 9/11 when Bruce Springsteen re-worked the song, and before that when he originally was writing it about Asbury Park falling on hard times. I grew up in New Jersey and he was sort of our patron Saint of Song. And I’ve been covering it since 2002 so it was a full-circle moment.

Who has most influenced you in music and life?

Jeremiah Fraites:
If I had to say who my main sources of inspiration in music and life are, I would have to say my wife and our son and then also my friends and bandmates, of course. The people closest to me and the people I like to keep company with inspire me every day.

Wesley Schultz:
People – and their glorious contradictions. The most believable stories have the strangest things happen because people are unpredictable.

How do you decide which songs you will perform as The Lumineers and which ones will work for your solo career?

Jeremiah Fraites:
For me, that feels really simple. A Lumineers song has its own set of DNA and fingerprints. I think at this juncture, after writing and completing three LPs and writing with Wes for more than fifteen years, I think we both have really intimate expertise, and knowledge of what works and what doesn’t work for The Lumineers. I think for me it’s sort of like a sixth sense where I understand how this feels like clearly a Lumineers song idea and this one feels like, nope, this is clearly too classical or too complex or too this or that – or it just wants to remain instrumental. In my own head, it’s pretty cut-and-dried, but it might be difficult to explain all the specifics on that to somebody else.

Wesley Schultz:
I chose these songs based on their ability to be synthesized down to the very basic elements – and still hit my heart in a powerful way. The ones that didn’t, didn’t make the cut.

Do you believe a band could potentially never split? What does it take to stick together?

Jeremiah Fraites:
Sure, I think there are plenty of bands that potentially never do split. I think for them to not split, it just takes a lot of honesty, a lot of love, compassion, and sympathy for the other band members. I think that a lot of bands historically have broken up for things like greed, being too famous, and drug use. Drugs are a big thing and thankfully that’s not a problem at all in our band. I think we have really good heads on our shoulders and we are able to be honest, sometimes brutally honest, with each other. We talk a lot, we communicate a lot, and I think that’s really important. When the communication breaks down, then you throw in things like drug use, greed, jealousy, and things like that, I think bands start to come apart at the seams and that’s not good.

Wesley Schultz:
Ask The Rolling Stones.

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