Google Jeremiah Fraites or The Lumineers. One of the questions Google says that people also ask is, “Are the Lumineers still together?” Fans have questioned where the homegrown, melodic Americana band has been hiding away since their monster debut album in 2012.
Living in a small Denver house, touring around the world, and recording their sophomore album, Cleopatra, in Woodstock-isolation is where.
That's not surprising, but having such a long gap between debut and sophomore records certainly is. Most indie bands, who find immense fame on their debut album, immediately hit the studio and release another record as soon as possible, be it to keep up momentum, to adhere to a label contract, or whatever. Not The Lumineers.
Fans and critics alike were eager to see another release within the usual artist timeframe. One year later…nothing. Two, three years later…zilch. Four years later…BAM, their first single in four whole years is released, proving that the Denver-based trio are in fact alive and still kicking. Four years is far longer than your typical output from a brand new Grammy-nominated band. So why the wait? What was the method to their madness?
Rewind to the early 2000s, back to when it all began.
Wesley Schultz, the band’s lead vocalist and guitarist, and his best friend Joshua Fraites sat together taking the same drawing class in New York. Joshua tragically died of a drug overdose in 2002, at age 19, leaving behind his little brother Jeremiah Fraites -- percussionist for The Lumineers. Shortly after in Ramsey, New Jersey, Wes began to pencil in lyrics instead of sketches, Jeremiah took his older brother’s spot beside Wes, and together the two collaborated in gigs around New York City.
Living in the city meant that Wes and Jeremiah had to work three jobs to cover rent, leaving no time to work on music. So, the pair moved to Denver, Colorado in 2009. They used Craigslist as a recruitment platform and were joined by classically trained Neyla Pekarek, the trio’s cellist. Every Tuesday, The Lumineers performed at an open mic night at a small 72-person bar known as the Meadowlark. After a few years, they signed a management deal with Seattle’s Onto Entertainment, who funded the band’s first full-length album.
2012 saw the release of their self-titled debut album. The Lumineers gradually, yet energetically, pours out a nostalgic and heartbreaking sound, crafted with stomp-claps, snare rolls, romantic guitar strums, classical strings, and parlor piano among other elements. It’s a raw sound you can only imagine being recorded in tthe dining room of an old wooden house, with cracked blue and white painted walls standing as the only barriers between the faint echo of Wes’ voice, and the porch Jeremiah stomps on, while Neyla sits upright in a rocking chair with her cello. The Lumineers was helmed by the ever so contagious “Ho Hey,” which eventually went double platinum.
The next four years consisted of non-stop touring, writing, and recording. Now, finally, The Lumineers announced a new album, Cleopatra, using experiences and stories from touring as inspiration for the songs.
Their website states, “The title track, ‘Cleopatra,’ sprang from an encounter with a taxi driver Wes met in the Republic of Georgia, who related a tale of personal tragedy without a trace of self-pity.” The Lumineers didn’t want their newfound success and fame to convince them to even slightly change their sound. Rather, the subject matter was what has changed.
So to begin the writing process, Wes and Jeremiah rented a small house in some secluded location in Denver for six months. They moved on to recording with producer Simon Felice (The Felice Brothers, The Avett Brothers) for two months in Clubhouse, a studio in Rhinebeck, NY near Woodstock. The two felt the whole process of the first album was more rushed than it should have been, so they decided to take as much time as they needed to create Cleopatra.
From the first strum, bass combo on the opening track, “Sleep On The Floor,” The Lumineers' sound has obviously not changed by even a slight chord. As you progress into tracks like “Angela” and “Gale Song” the album is still beautifully static. On the same sound amplified by simple-sound piano chords, the trademark romantic guitar strumming, and soft-beat drumming soon enters. The only slight difference is perhaps a richer, wider sound, to those listening extra carefully. The sound is wonderfully simple, but you can hear the thoughts, passions, and complications put into its simplicity. It's a full-bodied album of raw, romantic sound and once-every-generation writing. Simply put, it's a great album. Worth the four year wait? Absolutely.
The Lumineers sought to write, record, master, and release an album with their same ageless sound. And with Cleopatra, you can still imagine the trio in that same old wooden house standing in their respected places. They wanted to go back to the principle of their band; the origins and connections of The Lumineers were based on Wes and Jeremiah’s solitude in Denver after their shared tragedy. To ensure their next release was completed with an unchanged sound, The Lumineers returned to seclusion in Denver, except this time it was after their shared success.
The Lumineers will release Cleopatra on April 8 2016.