You could feel that power of attraction at their late April show at the Blueberry Hill Duck Room: The room was sold out and packed with enthusiastic fans, even though the band had never performed in St. Louis. It's difficult to resist songwriter Wesley Schultz's voice and well-written lyrics, as well as the remarkable melodies that emerge from just few instruments, all of which move listeners to dance, clap or just slow down and connect with the songs.
The Lumineers are: Wesley Schultz (guitar, lead vocals, lyrics), Jeremiah Fraites (percussion, vocals and trademark suspenders), and Neyla Pekarek (cello, mandolin, piano and vocals). I recently had the privilege of joining producer Jarred Gastreich for a Show Me Shows video shoot and an interview with the Denver-based band.
Thanks to the late April hailstorm and tornado warnings, Plan A for the video shoot evolved into Plan C. The original plan was to film the Lumineers outdoors; however, the approaching rain meant a move of the filming location to a nearby office building. The darkening sky became ominous, the wind blew the rain sideways, tornado sirens blared and then, cue the baseball-sized hail -- clearly not optimal conditions for a band and its instruments. We returned to Blueberry Hill to take advantage of an unoccupied room for the shoot. Kudos to Jarred and the talented sound managers for handling the changing weather conditions and successfully improvising with speed and diligence.
The room's walls were painted blue (appropriately correlating with the venue), accented by wooden chair rails and adorned with photos of famous St. Louisans. Solid wood tables and chairs adorned the dark wood floor; the lights were dimmed to capture the austere aura of the space.
The Lumineers arrived, and after introductions, they began a blissfully raw performance of a couple of original songs. "Morning Song," the 11th track on their debut album, started with Schultz strumming his acoustic guitar and delivering the lines, "The carbonation in my drink, the bubbles rise while my heart sinks, and all I tend to do is think of you." His impressive voice filled the room with clarity, carrying weighted soul and sincerity. Pekarek beautifully played the cello while Fraites kept perfect rhythm with a tambourine and a timed stomp of his foot in place of a drum. A stunning, powerful collaboration which started quietly and gained intensity as the song ended: "May you return to love one day, well I hope and I pray, you get what you gave."
Each band member was professional and easygoing, and they are passionate about making music and connecting with fans and listeners. When asked about songwriting and conveying the meaning behind particular lyrics, Schultz respectfully replied, "It kind of matters that you took from it more than what we said and what we meant by it." He added that his lyrics are inspired by psychology. Fraites shared a story about a riveting, influential live performance he and Shultz attended in a New York church-turned-bar which sparked their drive to perform.
"The feeling really changed that moment," Fraites summed up. "The musical and non-musical things I took away from that one show that influenced what we do live -- it planted a seed in the back of our head and what we wanted to do."
It was a pleasure to meet the Lumineers and it will be exciting to see what lies ahead for them. Their national tour is continuing with more sold-out shows, and later this year they are heading overseas for a stint in Europe. The band's debut album has certainly provided momentum and anticipation for a second release, hopefully sooner than later.
Video: Jarred Gastreich for Show Me Shows
Sound: Andy Coco and Lois Wall
Writer: Stacey Willmering