Interview with the Lumineers before the show at Riverbend in Cincinnati

Folk-pop group The Lumineers are stopping in Cincinnati this summer (Tuesday, June 7) on their nationwide tour in support of new album “Brightside.” Self-described as a combination of Feist and Billy Joel, the band, fronted by songwriting duo Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites, presents deeply moving themes against a backdrop of acoustic guitar-heavy pop melodies.

Recently, I spoke with Schultz about the band’s early search for a hometown, their focus on minimalist instrumentation and production, and the resilience and importance of collaboration in their songwriting.

Q: Have you ever been through Cincinnati?

A: I went to a guitar store there, it’s amazing. I no longer remember the name. This was probably eight years ago.

Q: Sounds like Mike’s music.

A: They had loads and loads of vintage guitars. It was amazing. I just remember playing one of our songs there, “Flapper Girl”, and then buying the guitar. I always use it.

Restoration guitar:This Cincinnati Repair Shop Can Build Your Dream Guitar

Q: When you started out, you tried to find your happy medium between a big musical city and a rising city. How do you think finding your own audience affected your composition?

A: We grew up in New Jersey and I moved to New York for about a year. I wrote a lot of my best stuff there. But it was a tough experience because you end up having no time for music because you work so many jobs just to lower the rent. So for me, it was an easy choice to leave New York, even if the dream was shattered. I wanted to get there. And all these clubs I wanted to get into kept saying no.

Moving to Denver was wonderful because it was such a cool place. It was there that I met not only my wife in the first month, but also an incredible group of musicians that I had kind of written off. New York has a huge reputation, but I think musicians come from so many different cities. There is talent everywhere.

Q: Would you say your association of emotional lyrics with pop and minimalist themes is intentional?

A: What changed me were songs like “All You Need Is Love” by the Beatles. Most people don’t want to listen to something in seven-eight, where it sounds like a hiccup. Then they go into four-four, and all of a sudden it seems easy. You can pass it on a listener, but now you’ve brought them a new taste, but it’s not so cutting edge that they shut it down right away. With our songs, doing that in different ways was an interesting quest, trying to write songs that had real pain and real stories in them but just got in your way if you weren’t paying too much attention.

Q: I hear the theme of resilience in your music. Even with the emotional depth of your lyrics, you still present them in a way that says “you can get away with it”.

A: It’s a rebel movement even to be a musician and to hope that you will succeed. In a lot of the music we make, there’s hope, but it’s only hope because we presented the bad. You’re trying to create a three-dimensional thing that you can feel instead of just a cartoon.

Q: Your production process also gives that sense of authenticity.

A: Take “Exile on Main St.” (by the Rolling Stones). I feel like I’m sitting in a seedy basement listening to one of my friend’s band go through a set, rehearsing it with a few drinks in it, loose and really feeling it. It has always been a gold standard. If you think you’re important in any way, you owe it to the recordings to be real as opposed to plastic sounding and perfect because it’s easy to make and clean.

I use a lot of semi-hollow guitars that aren’t plugged in, so they have this weird, acoustic sound, sort of, but it’s an electric that plays like an acoustic. It gives a different feel, and it sets it apart, and that’s how it naturally sounds. All technologies allow us to do everything in post, but I don’t think it’s the best idea. The human ear can sense it.

Q: Jeremiah is a crucial asset to your party. How do you see the role and importance of collaboration in your career?

A: It’s really elementary for me. Most of us aren’t what Prince was – that one-stop-shop where all the ideas come from him. He plays all the instruments, and leave him alone and the shine comes out. Especially with “Brightside”, so many ideas were thrown around or influenced by each other that it’s hard to put your finger on who did what.

Jer sent me “Roller Coaster”. It was such a quick moment – that voice memo that was the piano and the melody. That’s all he had. And I wanted to add a stutter, and then a bridge came out. These are things you would never do if it was just you. You are lucky if you find a collaborator in life who brings out the best in you and vice versa.

The Lumineers and Caamp

When: 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 7.

Where: Riverbend Music Center, 6295 Kellogg Avenue, Anderson Township.

Tickets: $35 to $59.50.

Comments are closed.