The Lumineers

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The Lumineers
The Lumineers 2013.jpg
The Lumineers in 2013
Background information
Origin Denver, Colorado, U.S.,
Ramsey, New Jersey, U.S (hometown).
Genres Indie folk, folk rock, Americana
Years active 2002–present
Labels Dualtone
Members Wesley Schultz
Jeremiah Fraites
Neyla Pekarek
Stelth Ulvang
Ben Wahamaki
Past members Jay Van Dyke
Maxwell Hughes

The Lumineers are a folk rock band, based in Denver, Colorado. The two founding members and songwriters of the Lumineers are Wesley Schultz (lead vocals, guitar) and Jeremiah Fraites (drums, percussion). Josh Fraites, the brother of Jeremiah and best friend of Schultz, died of a drug overdose in 2002. As a way to cope with their loss, Schultz and Fraites began writing and performing together in New Jersey in 2002. Cellist and vocalist Neyla Pekarek joined the band in 2010, after responding to a Craigslist ad. Pianist Stelth Ulvang and bassist Ben Wahamaki joined the band as full-time members in 2012.

The band's self-titled debut album was released on Dualtone Records on April 3, 2012, eventually peaking at number 2 on the Billboard 200 chart in January 2013. As of December 2013, their debut album has been certified Platinum in the US and Ireland, with Gold certifications in the UK, Australia and Canada.


2002–10: Formation[edit]

In 2002, Josh, the brother of Jeremiah Fraites died due to a drug overdose, at the age of 19.[1] Jeremiah and Josh's best friend, Wesley Schultz began writing songs together to cope with their mutual loss, forming The Lumineers in Ramsey, New Jersey.[1][2] In regards to this, Schultz has stated, "There's a certain level of growing up overnight that happens. As a band, it adds something that's very elusive — it's hopefulness, but there's also some sorrow behind it, and there's some depth that defines who you are."[3]

When they originally began to collaborate, writing together and playing gigs around New York City, they did so under various names including Free Beer, 6Cheek, and Wesley Jeremiah.[4] Fraites elaborates, "When Wes and I got together, our first band name was Free Beer. It wasn’t serious at first. We were a crappy band doing (terrible) covers. But we slowly started getting away from covers and writing originals. We were doing everything: vanilla singer-songwriter stuff, hard rock, electronic music. There was no focus; it was a mad, random mess."[5]

Schultz and Fraites invited Jason, or Jay, Van Dyke into the band in 2008.[6] According to Schultz and Fraites, Van Dyke responded to a Craigslist ad that summer when the band was still based in New York and was known as 6Cheek.[7][8] However, he was still a member when the band would change its name to Wesley Jeremiah, before settling on The Lumineers.[8][9] Schultz has stated the story behind the band's name as being, "We were playing a small club in Jersey City, N.J., and there was a band out there at the time called Lumineers who were slotted for the same time, same day, the next week. The person running the show that night [mistakenly] announced us as The Lumineers."[4]

However, they struggled to find their desired amount of success in New York, as Schultz elaborates, "I was living in Brooklyn and working three jobs just to pay the rent," adding, "it was really infuriating to move to a city that would help us grow musically but then never have any time to work on music. So I decided to do something about it."[3] In 2009, after considering relocating to London, Philadelphia, Boston, the two, in their, "ignorance and naïveté," decided to move to Denver, Colorado, and joined the open mic scene.[5][10] The duo then met the classically trained cellist, Neyla Pekarek.[1][2][6] Although Pekarek had just recently graduated from college and was planning to become a teacher, she responded to a Craigslist ad posted by Schultz and Fraites requesting a cellist.[3][11][12]

2011–12: "Ho Hey" and The Lumineers[edit]

As a three-piece, The Lumineers met Maxwell Hughes at an open mic event in Denver.[13] Hughes suggested joining the band as a mandolin accompaniment; he played and toured as an unofficial fourth member, as well as contributed to the band's debut album.[13] The band, however, was not looking for a permanent fourth member at the time, and Hughes and The Lumineers parted ways.[13]

At 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. on August 2, 2012; touring with Old Crow Medicine Show. Wesley Schultz on acoustic guitar (right), Neyla Pekarek on cello (left).

In the spring of 2011, they signed a management deal with Onto Entertainment which funded the band to record a full length album in Seattle at Bear Creek Studio with producer Ryan Hadlock.[14]

In December 2011, what would become the band's first single, "Ho Hey", was used in the season finale of CW's Hart of Dixie. This started a national buzz on social media.[15] In January 2012, John Richards, the morning show DJ at KEXP-FM in Seattle, discovered "Ho Hey" in a pile of new CDs he had received, played it twice in a row daily for a week, and called it the best song of 2012.[16] WXPN Philadelphia/ NPR then conducted a feature on the band on their "World Cafe: Next" program.[17] The band passed up major label offers to sign a deal with independent label Dualtone Records that same month.[15] The album was then licensed under similar terms to Dine Alone Records in Canada, Inertia in Australia, and Decca Records for the rest of the world.[18] On signing with smaller indie labels, Fraites claims, "it's just nice to work with people that are entirely engaged. You know, not just sitting in front of a computer and playing Angry Birds on their cell phones all day," adding, "with these smaller labels, people work 12 or 15 hour days to ensure our records are in the stores, and that we're getting played at radio. We want to work with people that are as hungry as we are."[18]

The Lumineers was released on April 3, 2012 on Dualtone Records.[19] The album was met with mixed to positive critical reception, holding a 73 on review aggregator Metacritic, translating to "generally favorable reviews."[19] rated the album 8/10 commenting, "a spark of uniqueness does exist".[20] The band's popularity continued to build in 2012 with sold-out shows and favorable reviews with The Bears Of Blue River and other American bands, and their debut album went on to peak at number 2 on the Billboard 200 album chart.[21][22] Of the album's success, Schultz told Liz Riggs of American Songwriter that "It's really arbitrary to any of us, especially to Jer and Neyla and I... because we've never really had an album out in this way... I'm really thrilled, but I also take it with a grain of salt," adding, "I think basically, I feel really lucky because I know how fickle the business, the industry is."[23]

On June 14, 2012, the album's first single, "Ho Hey", debuted at number 90 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, their first song to do so.[24] "Ho Hey" later peaked at number 3 on the Hot 100, making it the band's first Top 5 single.[25] As of December 2012, the single had sold over 2 million copies, making it their first Double Platinum single.[26] On June 30, "Ho Hey" hit No. 1 at commercial Triple A radio, maintaining the position for 8 weeks.[27] Later, on September 17, the song hit #1 on the Alternative Songs chart where it stayed for two weeks.[28][29] "Ho Hey" would also reach #1 on Billboard's Rock Airplay, Hot Rock Songs, Alternative Songs, Rock Digital Songs, Alternative Digital Songs, Heatseekers Songs, Adult Pop Songs, and Adult Contemporary Songs charts.[30] "Ho Hey" is also experienced charting success internationally, reaching #1 on the Canadian Alternative radio chart and #17 on the Canadian single sales chart. It also reached number 8 in the United Kingdom, becoming their first Top 10 single there.[31] In October 2012, Spotify named "Ho Hey" as the most shared song in Manhattan, and 3rd most shared in Brooklyn.[32]

On November 23, 2012, The Lumineers released Winter, an EP version of their self-titled debut album.[33] On December 5, 2012, The Lumineers were nominated for two Grammy Awards for Best New Artist and Best Americana Album.

2013–present: "The Hanging Tree"[edit]

Continuing into 2013, "Ho Hey" would spend 8 consecutive weeks atop Billboard's Adult Pop Songs chart.[34][35] Simultaneously, "Stubborn Love", the second single off of The Lumineers, would see two 4-week runs at number 1 on the Adult Alternative Songs chart.[36]

The Lumineers headline shows in the Northeastern US were announced for February 2013 and quickly sold out.[37] Similarly, the band's tours of the UK, Europe, and Australia in early 2013 has sold out all shows, after many shows were moved to larger venues.[38][39][40]

"Submarines" was released as the third single on July 30, 2013.[41] The band performed "Ho Hey" and "Submarines" on The Colbert Report in July 2013.[42] In August 2013, "Ho Hey" would become the 10th song to reach a 60th week on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, eventually finishing its run on the Hot 100 after 62 weeks, one of the highest runs in the chart's history.[43][44] Subsequently, on August 20, 2013, a deluxe edition of their debut album was released, which included 5 bonus tracks, over 25 minutes of video footage, and a 28 page booklet.[45] Several songs by the band were used in the television series Reign.[46] "Scotland", in particular, was used as the theme song for the series. [46] "Scotland" is co-written and features a performance from Van Dyke.[47]

In May 2014, Van Dyke would file a lawsuit against Schultz, Fraites, and The Lumineers, LLC.[48] The lawsuit reads, "In biographic and publicity materials that routinely accompany the numerous record releases of Schultz and Fraites’s current band, Van Dyke has been ostracized and rendered 'invisible' through a false narrative," as well as, "Schultz and Fraites promote false claims that they developed the band and its original material in Denver, with no mention whatsoever of Van Dyke’s significant involvement in developing the band and the Compositions."[6][8] Van Dyke claims he continued to participate in recording sessions with the band, after their relocation to Denver, and played live shows that took place on the East Coast.[6] Schultz and Fraites have admitted to "occasionally" rehearsing and performing with Van Dyke at performance venues in New Jersey and New York.[7] The band tried to move the lawsuit to the U.S. District Court in Denver, but their attempt proved to be unsuccessful.[7][49] The Lumineers would file their response to Van Dyke in February 2015, arguing that his claims are without merit and should be dismissed, and also denying his claims of co-writing nine of the band's songs.[7]

The Lumineers continued their musical efforts into 2014; in August they released "Visions of China", a track featured in The Walking Dead.[50] In September 2014, it was announced that The Lumineers began working on their second album.[51] Schultz stated through Instagram, "Well folks, we are back in the studio, chippin away at some new ideas. It’s been one hell of a ride so far and we are excited to be writing again. Thanks and stay tuned."[51]

Fraites and Schultz would compose the music for "The Hanging Tree".[52][53] "The Hanging Tree" is a song performed by James Newton Howard featuring vocals from American actress Jennifer Lawrence for the 2014 film The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, the third installment of The Hunger Games film series.[54] The song appears on both the official score album for the film, and on the digital re-release of the official soundtrack for the film.[55][56] The lyrics were written by The Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins and originally appeared in her novel Mockingjay.[53][54] Following its release, "The Hanging Tree" debuted in the top 40 of the singles charts of Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.[57][58][59] The song was released to American mainstream radio stations on December 9, 2014.[60]

Musical style[edit]

The Lumineers performing at the Rock4G concert in 2012.

Schultz has stated, "I write the lyrics, and I co-write the songs with Jer," adding "It’s never the same thing with each song. Generally speaking it involves a piano, a guitar, and maybe singing, and we usually start out with the chord structure, a set of chords, a melody especially, and then the lyrics usually follow. Or it’s one phrase that you really find great and then you build the song around that."[23] Schultz later claimed, "Your melodies make people want to hear what you’re saying," adding, "They’ve got to be open to hearing it, almost hum it. And if they want to go deeper there is something there."[10]

Fraites emphasizes the simplicity of the group's style, stating, "we’re not reinventing the wheel or doing anything that different, the songs are super simple. The ideas themselves are very simple ideas. Anyone who can play an instrument can play a Lumineers song. I think there’s a certain cinematic aspect of our music that I really like."[61] Launchpad similarly writes, "where most bands these days look for that new, original sound to enhance the digital revolution, 'The Lumineers' do superbly in taking it back to simplicity."[62] In another interview, Fraites explains, "I just think people are enamored of going into a room and watching people play their own instruments and sing, rather than using Auto-Tune and a lot of digital equipment to get their sound across. There is so much digital-ness all around us. People are almost taken aback when you do the opposite of that. It’s inspiring."[5]

Alister Roberts of Contactmusic has described the band's self-titled debut album as, "a perfectly formed collection of rustic folk type songs, slotting in nicely amongst the current roots revival."[63] Their folk sound has received comparisons to Mumford & Sons.[64][65] On Mumford & Sons, Schultz has commented that they, "kicked down doors, and they allowed radio to receive a band like us because we somehow slightly resemble what they’re doing."[10] Jon Pareles of The New York Times wrote that, "Mumford comparisons rankle the Lumineers. While both bands wrap moody lyrics in toe-tapping melodies, Mumford & Sons pile on instruments in massive buildups. The Lumineers, by contrast, stay sparse, barely getting around to using an electric guitar on The Lumineers."[10]

Other artists have commented on the folk-style music of The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons; alternative rock artist Jack White praised the style, stating, "I think these acts nowadays are keeping people’s ears open to the idea of the soulfulness of folk-style music and acoustic music, and you get a little bit closer to the musician, to the writer, at times."[66] Conversely, hard and shock rock artist Alice Cooper criticized the two bands, calling it "an offense" to label them rock bands.[67][68]


The band cites a diverse range of influences including Bob Dylan, Beethoven, Guns N' Roses, Talking Heads, Bruce Springsteen, The Cars, Leonard Cohen, and "cinematic music and anything strange and weird."[69][70] Schultz adds Bob Dylan, Born in the U.S.A., Greatest Hits, Sand in the Vaseline, Exile on Main St., and The Future as specific album influences.[70] Additionally, Schultz cites a Tom Petty performance as one that, "really stands out" to him, stating, "I just remember him playing "Last Dance With Mary Jane", and as the opening guitar line was being played, he opened up a chest on stage that had not been opened the entire show, pulled out a hat, put that hat on for the duration of the song, and then opened the chest back up and put it in and shut it. That is the moment I took away from his show. This taught me everything I needed to know."[70]


  • Wesley Keith Schultz – lead vocals, guitar, piano (2005–present)
  • Jeremiah Caleb Fraites – drums, percussion, piano, backing vocals, mandolin, glockenspiel (2005–present)
  • Neyla Pekarek – cello, bass, percussion, backing vocals (2010–present)
  • Stelth Ulvang – piano, mandolin, accordion, guitar, banjo, clarinet, glockenspiel, double bass, trombone, trumpet, flute, drums, backing vocals (2012–present)
  • Ben Wahamaki – bass guitar, upright bass, guitar (2012–present)

Past members[edit]

  • Jay Van Dyke - drums, backing vocals, keyboards
  • Maxwell Hughes - guitar


Awards and nominations[edit]

Billboard Music Awards[edit]

Year Recipient/Nominated work Award Result
2013 The Lumineers Top New Artist Nominated
The Lumineers Top Rock Artist Nominated

Grammy Awards[edit]

Year Recipient/Nominated work Award Result
2013 The Lumineers Best New Artist Nominated
The Lumineers Best Americana Album Nominated


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External links[edit]