The Lumineers Light It Up

The Lumineers, a band whose popularity is skyrocketing, features two natives of Ramsey.

The Lumineers
From left, Jeremiah Fraites, Wesley Schultz and Neyla Pekarek of the Lumineers, whose hit, “Ho Hey,” has skyrocketed their popularity.
Photo by Scarlet Page.

Growing up in Ramsey, the Lumineers’ Jeremiah Fraites and Wesley Schultz had no shortage of musical competition.

“My graduating class, even three years below and three years above me, there was an astonishing amount of talent,” says Fraites, 28, who sings and plays drums and mandolin in the Lumineers. But it’s a safe bet that he and guitarist/vocalist Schultz are the only ones of their classmates currently on the Billboard Hot 100. The group’s jubilant, foot-stomping single “Ho Hey”—you may know it from a ubiquitous Bing commercial—is one of this year’s breakout hits, propelling the trio’s self-titled album to No. 11 on The Billboard 200 pop chart.
Fraites and Schultz formed the Lumineers nearly a decade ago, shortly after the drummer’s older brother, Josh, died of an overdose. They moved to New York to promote their front-porch rock. But that was before the breakthrough success of similar acoustic rock acts such as Mumford & Sons, the Avett Brothers and Of Monsters and Men.

Broke and hungry, the pair decided to move somewhere cheaper to focus on their music. They decided against going home to their parents’ basements in New Jersey. “If you start to fail, you can always go home,” says Fraites. Instead, they relocated to Denver in 2009—where they added cellist Neyla Pekarek. “That lit a fire under us to make [music] into a self-sustaining thing.”

Fraites still chuckles about the trio’s first cross-country tour, playing to largely empty clubs and sleeping on friends’ floors. “It was crazy. We drove about 14,000 miles,” he says. “We lost a ton of money, but had a really good time.”

It was during those days that the band developed its rambunctious performing style, which often finds them mingling with the audience, standing on tables and switching instruments. At some of the early gigs, “the band members would outnumber the crowd,” Fraites says. “If no one was paying attention, we’d go out between the chairs and scream at people.”

These days, the crowds are larger and more attentive. The band has toured Europe and opened for acts such as Brandi Carlile and the Allman Brothers. “The strangest things happen now,” Fraites says. “A lot more people are eager to talk to us. We were out in the audience and someone was screaming, ‘Touch him! It’s the drummer.’ Pretty weird.”

The Lumineers will open for the Dave Matthews Band on December 21 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the following night at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

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