It will have been three years since The Lumineers played in Arizona when they grace the stage at Comerica Theater in downtown Phoenix on Tuesday, October 4th, 2016.
I was fortunate enough to be in attendance at one of their first concerts in Arizona four years ago at the Marquee Theater. I'm still in full accordance that it might have been one of the best concerts I've ever been to. Granted, I was heart-broken at the time, and every song naturally seemed to be directed right towards me and my problems.
The band is currently touring in support of their sophomore album, Cleopatra, which debuted earlier in the year at No.1 on the Billboard charts with 125,000 copies being moved. The album's lead single, Ophelia, has garnered more than 85 million streams on Spotify and the album is still in the top 75 albums according to the Billboard Top 200.
Wesley Schultz, lead singer for the Lumineers was recently gracious enough to sit down with Up in the Pines and answer a few questions for us.
Having Theda Bara on the cover of the album, what’s the story behind that? Or is it purely for the fact that she played the role of Cleopatra? (1917)
I was searching for images of inspiration for the cover art we knew the record would be called "Cleopatra", but had planned on asking a painter-friend to create an original piece. But then I stumbled upon this haunting image of Theda Bara, dressed as Cleopatra. The image had this arresting quality about it, stopping me dead in my tracks. It was something about her eyes, her gaze, that I just couldn't shake. She looked somehow both defiant and vulnerable at the same time. The photo was taken in 1917 for the silent film Cleopatra - what's interesting is that the film was burned up and lost in the Fox Studio Fires in 1937, so it's considered a lost film. Only few fragments of fragments have survived. And Theda Bara as a person is also so interesting because she went from being one of the most famous screen actors of her time, to falling into relative obscurity once the silent films were supplanted by motion pictures with sound.
During that middle period between The Lumineers and Cleopatra, was any traveling done? Or were the wheels turning the entire time for the new album?
We finished touring on the self-titled album in mid December of 2014, and began writing the new album on January 1st of 2016. So not much downtime. We spent 6 months cooped up in a little house in Denver working on demos and then went out to the Woodstock, NY area to actually record the album for 2 months. I think we were eager to begin writing again. What drew Jer (Jeremiah Fraites, drummer) and I to music was writing - we've been writing together for 11 years now. So, we had been touring so much that we wanted to get back to that aspect of music, the part that really nourishes us.
Angela, Ophelia, Elouise, Darlene; what’s the meaning behind the multiple female named tracks on each album?
The female names question is a common one - I guess it relates more to trying to create these characters and stories in our music, more than singing about only my own story. Cleopatra, for example, was inspired by a real person i had met - and it is written from her perspective. She had fallen in love with a boy in her small village at 16. Around the same time, her father died unexpectedly. Soon after, her boyfriend proposed to her - but being so numb from the loss of of her father, she gave him no answer. He left her house rejected and heartbroken, tracking out muddy footprints from the rain outside. She never saw him again, but refused to wash off the muddy footprints he left on her carpet. It is these types of stories I try to bring to our songs.
After making Love, Loss and Crimes in 2008 under 6Cheeks, did you ever foresee the band
in the position that it is in today?
I think we had the benefit of failure. We failed for so long, we developed our sound and craft of songwriting in anonymity - we got to throw a lot of shit at the wall and see what would stick. SO by the time we got a break in 2012, we had written so many songs and played so many shows that we were more prepared for such a break, and I think we knew who we were a bit more.
How did you meet Mr.Borns and eventually get him to open up on the Cleopatra World Tour?
We have heard his songs and were impressed by not only the songwriting, but also how good he sounded live. We are lucky to have him on the bill with us - the shows are gonna be a good mixture of music for the fans.
Favorite songs/albums that the band is currently listening to right now?
I wish I Was Sober - Frightened Rabbit - I heard this song and I wept. There are people in my life, very close to me, who've dealt with and are dealing with addiction. Somehow, similar to the power of the lyrics and visceral quality of Kurt Cobain, Frightened Rabbit manages to paint such a rich picture of something so hard to describe and capture.
Any artists from this generation that you would want to collaborate with?
We have loved working with Simone Felice, who produced our latest album. He is an incredible solo artist and also an original member of The Felice Brothers. Their music had a profound impact on us and revealed the power of song, no matter how ragged or sparse it is. Also Sia - I've loved her songs for a long time now, and it's great to see her experiencing such a great wave of success - I think she is a genius when it comes to melodies and the musicality of certain words that just seem to sound right.
Last question. We here at Up In The Pines are in full belief that “Stubborn love,” might be one of the best songs written in the 21st century. With that being said, what led to the writing of that song, and is it really “better to feel pain, than nothing at all?”
You are too kind, thank you for that! At the time of writing that song, my heart had been broken, and my dreams of being a musician were being crushed daily. The love interest in the song IS the song. No matter how many times the muse and the music broke my heart, i felt "I still love her i don't really care". I had seen this show with the Felice Brothers back in 2008 - they were playing in this old synagogue that had been gutted and converted into a bar. I had this realization that night at this show in this sacrilegious skeleton of a church, that music could be this almost religious experience - a communion between people. It was church without God.
The October 4th, 2016 show at Comerica Theater in Phoenix, Arizona is currently sold-out. Tickets can still be purchased from a third-party dealer here.