10 Questions with ... Jeremiah Fraites
March 7, 2016
1. For those that have been living under a rock and not as familiar with The Lumineers and your music, who or what was the catalyst for you to want to live the life of a musical gypsy?
Well, two things ... I guess, first was seeing my father go to work every day, getting up at six in the morning and getting home at five or six o'clock every night. He provided an amazing life for my brother, myself and my mother. That was amazing of him but I also saw that classic, traditional work ethic of going to a job every day for 30 or 40 years and not necessarily enjoying the job, but doing it because he needed to provide for his family.
Secondly, I saw a lot of my peers after high school or college immediately finding jobs that paid well, but were not necessarily fulfilling them. It allowed for them to buy a house, a car, or a cool apartment in New York City or whatever superficial thing at the time but it didn't make them happy. I said to myself, "I rather do something that makes me happy as opposed to something that makes me money.".]
I just think that it made sense to me ... ya know, that idea of do what you love. You know that old cliché, "If you do what you love for a living, you never work a day in your life." I do what I love for a living and I also work extremely hard, so I don't know if that old adage is correct, but I am very blessed and I feel very lucky to have had all that success with our debut album.
Before our debut album ever came out, Wes (Shultz) and I wrote music for about five or six years (now going on 10 years) before we found any success. They say it takes about 10 years to be an overnight success and I suppose that was true with us.
2. Your self-titled debut album, gave us the memorable hit song, "Ho Hey," which would become the 10th song to reach a 60th week on the Billboard Hot 100 chart; eventually finishing its run at 62 weeks, as one of the highest runs in the chart's history. What did you learn between your debut album and now that you felt you wanted to infuse into the album, Cleopatra?
I guess we learned a lot. One thing is that there was this big anticipation for our second album, obviously, and there was this big pressure to deliver an epic album.
As The Lumineers, we certainly could have capitalized on the first album's success. In other words, we could have just put out another record two years later that looked, sounded and felt exactly like the first one
We were very lucky to have with the success of "Ho Hey," but instead of trying to cheapen that experience or capitalize on it we thought, "Okay, let's make the second album grow and evolve and let there be a palpable difference in the two albums, both sonically and well, everything." I think it feels more grown up and more serious and again, evolved. These are all serious words using to describe our music but I really feel like that. I really feel that the second album is more mature.
3. You and Wes both composed the melody for the song, "The Hanging Tree," which was featured in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 and was performed by James Newton Howard and vocals by actress Jennifer Lawrence. How did that all come about and how was that experience writing for a soundtrack?
Well, it came about very organically. We had completed a song for The Hunger Games soundtrack called "Gayle's Song" that is going to be on the second record. The director of The Hunger Games, Francis Lawrence, reached out to me directly and it was just like I said, a very organic request. He said, "Hey do you and Wes want to write some music and a melody?" In the book, The Hunger Games, there is this poem called "The Hanging Tree" ... and obviously it's just words on a page. So this was a really cool, working-backwards kind of homework assignment. You know, typically ... it's I find the melody first and Wes would write the lyrics and this time it was here are the lyrics, now write the melody.
So, me and Wes worked on the melody and tried to imagine The Hunger Games character (Katniss) that Jennifer Lawrence portrays and being this center of attention in this war-like atmosphere and we tried to delve into this Appalachian-folky kinda vibe and sent it to them ... and they loved it!
It was really neat to see this little melody in the movie, worked on by a world-renown composer like James Newton Howard and sung by Jennifer Lawrence.
Wes and I write all this music for The Lumineers, but also have all these other song ideas that we can't use for The Lumineers, so doing something like that for a movie was a great exercise in continuing to be an artist.
4. You guys continued your musical efforts on the small screen, too, by releasing the song, "Visions of China," which was featured in the AMC television show, The Walking Dead. Are you all big fans of the show as well?
To be honest, I've never seen an episode of The Walking Dead. I watched every episode of Breaking Bad and then I went back to an older show called The X-Files and then we went on tour for three years so, I haven't had a lot of time to watch television. But I love the song, "Visions of China," and I know that The Walking Dead is probably the biggest show in the world right now.
5. What was the inspiration for your new single, "Ophelia"?
"Ophelia" was really cool because that was the first song that we had written and 100% completed in the demoing process. We finished touring the first album, going on three years now, in December of 2014 and then we started writing in January of 2015. By February, "Ophelia" was done in the demo stage and that was really exciting because I felt like it helped me understand the second album.
I felt like "Ophelia" was this foundational cornerstone song that had to be completed before we wrote the rest of the album. And that was the first song on the album, so it's kind of fitting that it's the first single.
6. Did you help come up with the treatment for the video as well?
Lyrically, I heard Wes talk about it often; he says that the lyrics sort of just fell out of him as a stream of consciousness and then they began to have meaning later for him -- specifically to this idea of after touring for three years on the first record, you sometimes feel numb and disconnected to what you are doing and doing the same thing every night ... and you are exhausted from travel.
That fed in lyrically into the treatment of the video ... this idea of us performing as these kind of stoic statues performing on a stage and this sort of ghost-like figure that rises from Wesley's body that starts dancing in the street without a care in the world. It actually started to rain at the end of the shoot, which you can see in the video for "Ophelia." That was not planned -- that was no CGI rain! That actually started to happen and its one of my favorite scenes when it turns that corner and it's raining in Los Angeles. How rare is that? It was pretty great to capture it in that moment in the presentation of the song.
7. What was the first album you saved up your hard-earned money as a kid and bought for yourself?
I can remember buying an album by the band, Bush. I can't remember the title of the album but it had the song, "Machinehead" and "Glycerine," which was a huge hit ... it had a lot of cool songs on that album.
I can also remember spending a lot of the time putting in the cassette and making 20, 30 or even 40 mixed tapes of songs. And if the radio DJ talked over the last part of the song, I would get mad and then re-record it the next time it came on the radio again. I would get really angry!
I would be really meticulous about collecting all this music and trying to do it "for free" which, little did I know, 15 to 20 years later, that is how people were going to do it with YouTube and an infinite amount of songs at your fingertips. We live in a strange world now and it's a strange time to be a musician. That said, I do think it's also an exciting time to be a musician, too. Change is not always bad.
8. What was the first song you fell in love with (or made a lasting impact) on you and why?
A round the 4th or 5th grade, I really started falling in love with music for the first time and that was from the great composer, Beethoven. My brother got a Bach CD and we used to argue about who was better!
I just love Beethoven. I fell in love with -- not the symphony of Beethoven -- but just him on the piano. I guess they are called, sonatas. His songs are just so beautiful and I would listen to them every night before I fell asleep. So, I fell in love with the piano and Beethoven first.
And then, I'll never forget the first time I heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana came on the radio. I, of course, recorded it off the radio on my little cassette player and I just loved the guitar intro. I just remember that time was kind of weird because I was listening to Beethoven but falling in love with Nirvana, Guns N Roses, Bush and all these other hard rock bands at the same time, juxtaposed to the classical piano. I guess I just love music of all kinds."
9. Who is in your current playlist? What artists or bands are in current rotation for you?
I am at my computer right now and instead of showing you my playlist, I can explain to you my playlist. Okay, so I have the song, "The Truth" by Dr. Dog, "The Suburbs" by Arcade Fire, "Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime" by Beck, which is from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind soundtrack. I also have "A Day In The Life" by The Beatles, "The Ghosts of Beverly Drive" by Death Cab For Cutie. I also have "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings" from Father John Misty. And "Hannah Hunt" by Vampire Weekend.
I'm just really loving the latest Vampire Weekend album, Modern Vampires of The City. I'm really, really in love with the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind movie soundtrack, too. It has that Beck song that I just mentioned and it has a ton of original songs by the composer, Jon Brion. It's just incredible. So yeah, that's just some of the stuff I've been listening to a lot lately."
10. What are you most excited about for this year?
I'm excited for our album, Cleopatra, to come out on April 8th. It's really frustrating that the album was done, basically in September -- or maybe around early October -- and its now almost six months later. So, I just can't wait for that.
It's a totally different album than the first. We changed and we're gonna push our listeners and test them a little bit, which my favorite artists have done with me whether it was Radiohead, Beck, Pink Floyd or The Talking Heads. These are paradigm-shifting artists that test their listeners to see what they were made of and I hope that in some capacity we do the same.
I'm also really excited to go back on tour, see our fans and have them listen to our songs.
Interview by Nicole DeRosa