The Lumineers 'Breathe New Life' Into Band With Long-Awaited 'Cleopatra' Album

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The Lumineers

For the past four years, a packed tour schedule following the massive success of their self-titled debut album has kept The Lumineers noticeably absent from the studio, but not from fans' minds. Though, after selling out shows around the world, perhaps no one is more excited for new material than the bandmembers themselves, who are eager to revitalize a set list that hasn’t changed in almost half a decade.

“You can only play something for so long before it naturally just gets stale,” said Lumineers frontman Wesley Schultz just hours before performing songs from Cleopatra, the band’s sophomore album, for the first time at the Honda Stage at the iHeartRadio Theater in Los Angeles last month. “I think we’re really excited to turn the page. It breathes new life into a band that spent, maybe, I’m exaggerating, but four or five years playing those songs [from the first album].”

The new album, which Schultz described as “a proper filled-out, flushed-out record” compared to the “innocent demo feeling” of the band’s debut album, abandons the Lumineers' signature neofolk sound and in its place promises more electric guitar, piano and, above all, storytelling. On the album’s title track, the band tells the true story -- from a woman’s perspective, Schultz added -- of a taxi driver who refused to settle down; on “Gun Song,” Schultz confronts the hazy reality of his childhood and finding a pistol in his father’s sock drawer.

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Despite Cleopatra’s desire to tell the stories of the members of the band and those they’ve encountered, the album’s first single, “Ophelia,” a song about the complications that arise from floods of attention, does well with quite the opposite -- as Schultz put it, a “stream of consciousness.”

“You know, there’s funny situations where people say, ‘Did you mean the flood of attention in the hook [for “Ophelia”]?’ And it’s like, well, I guess I did… I don’t know,” Schultz said. “It wasn’t written like that, but sometimes the truth comes out of just blabbering and blurting things out that you don’t really know where they’re coming from.”

Though Cleopatra is not available until Friday, fans have put their blind faith in a band whose sound they fell in love with years ago by already selling out more than half of the shows on the band’s upcoming tour. And it appears that their faith is not ill-placed: Following 110 weeks (so far) on the Billboard 200 chart, the band’s debut album earned them two Grammy nominations and a spot on Obama’s summer playlist (though even he has yet to hear the new album).

Should fans have missed The Lumineers on their last tour, the band plans on playing new and old material alike at upcoming shows, including hits like “Ho Hey” and “Stubborn Love,” which made it to No. 3 and No. 70 on the Hot 100 chart, respectively. One of the perks of a newer band like The Lumineers playing for hours at venues like the Hollywood Bowl and Red Rocks Amphitheatre (drummer Jeremiah Fraites’ favorite venue) is that a limited amount of material means the band intends to play every song off of Cleopatra, allowing no song to go unheard.

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Though every artist’s sophomore album is accompanied by the pressure to maintain success and popularity, the band feels more pressure internally to put an album out that they themselves can appreciate for the next several years. And for The Lumineers, who have a tendency to spend a lot of time with an album and play it until even they can’t bear to hear it anymore, that pressure is especially prominent.

“The biggest pressure was that once we release [the album], we have to tour as a band and live and eat and breathe these songs,” Fraites said. “You have to make sure that you release something that you really feel strongly about; otherwise it’s gonna be a difficult tour. Those pressures are sort of floating around, but I think they didn’t best us, which is good. I think we bested those fears and those pressures.” 

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