I was lucky enough to interview the lovely Neyla Pekarek before seeing her live last month. You may have heard of her band, The Lumineers, they are the reason when I say “Ho” you think “Hey”. Plus they have recently released a damn good album, Cleopatra. Whilst I tried to not be too starstruck, we talked and giggled about their immense tour, musical theatre and Bob Dylan.
So I saw you played at the White House the other week – was that good?
Yeah for sure, I think it’s the coolest thing we have ever done. It was pretty amazing, and I think anything that reminds me that there’s something a bit bigger than what you’re doing is good. And its an honour to be part of something like that and meet Obama before he leaves office.
How is touring? Cleopatra follows more of a story than your first album so I can imagine it’s a bit different.
It’s been really busy but I think that it’s just about learning how to be a touring musician. We kinda got thrown into it the first time around, and we have been doing it for quite a while now, so I think it’s become a bit more natural then it was at the start- but yeah it’s been really good. We’re playing in Leeds this evening and then we’ll head to Dublin.
Whats your favourite song to play live at the moment?
I always like ‘Big Parade’ – it’s kind of a big point in the show and it’s on the first record. I think it’s a bit more unassuming on the album and then it’s a big spectacle live. There’s glitter and confetti – I think that one is always fun to play.
I saw you’ve added a lot of dates to your tour recently– including the Sydney opera house – are you excited or a bit scared at how many gigs you’re playing?
No it will be really cool – we are covering a lot of ground in a short amount of time – I think in April we will be in Australia, Japan and South Africa. I think our booking agents think things are all on the way to each other but they’re really far apart. It’ll be really cool though – Sydney opera house will be amazing and I love Australia – we’ve played there a couple times now – I’m excited to go back
What do you guys listen to whilst you’re touring?
I’m super into Sylvan Esso- their first record was amazing and I know they’ve released a single for their second album and working on a second album which I’m excited about. (I had a quick listen to their stuff and would recommend checking them out too). They’re a really cool duo – I know the gal used to sing back up vocals for Feist and then kinda branched off from there and did her own solo sets. But yeah I love that band- there my favourite thing to listen too right now.
What did you listen to when you were a student?
Well when I was a student I was studying musical theatre – so I listened to a lot of musical theatre which I still do. I still love it – and every time we are in London or New York I’ll try and get to a show. But yeah I studied musical theatre for two years. So being a music student I was listening to a ton of music for class, so I listened to a lot of classical music and musical theatre. And for enjoyment, I was in school around the time that Bright Eyes and Death Cab for Cutie and Ryan Adams were coming up as these indie artists, and that was sort of my bridge into listening to anything a bit more mainstream or current – but I was really only listening to musical theatre, a cappella groups things like that – I was super into that – and I still am to be truthful.
“I wouldn’t encourage young girls to go meet people on Craigslist”
Do you think that has had an influence on your style – you said earlier about the spectacle of your show?
Yeah certainly, and I do think we strive to have a full production and a full show. We spend a lot of time crafting the live show and I think people pay good money to come see us. I know a lot of bands that come out and play the record and then they leave – and that’s fine too but I think for us we try to make it very entertaining from top to bottom – and have a lot of ebb and flow to it.
I am very excited to see you guys. I was looking at set-lists and saw some Bob Dylan covers – clearly he is a big thing deal at the moment – is he an idol for you guys?
Yeah I think we are all Dylan fans – there’s not a tonne that the three of us agree on, but we agree on that. I know we all kinda grew up listening to Dylan and I think every college kid has some Dylan moment in their life. But my dad was a huge Dylan fan and he grew up in the 50’s when Dylan was really big and important. I think his songs are still so timeless and he really applied to so many different types of peoples lives – so yeah I was super thrilled to hear he got the Nobel Prize – he was definitely deserving of it.
What are you guys most proud of with Cleopatra?
Just being able to make a record that stood up against the first one. I think there’s always that weariness going into a sophomore album that it’s not going to do as well. For us as long as we were able to continue to tour and be musicians for our profession that’s really the goal and the fact it is doing well and shows are selling – we are thrilled about that.
I saw that Craigslist helped you guys get together – though that might just have been Wikipedia – do you have any advice for fellow students wanting to form a band?
I would say probably not Craigslist – our meeting was very random. But I think just try to take a lot of different opportunities that you maybe wouldn’t have taken otherwise and having a willingness to work really really hard. I think no one gets into the profession and doing well with it without working extremely hard. It’s a fun profession to have but it’s still a lot of work. Being in a band wasn’t something I had planned on doing, I was going to be a teacher, but this sort of fell into my lap and I went with it. I think I have always kinda been like that taking a lot of different opportunities even if it wasn’t necessarily the exact thing I thought I’d end up doing. But being well rounded I think is a really important skill as a person, that’s what I can offer. But I wouldn’t encourage young girls to go meet people on Craigslist on their own, that was a stupid thing for me to do – but it worked out.
Like you said – it’s hard to go further with a second album – where do you see your sound going next?
It will be a big transition period coming from the second album to the third record – and I’m not really sure what that will mean. Wesley mostly does the song writing and this album moved so far away from that folky Americana sound – and I imagine the third album will progress even farther away from that. The first album was so heavy in using mandolins and violins and I don’t see the third record using instruments like that, we might kind of develop much more into a regular rock and roll set up.
Is ‘Ho Hey’ your ‘Wonderwall’ or do you still enjoy playing it live?
It’s sort of an interesting relationship with that song, it almost feels like you are covering someone else’s song – it doesn’t feel like it’s ours anymore. But I never dread playing it and we play it pretty early in the set. I have noticed a change that it doesn’t seem to get the response like it used to. People are still really excited about it and get their phones out and that type of thing, but it feels much more within the rest of the set there’s more reaction from fans. I think we always remember that song was our key to opening this door for other people to hear the rest of the album, and that song did a lot for our career so I would never resent it in that way.
Yeah, I’m a big fan of Angela on Cleopatra
Yeah? That’s cool, we were all excited about that one as a band it seems to get quite a response from the crowd which is exciting. Especially as the album is out longer it feels like people know it a little better.
I’m guessing you feel that as you’re touring, do you kind of feel that as people get to know the album – are you the kind of the band that likes it when the crowd sings along or do you prefer it when you can play it how you want it?
I think our songs kind of lend themselves to that sort of campfire feel and so I always encourage that.