The Lumineers say that “BRIGHTSIDE,” the title track from their latest album, is “like a 15-year-old’s fever dream, an American love story in all its glory and heartbreak.”
The song was recorded in one exhilarating day—a rare pace for the famously fastidious band—and captures the feeling of loving someone fervently through the apocalypse. Oddly relatable in 2022.
Jeremiah Fraites, a multi-instrumentalist who co-founded the band with singer/guitarist Wesley Schultz 17 years ago, remembers the recording session distinctly.
“We were freaking out,” he says. “We were on cloud nine.”
BRIGHTSIDE is the band’s fourth studio album. They stop in San Jose this Saturday on their world tour supporting it. With standout tracks like “WHERE WE ARE,” “A.M. RADIO” and “ROLLERCOASTER,” it’s a super-charged version of the band’s recognizable sound, complete with their knack for capturing life’s highs and lows in irresistible, perfectly imperfect, three-minute anthems.
“The shows have never been bigger. I’ve never seen more people crying at the shows,” Fraites says. “It’s just been a really cool positive reinforcement of what we’ve been doing as a band, just making music that we believe in.”
As a band, the Lumineers have consistently spun the rawest kind of gold out of tragedy. Schultz and Fraites began playing music together in their hometown of Ramsey, New Jersey, to process their grief over the loss of Fraites’ older brother and Schultz’s close friend, who died from a heroin overdose in 2001. When the NYC music scene became more exhausting than energizing for the duo, they made a bold, last-ditch move to Denver in 2005. Seven years later in 2012, the foot-stomping, folk-inspired shouter “Ho Hey” from their debut album became a breakthrough hit, rocketing the band to stardom at a time when their rough-around-the-edges ethos was just beginning to win over popular audiences in America.
After the pandemic cut their last world tour short, Schultz and Fraites took time apart to record solo albums. Fraites moved to Italy with his family and recorded an album of instrumental pieces he had been developing for years. Titled Piano Piano, it translates to “little by little” and feels as gentle as its name.
In contrast, BRIGHTSIDE has the caps-lock energy of a painful yet magnificent explosion.
“I think this album has a categorically different feel than any of our previous works,” Fraites says. “The first two albums, we had a lot more time to work on stuff and pine away and overthink everything.”
Many of Schultz’s lyrics were written in an almost stream-of-consciousness mode. The unforgettable pounding drums on the title track itself came together in a similarly spontaneous way. Fraites recalls being at their customary Catskills recording studio, trying out a beat to complement Schultz’s melody and guitar. When he told producers David Baron and Simone Felice in the control room he was ready to record, he heard jubilant cheers over the intercom.
“I was like, ‘I didn’t even know you guys were recording,’” Fraites says. “And I went down there and listened back and it was like, that’s the beat. I hadn’t even played that beat ever. It was just a thing that happened then, there, on the spot. Those drums you hear on the record, that’s exactly how it happened. We made a loop of the beat and that’s how the whole song was made, from that.”
A lot of the album, he says, came together that way: through chance and instinct. Just as the song “BRIGHTSIDE” is about a teenager’s take on life and love, Fraites has been getting back in touch with his own teenage self.
“I’m 36, and it probably took me about 20 years to learn how to play like I was 15 again,” he says. “I was 14 or 15 when I got my first drum set, and I had the emotions of a 14- or 15-year-old—the angst and rage and confusion and excitement and energy and all that—but I didn’t have the skills or the chops to understand how to put that into actual musical expression. After 20 years of playing the drums, it really was like spending a whole life learning how to play like a teenager again.”
Sat, 7pm, $45+
SAP Center, San Jose