By Mark Jor­dan

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - Go Out -

IT’S BEEN A WHIRL­WIND few weeks for Den­ver folk-rock trio The Lu­m­i­neers since the re­lease last month of their self-ti­tled de­but al­bum.

The band, aug­mented to five pieces on the road, played 63 shows in 49 days, cul­mi­nat­ing two weeks ago in their na­tional TV de­but on Co­nan O’brien’s TBS late-night show, says band singer gui­tarist Wes­ley Schultz.

“It was kind of sur­real to be a part of some­thing we al­ready were fans of,” says Schultz, who puts the band’s up­com­ing spot on Na­tional Public Ra­dio in the same league. “I think we’re all just fi­nally com­ing up for air and turn­ing back to our full selves and get­ting ready for this next tour.”

For The Lu­m­i­neers, who per­form Wed­nes­day at the Hi-tone Café, the sud­den rush of ex­po­sure is dis­con­cert­ing but wel­come, the cul­mi­na­tion of a long mu­si­cal jour­ney that has fi­nally paid off with the re­lease of the record.

“I think why it feels re­ally good is that we’re re­ally pas­sion­ate about do­ing things our own way and not com­pro­mis­ing on things, and that’s a re­ally hard thing to pull off when you’re do­ing your first record,” says Schultz, point­ing to the band’s in­sis­tence on com­pletely remix­ing be­fore its re­lease. “We spent about five years fail­ing, just not re­ally suc­cess­fully tour­ing or mak­ing any money at it and work­ing a lot of side jobs. When you fi­nally get an op­por­tu­nity, the in­stinct is to just go along with what­ever the per­son giv­ing you the op­por­tu­nity sug­gests, but we were lucky that we were able to stay true.”

Schultz and band­mate Jeremiah Fraites first started play­ing to­gether in 2005, but the roots of the col­lab­o­ra­tion go back much fur­ther. Grow­ing up in Ram­sey, N.J., out­side of New York City, Schultz’s best friend was Jeremiah’s older brother, Joshua. Af­ter Joshua died in 2002 at age 19 from a drug over­dose, Schultz and Fraites con­soled them­selves by mak­ing mu­sic.

Af­ter awhile of try­ing to make their way in New York, high rents drove the pair to re­lo­cate to Den­ver. There, one of the first things they did was place an ad on Craigslist look­ing for a cel­list. Den­ver na­tive Neyla Pekarek was the first to respond, and Schultz says she has be­come an in­dis­pens­able com­po­nent of the group’s sound, adding to not just strings but also pi­ano and man­dolin.

“It was good that she worked out be­cause I don’t know if we had a lot of other op­tions at the time,” says Schultz, jok­ing that the crowds started show­ing up only when she joined. “She adds a lot of things, both tan­gi­ble and in­tan­gi­ble. … She just has this can’t-keep-her- down men­tal­ity. She’s such a pro about bounc­ing back and putting on a smile and putting on a show.”

The warm acous­tic vibe of The Lu­m­i­neers has earned the group com­par­isons to such other folk throw­backs as Mum­ford & Sons and the Avett Broth­ers, but Schultz doesn’t see the band as strictly tra­di­tional.

“I think we just try to write good songs,” he says. “When you have a cello or a man­dolin on some songs or acous­tic gui­tars, you im­me­di­ately think that it’s folk, Amer­i­cana, roots or what­ever you want to call it.

“We’re just try­ing to make songs that res­onate, and I think you can play them on a num­ber of in­stru­ments. We just hap­pen to be us­ing real pi­ano and acous­tic gui­tars.”

Cour­tesy Big Has­sle Pub­lic­ity

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