The Lumineers recall seeing a bowling alley and photographer Annie Leibovitz at the White House, after it was revealed that President Obama has one of their songs on his Spotify playlist. (Feb. 22) AP
Members of premier folk rock group the Lumineers plan to use part of their time in Iowa this week to support “people who are trying to effect change,” guitarist and vocalist Wesley Schultz said.
The group announced earlier this month a show in Sioux City to benefit the water protectors of Standing Rock, who are protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. For months, groups have been protesting the development of the pipeline at the Oceti Sakowin Camp. The protest camp was shut down in late February. Ticket proceeds will be donated to the water protectors, show organizers said.
The band wants to shine a light on the issue, Schultz said. Since attaining mainstream success (through hits such as “Ho Hey” and “Stubborn Love”), the Lumineers have performed shows and donated to causes such as Planned Parenthood. The performance, set to take place Sunday at The Orpheum Theatre in Sioux City, comes nearly a year after the group released the highly anticipated sophomore record, “Cleopatra,” which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.
Also while in Iowa, the band is set to perform at Wells Fargo Arena, the state’s biggest indoor stage. The arena show is set for Friday night and opening support comes from Kaleo and Susto. The Grammy-nominated act have released a pair of chart-climbing singles off the new record: “Ophelia” and “Cleopatra.”
Lumineers vocalist and guitarist Wesley Schultz and percussionist Jeremiah Caleb Fraites answered questions regarding activism and the band’s new record ahead of the double-header slate of Iowa shows. Read the interview below.
Des Moines Register: What was behind the decision process to book a Standing Rock benefit show in Sioux City?
Wesley Schultz: We wanted to play a show in support of the Water Protector, close to Standing Rock, and Sioux City has the best venue available that was also close by.
DMR: In an interview with Forbes, when you were asked if there would be more benefits in the future, you said “there are just so many good causes.” Why do you want to stand up for this cause at this time?
WS: A couple weeks ago in Texas, we played a concert where we donated 100 percent of the profits to Planned Parenthood. We chose Texas because the state is attempting to defund the program altogether. Beyond the money raised, there's a story that gets told, an awareness spread about an issue raised. We've seen how large scale protests can begin so strong, gaining a lot of attention, media coverage and public funding. However, eventually the hype settles, and the media coverage dies down. The protesters who put their energy and time into a cause are all but forgotten. In the case of Standing Rock, we are trying to help those people who have been put in jail for their protesting, and need legal aid. We also wanted to help fund quality independent media coverage of Standing Rock so that people can learn more and continue to help people who are trying to effect change.
DMR: Why do you feel it’s important as an artist to use your voice for causes?
WS: First of all, we are lucky to be able to play music for a living. And because of music, we form a connection with large group of people. I've never wanted to be preached at when I'm at a concert. So the point is not to lecture people as if i know better than someone in the audience. The point is to shine a light on an issue that I feel is worth looking at. You may not agree with me, but the biggest thing is that we start a dialogue with people we don't always agree with, as opposed to living in an echo chamber. So as an artist, you have a platform, and it's your choice how you wish to use that.
DMR: You took a stand on a social issue before with donating benefits from a North Carolina show to EqualityNC and a show in Dallas support Planned Parenthood. What did you learn from those experiences?
WS: It was a rewarding experience to not only say something about why we were against a particular law or ruling, but to actually give all of the money from those shows to a cause. We wanted to put our money where our mouth was. How can we expect fans to donate if we aren't willing to do that ourselves. And we wanted to message to be simple; this is what this show's profits are going to — if that bothers you, you're welcome to a refund. But this is what we think is important. I also think if a few fans looked a little deeper into an issue, debated with friends or simply questioned why they believed the things they did, that's an important first step in effecting change.
DMR: What are your thoughts on bringing a set of songs you’ve been playing in arenas to a more intimate setting?
Jeremiah Caleb Fraites: The good thing is and the reality is we’re more used to playing in intimate settings. We’ve seen more of our career in intimate settings ... so I think that we’re actually more well-versed at doing that. I think, strangely enough, we do quite well in the arena setting. I think our songs are able to expand and get bigger for those bigger shows. But, in a more intimate setting, it’s interesting because you feel more connected to what you’re doing, sometimes.
DMR: On the other end of Iowa shows, you’re performing at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. What can folks expect from the Lumineers full-on arena show?
JCF: We really try to take the songs that we write in these intimate settings and make them feel bigger. If it’s a big room, we try to make it feel as small and as intimate as possible. And … if it’s a small room we try to make you feel like you are in an arena and you are larger than life.
DMR: How do you define this band’s sound and what fans hear on the new record?
JCF: Cinematic. Lyrical with a lot of stories. And the minimalist aspect ... I think that’s something we’re really proud of. A lot of these songs stem from a minimalist perspective of how to write a song.
DMR: What would you want fans to take away when experiencing the Lumineers?
JCF: What I hope our fans would take away is a very strong connection to feeling ... with the sounds and words and the lyrics. Like it’s taking them away; it’s basically doing what the best music has done for ourselves growing up. For me, for many years, music was a great way to escape … I think whether it is via record or live, I want people to feel like they can forget everything, that they can connect with us and feel something.