They were two young musicians trying to make it in New York, but met the same fate as so many other Brooklyn hopefuls: broke, dejected and unable to land decent gigs.
So guitarist and singer Wesley Schultz and drummer Jeremiah Fraites packed their bags and headed for Denver, where they rented a house and advertised on Craigslist for a cellist. Neyla Pekarek – a barbershop quartet champ who was looking for a way out of living with her parents – answered.
They became the Lumineers, and not long after, their rootsy, fireside-warm song Ho Hey became a worldwide hit, landing the suspender-and-porkpie-hat-heavy group spots on radio, on late night shows from The Colbert Report to Saturday Night Live, on huge festival stages and high on the Billboard charts.
Their self-titled debut album was released on April 3, 2012; by December they had landed two Grammy nominations.
“We weren’t really so much going to Denver as we were running away from the high prices in New York,” remembered front man Wesley Shultz in a New York radio interview. “But I think sometimes you don’t really plan much out. You just go in a direction and things work out well as opposed to trying to plan everything.”
Ironically, the Lumineers now regularly sell out large New York venues, and last fall Spotify named Ho Hey the most shared song in Manhattan and the third most shared song in Brooklyn, putting them at the forefront of the old-timey roots renaissance that includes Mumford and Sons and Of Monsters and Men.
So what’s the story behind their biggest hit?
“I think the most honest line in that song is that part where I say, ‘I don’t know where I belong. I don’t know where I went wrong. But I can write a song,’ because it was like a tornado. Everything seemed to be going wrong,” Mr. Schultz said. “But I was in this vortex where I was like, ‘I can do this one thing. I know I can do this. If I do this, I think something is going to work out.’”