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INTERVIEW: The Lumineers | End of a Chapter

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The massive worldwide success of The Lumineers has had them on the road for over a year but now a break in the weather is in sight Neyla Pakarek tells Chris Familton.

With a European tour in its closing stages and a pause from touring over the Christmas period, Neyla Pakarek is already looking toward the next phase of the band’s career after they head down to Australia, New Zealand and Asia in early 2014. That next chapter will be a break from touring and a concerted effort to write and record the follow-up to the whirlwind success of their self-titled debut album. Built on the back of the single Ho Hey the band have become a top-line festival act with Grammy nominations and in excess of ninety five million You Tube views of that game-breaking song. Pakarek, it seems, is a little unsure of how to process the last eighteen months and how they’ll adjust to life off the road.

“We’ve all been looking forward to it but as it gets closer it starts to get a little bit scary. Any big change like that tends to make you a bit uneasy but I’m sure that it’ll be great for us to have some time off. I keep telling people that it’ll take me a little while to process everything we’ve done. We’ve done so much in a year and a half that its hard to take it all in as it’s happening. Adjusting to the lifestyle has been a big thing. You can learn your instrument but not necessarily what comes with the lifestyle of being a touring musician and it’s a lot of work. It’s a really fun job but its definitely a lot of work.

That adjustment to things like constantly changing hotel rooms, waiting for flights and waiting for soundcheck is what Pakarek had to quickly learn, especially as The Lumineers is the first real band she’s been a member of.

“It has been a battle, there was a time when it was a matter of getting through it, counting down the days and waiting for it to end but I think on the last couple of tours we’ve embraced it. It is hard to be away from loved ones at home and not be in any one spot for a period of time. It can be quite disorientating but I think as a musician in today’s world you have to do it and so if we want to do this for a while we have to embrace it, you don’t have a choice. The iPad is my friend for sure. I also make an effort to write letters to send home, keeping up a dying art. I enjoy finding little trinkets to put in the letter and send home which makes it kind of special.”

One big question that arises from the rapid and widespread success of The Lumineers is whether the whole experience will directly influence the next album.

“I don’t know, it’ll be much different circumstances writing this album compared to the last one so it may make the sound change. I know we’ll have much more time in the studio, we only have around ten days to record the last record which wasn’t very much time. The sound will definitely evolve. For one we’ve got two new members that didn’t make the first record and who I assume will make the second record and that’ll just make it a lot easier. We were also playing instruments on the first album that none of us were particularly great at. I played a lot of the piano parts on the record and I’m not a great piano player so it’ll be nice to have Stelth [Ulvang] who will add a lot of nuance to the record. I’m sure we won’t be trying to make the new one sound exactly like the last one.”

Heading down to the Big Day Out brings with it the prospect of playing folk-based music on large festival stages, a far cry from small bars and roots-music clubs. Though Pararek has a preference she doesn’t see the band at a disadvantage playing larger venues and fondly remembers the Australian crowds from their visit earlier in 2013.

“I think it doesn’t affect us that much in terms of performing but I really prefer the smaller more intimate shows. The stadiums and festivals are really exciting and an amazing experience but there’s something about the intimate shows where you feel more connected to the audience. From what I understand it does translate well to the bigger rooms though so we haven’t had to make too many changes to our set.”

“I’d been to Australia once before in college so it was interesting to go again as a band and the people were so lovely and the shows were really great. Everybody was ready to be engaged and have a good time. Some countries we go to people are a little more reserved culturally and its not like they are bad shows but you do have to work harder. When the crowds are more boisterous you feel like you’re doing your job better.”

Chris Familton

this interview was first published in The Music 

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