The American folk rock band The Lumineers will bring their BRIGHTSIDE World Tour to the BOK Center this Wednesday, Aug. 17.
The band’s co-founder, Wesley Schultz, spoke to the Tulsa World about their latest album, the message behind it, and what it’s like to be back on tour post-lockdown.
Tulsa World: The last time The Lumineers came to Oklahoma was in 2016 for the Cleopatra World Tour, when you played the Zoo Ampitheater in Oklahoma City. How has the band developed and changed since that 2016 tour?
Wesley Schultz: We have two more records, so we’ve doubled the amount of music we’ve put out since then. I think we’ve grown a lot as a band … We’ve just become better at expressing ourselves as performers because we’re more comfortable in that role than we once were. Between having more music to play and enjoying playing together a lot more, it makes for a full night of music with a lot of emotion. We play for about two hours now, and we used to barely be able to squeeze out an hour of material. It’s amazing how fast [the show] feels like it flies by now, and that’s a good thing — it means we’re having fun up there.
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TW: The new record, “BRIGHTSIDE,” feels like a hopeful response to what’s been a difficult past few years. What kind of headspace were you in when you wrote and recorded the album?
WS: It was a complicated headspace, dealing with grieving the loss of what life was before the pandemic. You’re trying to latch onto things that give you some sense of hope — that’s what we all do without thinking as human beings, even if life can be cynical or sad at times, it’s almost impossible for us to not think the best … I think the album is an expression of the pain mixed with the hope. Hope isn’t very interesting without some other flavors, and writing songs is like cooking, where you need a balance — too much of one thing and it’s no good. So, I think there’s a lot of saltiness mixed with the sweet on this record.
TW: Musically, “BRIGHTSIDE” feels more rock-influenced than your previous work. Can you talk about the musical choices you made on this record?
WS: It was kind of like we were going back in time. My mom lived with us — my wife and our two kids — for a year during the pandemic, and I’m pretty sure I reverted from a 39-year-old to a 15-year-old, so I got in that headspace. It’s kind of like when you’re on vacation and you’re playing a board game or charades, and all of a sudden you’re thinking differently, you’re laughing, you’re goofy, you’re like a kid. The album was just like that feeling — we were just curious and having fun.
If you’re not careful, as a band you could be on your fourth record, and it can become really serious and like an exercise in trying to demonstrate how good you are at something, versus exploring something … Something I learned from making this record is that a lot of my favorite artists stay like Peter Pan: curious about a lot of things. In that way, it was a totally different kind of record for us to make. It felt like we found some kind of muse on this fourth one that hadn’t really been around yet, and it was exciting — it made us feel like kids.
TW: What song on “BRIGHTSIDE” are you most proud of?
WS: “AM RADIO” is definitely at the top. If you listen to that song, when the chorus drops, there’s really interesting background vocals and it just has a really satisfying slew of a bunch of different sounds. I remember listing to “It Ain’t Easy” by David Bowie, and it’s like a bomb dropping on your head, but you love it. I listened to that song and thought, ‘How did he do that? How does anyone create such a cliff to drop something off of?’ So for that reason, ‘AM RADIO’ does a similar dynamic shift where it’s so satisfying.
TW: How does it feel to be performing post-lockdown?
WS: It feels like a chapter closed, in a good way. People are really excited to be around one another. We all talked about how much we missed friends and family and loved ones, but no one talks about how important it is to be around other people you don’t know — there’s something really exciting, mysterious and different about that, and I think the shows represent that. It feels like people are ready to step back into life … For us, it’s a huge relief to be back doing what we feel like we’re supposed to be doing, whether that’s recording music, playing live or being part of a community, and to be a conduit for that feels like a really important role to play.
TW: What kind of experience can fans expect at Wednesday’s show?
WS: I hope we provide a similar experience to the shows that were formative and powerful to me growing up. I saw Tom Petty and I remember the amount of emotion I could feel as he sang, and being around all of the other people who were singing along, there was some human connection I was longing for. I went to listen to the music, and suddenly I felt less alone. I hope our music does something similar, where it unlocks a lot of emotion and it’s sort of cathartic.
TW: What song has been your favorite to perform on this tour?
WS: Lately, it’s been ‘WHERE WE ARE.’ There’s something in that hook: ‘I don’t know where we are/But it will be OK’ that once people start singing it out loud, it brings out all of these emotions that were locked up… I’ve seen people break — in a good way — singing that line in the audience. I saw, in real time, a girl start crying, but it was a cry she needed to have — it was so beautiful and moving. That’s what music is supposed to do. It made me proud to be a part of this and playing that role to the community that came out to the show. It feels like we’ve glorified artists and celebritized, but that’s not really their role. Their role is to remind ourselves of our own emotions and humanity and give connection to people.
The Lumineers’ new album, “BRIGHTSIDE” is available on all streaming platforms.
For more information about the band, visit thelumineers.com
For tickets to Wednesday’s show, visit bokcenter.com/events
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