19 November 2021 (released)
20 November 2021
BRIGHTSIDE marks The Lumineers’ first new music in more than two years as well as the band’s most joyous and spontaneous piece of work thus far. Produced by longtime collaborator Simone Felice and produced, mixed, and engineered by David Baron over two sessions in winter and spring 2021. The nine-song collection sees The Lumineers’ co-founders/co-songwriters Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites performing virtually all of the eclectic, effervescent instrumentation, with Baron on a wide variety of keyboards and backing vocals and more by Simone Felice, touring members, Byron Isaacs and Lauren Jacobson, famed backing singer Cindy Mizelle (Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews Band), The Felice Brothers’ James Felice, and acclaimed singer-songwriter Diana DeMuth.
Wes, tell us about the title track of your new album, Brightside?
Brightside was very early on. It became very quickly apparent that it would be the first song we would show a friend. Some call that a single but it felt the most immediate of the songs we had been working on. It really represented the spirit of the record in the sense that it was done quickly. In a single day we recorded it. It was like children playing with each other curiously around music. For Jer and I, it’s been 16 years making music together. We were joking that we felt 15 again playing music. There’s an innocence to that song and how it sounds and that became almost the spirit animal of the record. A compass to how to make the rest of the record.
How did the timing of the recording of this album affect the process?
I don’t think it made it easier. That movement in life, being around people, is a life force. To be deprived of that, of each other and of community, it broke me for a while. I think this was a way to stay productive and to do something with that energy and that sadness. I’m sure a lot of artists feel that way. It may be cliché but it is one of the ways to cope with it but it made it harder. I had an easier time writing other records when it was not off the back of cancelling half of a tour and worried about your loved ones. It was a hurdle to get over. You realise how much you need to pour into that. A lot of people, including myself, felt run down. This was a way to uplift.
How and where was the album written?
Jer and I have this way of working together where we come up with voice memos separately and typically the best songs we write have these ideas that join and get married. For Brightside, I had this voice memo from a few years ago in Australia that was called rise from the ashes. I think I was imagining a phoenix. That was an energy, I remember reading that and thinking there’s some weird hope. The song just keeps going forward going forward. Once they are far enough along and there’s some potential, we sit together and workshop them. This time was pretty short, it was very energised. We saved all the details for when we got to the studio. In this scenario, we left everything to chance. It was less about trying to recapture something that happened months ago, instead it was all happening in the moment. It was creating on the spot. The album is super raw. You can hear the uncertainty, in a good way, throughout.
Big Shot. What was that written about?
I got this voicemail from Jer, ‘You wanna be a Big Shot, you wanna be a big man?’ and then it kind of wandered off. I thought, hmm, I really like that. That’s intriguing to me. It kind of just became this feeling of a song. You kind of thought you had it figured out, that’s what I kept imagining, and then it all got taken away from you. The lyrics were like talking about (without meaning to) the fragility of churning along in our own little world and it just got snatched away. And that was for everybody. So it was almost like this humbling moment where we were pretty caught off guard. And that’s almost everyone’s experience. At the same time, across the world everyone experienced this truly humbling thing. Awards don’t make you humble, this makes you humble.
You are playing in Europe next year. With all that has happened, are you looking forward to this tour more than usual?
Yeah. Simple answer, yes. There has only been two or three proper shows so far since the last 18 months. There is something for the band, something for the audience that I don’t know if I’ve ever really felt before. I think it’s a reminder for us of how important it is. You can get on a groove on the road and lose sight of what it’s doing to you. The impact of it. I think for fans it’s a similar thing. We’re all excited to feel that community, communing together. I think it’s something that everyone desperately needs and the show is a great way to do that.
The Lumineers have been nominated and won many awards. If you could choose one to win, what would it be?
Well, back in the day we won hardest working band. I don’t really know how they measure that but I like that idea. I felt like within any version of success there’s an element of luck, preparation and hard work and I think I have always felt like if you have that luck in life you have to meet it halfway. You have to work really hard on your end to honour the luck you’ve been given. So, I’m most proud of that as an award. We’re really monks to music you know, we’re really dedicated to that tower of songs, so anything related to song writing means a lot to us. The song writing is a big part for us.