The Lumineers Address Their Detractors: "If There's Negativity, It Hasn't Gotten in the Way of What We're Doing"

The Lumineers Address Their Detractors: 'If There's Negativity, It Hasn't Gotten in the Way of What We're Doing'
As the Lumineers gear up for a string of shows in Canada this week, lead singer Wesley Schultz is happy to address questions about why some people just don't like his band.

"I try to steer clear of negative reviews," he tells Exclaim! in a recent interview. "We made the record we believed in and put it out. Some [writers] are seeking to give a critical analysis, some are trying to sell papers or create controversy where there isn't. If there's negativity, it hasn't gotten in the way of what we're doing."

Despite almost a decade together, some critics still believe the Lumineers came out of nowhere, joining the likes of Mumford & Sons as flag bearers for some media/music industry-concocted folk-rock renaissance. But the Lumineers, says Schultz, have paid some dues.

"I think we all just happen to have baby faces," he says about perceptions that his band are a bit green. "We'll have to grow facial hair to offset that. That's pretty much a common tale for anyone who experiences this; it takes 10 years to be an overnight success. But to get there and not implode as a band or people, it helps to have some age under your belt."

The snark directed at the Lumineers stems not just from their seemingly rapid ascendance in pop culture but also for their song approach. Some argue the band's sepia sound and sartorial style (i.e., fedoras, suspenders) is a pandering, acoustic-guitar-and-singalong throwback, offering nothing new or edgy to music. Schultz maintains he is fully aware of what supposedly innovative contemporary production consists of, and wants little to do with it.

"I recently heard Jack White interviewed about his philosophy on things," he says. "He was talking about working in a factory and how many staples it took to upholster the back of a couch. It was three staples. It reminds me of our approach, which is, 'How much do you need to say what you need to say here? How can we get rid of some of the clutter?' I think that hurts a lot of songwriting and recording — getting in the way of the nice things you're doing with a song."  

The band's biggest hit, "Ho Hey," has been inescapable over the last year and, because it's been used to trigger emotions in different commercials and TV shows, the Lumineers' credibility has been called into question. Does this trouble Schultz?

"No, I shake my head at people who question me for accepting money for something I've already created," he reasons. "I really wonder where that comes from. I've worked for 10, maybe 15 years, never getting paid a dime for doing this. The term 'sellout' means to change your art to make money. I created this art; it existed and someone wanted to pay me to place it on a television show or commercial. I say 'good on you.' If you wanna use my song in a commercial, that helps me out greatly.

"I dunno what artist I associate with a movie trailer or a Revlon commercial. I know my bands and their albums. I don't imagine Wilco getting in a Volkswagen telling me to buy a new Jetta, but I did hear their music in that commercial. It doesn't mean I think less of them. It means they got paid and they can probably provide for their families based on something they created."

You can check out all Lumineers' upcoming dates here.