Jeremiah Fraites isn't famous — at least not yet. The drummer of the Lumineers, the folk trio who experienced an outrageously fruitful 2012, is talking to me two days before appearing on the January 19 Saturday Night Live, but he doesn't sound convinced that his band have crossed the fame threshold. As proof, Fraites offers their lack of participation in SNL sketches — a privilege reserved for the instantly recognizable. Being on the show itself won't cement the Lumineers' fame either, he says. But making good at the Grammys on February 10 — as Best New Artist and Best Americana Album nominees — would certainly do the trick.
If fate does indeed swing in the group's favor, what will one of his first acts as a bona fide celebrity be? "Um," he says, chuckling hesitantly. "Probably the same thing I would do as a non-famous person. I hope it doesn't go all the way to my head. I don't think it will." While bland, Fraites's response fits nicely with the Lumineers' humble, uncomplicated personality. It's difficult to picture them ever out-maneuvering the paparazzi.
The Lumineers formed in 2005 in Ramsey, New Jersey, the suburb where Fraites and singer/guitarist Wesley Schultz met as kids. Thy adopted their band name after being introduced as the Lumineers by a Jersey City emcee. The two had a run at being professional musicians in New York City. When things didn't work out, they moved to Denver. There, they recruited cellist/singer Neyla Pekarek via a Craigslist ad. (Their current touring band includes multi-instrumentalist Stelth Ulvang and bassist Ben Wahamaki as well.)
Fast-forward to December 2011: the rising outfit's "Ho Hey" closes a crucial episode of the CW dramedy Hart of Dixie, lighting the fuse for immense success. This led to national and international tours, performances on late-night talk shows, tons of YouTube videos, and sales of their signature tune topping 1.5 million and of 500,000-plus for their self-titled 2012 debut LP (Dualtone Music Group). As of this writing, The Lumineers sits at No. 7 on the Billboard 200. People have wet dreams over being this not famous. Witness this coming Monday's sold-out show at the House of Blues.
The Lumineers' earnest, dulcet charms clearly have drawing power, but their fortune is part of a bigger picture. Several young folkies — Mumford & Sons, Of Monsters and Men, Imagine Dragons, and others — have recently seized coveted chart positions between hip-hop and pop acts, quietly nudging aside rock bands who ordinarily fill those slots. Fraites, however, doesn't concern himself with sustaining this popularity for the long run, since he didn't expect to get this far anyway. "If being popular allows us to continue, then that's great, but we really care about songs and writing a good song," he says. "We believe that if you write an album, that album should make you want to write 10 more albums. We try to write songs that make us want to write more songs."
THE LUMINEERS + Y LA BAMBA | House of Blues, 15 Lansdowne St, Boston :: February 4 :: 7 pm :: All Ages :: SOLD OUT :: 888.693.2583 or hob.com/boston