Perhaps you’ve heard The Lumineers’ foot-stomping hit single, “Ho Hey,” on the radio. Or maybe you saw the band perform the song on The Late Show With David Letterman in October. What you may not know is that the acoustic folk band, nominated this month for two Grammy Awards, has its roots in Ramsey.
The Denver-based band, led by borough natives Wesley Schultz (guitar, lead vocals) and drummer Jeremiah Fraites, are up for Best New Artist and Best Americana Album.
The Lumineers are also scheduled to appear on the first Saturday Night Live episode of the new year, on Jan. 19, the show announced on Twitter this month.
Schultz said he’s excited about the Grammy nominations, more so for their power to bring increased attention to the band’s music than for any personal accolades.
“As musicians, you can’t concern yourselves with awards and things that are out of your control,” Schultz,a 2001 Ramsey High School grad said. “At the same time, it feels very fitting in wanting recognition for something you think is worth hearing.”
The Lumineers’ self-titled debut album was released in April and has sold more than 500,000 copies. Sing and stomp-along single “Ho Hey” hit No. 4 on the Billboard charts and has moved more than 1 million copies. The band opened for the Dave Matthews Band earlier this month and has sold out shows scheduled for Feb. 1-2 at Terminal 5 in New York City.
The seeds of The Lumineers were planted by tragedy. Schultz was best friends with Josh Fraites, Jeremiah’s older brother, who died of an overdose when he was 19.
Schultz said he did not know Jeremiah Fraites well in high school but the two became good friends and songwriting partners after Schultz returned to Ramsey from college.
“We didn’t talk about [Josh’s death] at the beginning,” Schultz said. “We were just getting to know each other, personally and musically. But something that I really came to admire about him was that he was able to get through something of that magnitude at that age and stay positive.”
The duo played the New York club circuit from 2005 to 2008 before heading to Denver. Schultz said he spent far too much time in New York working various jobs to pay his rent than he did writing music and performing.
“It used to be a mecca where people made art, but artists largely are now priced out of places like the city and Williamsburg (Brooklyn),” Schultz said. “I spent my time working on everything but music. ”
The duo knew nothing about the Denver music scene before heading west, only that the cost of living was more conducive to pursuing their craft.
“Like all great things it just kind of happened,” Schultz said. “A couple of friends were moving out there and were renting a place and there was enough room for us and a practice space. When we arrived we found it to be a great place with a great community of musicians.”
Denver native and muti-instrumentalist Neyla Pekarek joined the band, playing cello, mandolin and piano. The Lumineers continued to hone their sound and released a self-titled EP in 2011 before recording their full-length album, an addicting assortment of beautifully stark folk tunes like “Flowers in Your Hair,” “Dead Sea” and “Stubborn Love” and upbeat pop-folk numbers such as “Ho Hey,” Big Parade” and “Flapper Girl.”
“We’ve always been minimalistic and we like things that sound very human,” Schultz said. “It’s an economy of sound and lyrics with a lot of melodies. I find a lot of joy in saying a lot with a little.”
One of the group’s fellow Grammy nominees in the Best New Artist category also has ties to Bergen County. Fun. (“Some Nights,” “We Are Young”), which is nominated for six awards, includes guitarist Jack Antonoff, who grew up in New Milflord and Woodcliff Lake.
Fun. is also thrilled with their nominations for six Grammys: Record of the Year and Song of the Year (“We Are Young”), Album of the Year (“Some Nights,”), Best New Artist, Best Pop Duo/Group performance and Best Pop Vocal Album.
“The past year has been crazy in so many ways,” said guitarist Jack Antonoff, who grew up in New Milford and Woodcliff Lake. “There’s been so much insane non-stop work and travel.”
In December 2011, the cast of the hit television show “Glee” performed “We Are Young,” a triumphant duet by the then-widely unknown New York indie-pop trio and rhythm-and-blues singer Janelle Monáe.
“We Are Young” hit Number One on the Billboard Hot 100 and sold five million copies. In February, Fun. released its sophomore album, “Some Nights.” The CD entered the Billboard charts at No. 3, and its irresistible, hook-laden title track was a No. 3 hit single.
Antonoff said he could not have imagined Fun’s. huge commercial success when the band recorded “We Are Young.” He said that it’s hard to wrap his mind around the events of the past year.
“We’re still in the eye of the storm,” Antonoff said. “I feel like two years from now I’ll be able to sit down and click through the YouTube videos and get some perspective on what’s happening now.”