89.3 The Current presents KOPECKY FAMILY BAND and THE LUMINEERS
First drawn together amid a college dorm ‘pass the guitar’ session in 2007, Kopecky Family Band co-founders Kelsey Kopecky and Gabe Simon quickly realized that they shared something beyond their alma mater. “Gabe started playing and I was totally blown away,” Kopecky remembers, “by his melodies, his talent. Something in the way he played felt so familiar to me and moving. I asked him if he wanted to get together and play some, sing some. And a few days later we did that. And it was crazy, it came together immediately. It just fit.”
This synergy propelled the duo forward and within months they had wrangled the rest of their sonic siblings – Steven Holmes on lead guitar, David Krohn on drums, Markus Midkiff on cello, and Corey Oxendine on bass – making them six in total. Within the year the burgeoning Family had released an EP, Embraces, and embarked on a nearly nonstop touring schedule, garnering fans around the country and developing both their sound… and their ties with one another. The Kopecky Family Band are built on a foundation of intimately connected musical tones, warm and welcoming melodies, bright and epic symphonic layering – and vocal harmonies that recall all the greats – Gram and Emmylou, June and Johnny and onward and up…
You can hear the band’s hometown of Nashville in this music too, the rich history of place – but past is always brought gently into present. This is not country, not pop, not folk, not rock, but something much more complex – call it a Brave New Nashville. It is a music that contains all the comfort of home while simultaneously embracing a bright, energetic openness – a willingness to explore and expand. Over the past few years there have been two more EPs from the band – The Disaster and Of Epic Proportions (both released in 2010) – as well as a split 7” with Seattle’s Ivan & Alyosha and revelatory performances at the Next Big Nashville and SXSW festivals. 2011 saw the Family on tour with artists including Devotchka and Gomez, and year-end accolades such as Paste naming them one of the ‘25 Best Live Acts’ and ‘20 Best New Bands’ of the year. And after last year’s exhaustive co-headlining tour with The Lumineers, and performances at Lollapalooza and the Austin City Limits festival, the band finally got off the bus and into the studio, settling down for their first full-length.
The result, Kids Raising Kids, is a collection of tracks that reveal a band fully formed. This is sing-along, clap-your-hands, stomp-your-feet music. But it is also deep music, rife with emotion and layers of feeling – from melancholy to elation and back again. “With this new record,” explains Kopecky, “we tried really hard to be in our bodies, to be responding to the music not only with our heads and hearts, but in a visceral way too. We wanted it to be honest and emotional and true.” The record is a study of opposites, yet the refreshingly distinctive, unified sound these six musicians make together bleeds through each and every song. “We didn’t want to be afraid to explore,” says Simon, “we wanted to go deep into different sounds, textures, genres – whatever fit the song and the story we were telling. If there’s a thread that runs through this record it’s the idea of ‘kids raising kids’, of each of us in the band really raising each other these last few years, and of everything that comes with that, the frustration and the fun and the good times and the bad times too. You come out the other side and you hope you’ve helped each other grow.”
Twenty years ago, Wesley Schultz saw the future. Back then, growing up in the New York City suburb of Ramsey, New Jersey, Wesley spent his days drawing side by side with his best friend, Josh Fraites. Today, as bandleader of The Lumineers, Wesley’s replaced his pencil with a guitar, his drawings with songs, and plays side by side with Joshua’s younger brother Jer- emiah. He still practices a lot, and it still turns out good. But The Lumineers’ story didn’t come so easily.
It begins in 2002, the year Jeremiah’s brother, Josh, died from a drug overdose at 19. Amidst the loss and grief, Wes and Jer found solace in music, writing songs and playing gigs around New York. After bat- tling the city’s cutthroat music scene and impossibly high cost of living, the two decided to expand their horizons. They packed everything they owned—nothing more than a couple suitcases of clothes and a trailer full of musical instruments—and headed for Denver, Colorado. It was less a pilgrimage than act of stubborn hopefulness. The first thing they did in Denver was place a Craigslist ad for a cellist, and the first person to respond was Neyla Pekarek, a classically trained Denver native. As a trio, they began playing at the Meadowlark, a gritty basement club where the city’s most talented songwriters gathered every Tuesday for an open mic and dollar PBRs. Neyla softened Wes and Jer’s rough edges while expanding her skills to mandolin and piano. And so The Lumineers sound took shape; an amalgam of heart-swelling stomp-and-clap acoustic rock, classic pop, and front-porch folk.
In 2011, an eponymous, self-recorded EP led to a self-booked tour, and before long The Lumineers started attracting devout fans, first across the Western US, then back in their old East Coast stamp- ing grounds. Young, old and in-between, they’re drawn by songs like “Ho Hey” and “Stubborn Love,” Americana-inflected barnburners in the vein of the Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons. They’re drawn by songs like “Slow it Down” and “Dead Sea,” slow, sultry ballads that suggest the raw revelations of Jeff Buckley and Ryan Adams. They’re drawn by the live Lumineers experience—a coming-together in musical solidarity against isolation, adversity, and despair. The roots revival of the last few yeas has primed listeners for a new generation of rustic, heart-on-the- sleeve music—the kind that nods to tradition while setting off into uncharted territory. The Lumineers walk that line with an unerring gift for timeless melodies and soul-stirring lyrics. It will all be on display soon, on the band’s first full-length album, due in March. Born out of sorrow, powered by passion, ripened by hard work, The Lumineers have found their sound when the world needs it most.