Even Hipsters Love Basketball: An interview with The Lumineers’ Wesley Schultz

By: 04.20.12
The Lumineers Wesley schultz

Image. Andrea Alseri

In October, Jordan Brand released a commercial featuring Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony balling in various basketball leagues during the off-season. Besides promoting Jordan Brand the commercial showcased the various demographics that play and are fans of basketball; Carmelo dominating hipsters in a pickup game in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg shows the wide reach of basketball’s appeal.

Rising Denver folk rock band, The Lumineers, can definitely fall under that “hipster” label. And they also happen to be led by a huge basketball fan.

Despite being in the midst of a tour playing sold out shows across the country, band front man, Wesley Schultz, took time from his busy schedule to chat with Dime about their new album, the tour, and his love for the New Jersey Nets.

DIME: Folk is such a general genre to classify The Lumineers, so how would you describe the band’s music?
Wesley Schultz: We are the JV of Folk-Rock. (Laughs). For people who haven’t heard our music before, we just urge them to give it a chance. The other night we had a death metal fan dragged out to the show, and he ended up really appreciating us even though it wasn’t his typical type of music. That meant a lot. I think we try to make music that transcends those lines; try to transcend the time period, or a particular genre.

There is this old saying that we like to throw around: “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.” It would be like how do you describe playing basketball? At the end of the day, you just have to go see and experience it.

DIME: The debut self-titled album came out a couple of weeks ago. What has the reception and feedback been like?
WS: It’s been positive overall. We actually don’t read too many articles these days. What happens when you get to a certain level of notoriety is that people will start trying to knock you down. That’s not to say that we got bad press but we have our own internal evaluation, our own internal scoreboard. We do look at things like numbers, as the first week was really great. We sold over 10,000 records and we were something like #43 on the overall charts. That stuff is exciting. But we don’t really have any context as this is our first album. We only put out home recorded EPs before this. We don’t really know what we are talking about but we are just enjoying the ride.

DIME: Right, I know you guys are currently on tour and have been selling out basically all of your shows. So that has to be one indicator of the band’s success. How has the tour been going so far?
WS: It’s been really great so far. The sold out shows are remarkable, we didn’t expect that at all. We went to Vancouver and never played there, or in Canada or outside the United States and it sold out. That was pretty surreal. The same thing happened in Minneapolis. We had an amazing show in Denver, our hometown. It’s all kind of shocking and surreal. We are happy this is happening.

DIME: What’s been the best tour stop so far?
WS: I would have to say Seattle. We played this big show at Neumos, a couple days prior to our album release. We had about 700 people there, the most we ever played to, at one of our own shows. That show sold out and I saw a scalper outside beforehand. He was a guy who definitely does not listen to folk rock but had one of those signs that said, “I need tickets.” It was crazy.

We were still in Seattle, a couple days later on the actual CD release day and had four shows in one day. We played at the radio station and other venues around town. It was a crazy 24 hours. It all went really well though. I would say Seattle so far but overall its been great. We are excited to go to Williamsburg, I used to live there so I am excited.

DIME: I was told by your manager Christen that you are a big basketball player. How often do you get a run in?
WS: It’s important to note that Christen played college ball at NC State. She’s a badass in her own way. Real tall lady and she does a great job for us.

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I stopped playing organized basketball, early into high school. The main bulk of my playing days are behind me but I do like to play whenever I can nowadays. When I practice something over and over again I get pretty good at it, so I became a pretty good shooter. I made some good traveling teams, and I was the free throw champion a few years in a row. Like I said I could shoot but I couldn’t do much else but I was really convinced that I was going to be in the NBA when I was younger.

I grew up in New Jersey so I am a Nets fan and I fondly remember the teams that had Sam Cassell, or before that with Derrick Coleman. I was even a big fan of Jayson Williams, before he killed somebody. That was terrible.

I got really into basketball and then got really into music. It’s kind of like OCD but I still follow basketball. It’s just hard to watch the Nets these days.

DIME: Besides being hard to watch, what are your thoughts about the Nets today? It looks like Deron Williams is gone….
WS: I was hoping they would have acquired someone to keep him around. I always liked Deron Williams. I think he is one of the most underrated players in the league, even though he is amazing. Basketball fans know he’s great but the casual fan probably doesn’t even know his name. He is phenomenal.

I was hoping they would get Dwight Howard. Would have helped to get D-Will to stay and would have been a great way to start a new era in Brooklyn. I also wish they moved the team a little earlier. It might have kept him around, if he saw the excitement building around all of that. But that’s happening next season right?

DIME: Yeah, they will be in Brooklyn at the start of next season. What are your thoughts about that since you grew up in New Jersey and the Nets are the only team historically that reps the state?
WS: The old Meadowlands was a tough place to get to. It’s a destination, not something you casually bump into since it’s out in the middle of nowhere. So it was hard to catch a game back then. I mean tourists in New York will probably go check out a Knicks game because it’s right in the middle of the city and easy to get to.

The Nets had really great years but the attendance was so hit or miss. I feel like that plays into it a little bit. Even when Jason Kidd was bringing them to the Finals and the Conference Finals, attendance was pretty sporadic as far as fan fare goes. Right now the Prudential Center is basically a rental for the team, so they haven’t established true roots there.
Even though I am from New Jersey, I feel like Brooklyn would help the team and the area. Players want to play in an area that is interested in what they are doing and I feel like the accessibility to the arena will bring in a lot of fans. It should be a good fit.

DIME: Not sure if you saw this but over the summer Wisconsin’s own Bon Iver got custom Milwaukee Bucks jerseys and got a chance to play pickup ball on the Bucks’ practice court. If a team offered you this chance would it be your adopted hometown Nuggets or…
WS: Nah man! Nets all the way, even if they are in Brooklyn. When I was real young I was on a travelling team and we got to play a game before the Nets game one night. I made a professional three – I threw the ball as hard as I could throw it and it went in! I did the Mark Jackson shimmy all the way back on defense. (Laughs) It was the only points I scored that night but it’s the highlight of my basketball-playing career. Would love to relive that moment in a sense.

DIME: Are you able to watch games when you are on tour?
WS: If there’s a game on I will try to catch it but like I said, it’s hard to watch the Nets so my interest comes and goes. I don’t really like to torture myself, I know some people may knock it but when a team is just ok over and over it’s hard. I will always follow the Nets religiously but it’s hard to watch and be tortured on a nightly basis. Once the playoffs start back up I get really into it though. This time of year is great for a NBA fan.

DIME: Most NBA players are more into hip-hop but if you can pick any player, who would be a great folk-rock artist?
WS: Brian Scalabrine.
DIME: (Laughs) What’s the reason for picking Scal?
WS: (Laughs) I don’t know man, he’s a big red head and got paid a lot of money for weird reasons by Danny Ainge, I think. I followed him closely when he was on the Nets because he kind of looks like my brother. It’s a random reference, I know but he is one of the special players in the NBA so he could be a good fit up on stage.

Check out “Ho Hey” by The Lumineers:

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The Lumineers are currently on tour so check them out if they are in your town.

For more info on Wes and the rest of The Lumineers check out their site HERE.

Follow Ananth on Twitter at @Ananth_Pandian.

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