Cape Town – Sitting down with Lumineers band members Stelth Ulvang and Ben Wahamaki feels like having a chilled out chat with your friends in your living room.
These two guys are currently touring South Africa with their band The Lumineers. Ben plays bass guitar, upright bass and guitar while Stelth’s role in the band includes playing piano, mandolin, accordion, guitar, banjo, clarinet and doing backing vocals.
Check out our interview here:
Channel24:How would you describe your music to someone who’s never heard it before?
Stelth:Usually it starts with the instrumentation, because it’s all muddled up genres, but, uhm, you know most musicians don’t want to label themselves. I’d say it’s folk and rock influenced, with like piano and tjello and drums… people can think what they want.
Ben:I think one of the theories of this band is definitely less is more, and the idea is that you could have a similar show at a big venue or in your living room, and I think that influences the sound a lot. We’ve all in various ways performed in the street, busking and things like that, and I think that sort of ends up showing off our sound.
Channel24:What do you guys do when you’re not touring and making music?
Stelth:I like to tour… Seriously, I play with another band Spirits of the Red City just for kind of the fun of it, so when we’re not touring I’m on tour with them. And I always like to travel in some way, whether it’s for music or just to travel around, I don’t really have much of a home base right now.
Ben:We’re just learning how to take time off, we’ve been solidly touring with a few breaks here and there the last three years, so the last couple of months before this tour was the first time we’ve really had some time off to rest.
Channel24:Do you always to local things in the cities where you travel to?
Check out the video below where Stelth talks about climbing Lion’s Head:
Ben:We both like local food. We gorged ourselves on a local fish restaurant down by the square next to the fisherman’s wharf. We had some incredible oysters and mussles, it was really good!Channel24:Have you tried biltong yet?
Ben:Is that the sort of jerky stuff? Yeah it’s so good! We had a lot on our safari. And then we had like a Kudu steak, it was delicious!
Channel24:So obviously you guys are meat eaters?
Stelth:I’m actually not. I’ll eat fish though, but it gets hard, like when we were in South America, it gets hard to try and find vegetarian food, or rather pescetarian I should say.Channel24:Do any of you have any official musical training in your instruments?
Stelth:You’re talking to the two that don’t. Everybody else like graduated college, not with music. Neyla has a music degree and she’s probably the most trained of all of us. I dropped out after half a piano lesson one time. In high school I played saxophone, I learned how to do that in school, but I don’t play saxophone in the band. That will never happen!
Ben:I think you see a lot where some of the people that has kids just want to make music and write a bunch of songs and then throw those songs away because they’re not good enough and then write a bunch more. I think a lot of the time the people that want to really produce their own songs sometimes don’t, they don’t have the time to not be self-taught, if that makes sense? It’s more like a process of just jumping into it, at least that’s what it was for me, I just always wanted to do it so just kind of begged and borrowed skills as best I could.
Stelth:If you sit in your room for 3 hours every day playing guitar every evening like starting from the when you’re like 10, you can end up being one of the best guitar players there is. I was more in the boat of just playing a lot of music with people.
Channel24:Do you have any rituals before you go on stage?
Stelth:We shake hands…
Ben:We shake hands before and we give each other a hug after. We just sort of try to hang out in the same spot and try to be together, nothing too regimented or tense.
Stelth:We try and put a block on sitting on like Facebook right before shows or like on Buzzfeed. We try and put our phones down for a bit beforehand. We like to relax and connect.
Channel24:Do you guys ever fight if someone like screws up a song?
Stelth:It’s happened maybe a small handful of times…
Ben:It’s almost never about music. We’re pretty talkative, like I feel when something’s wrong we usually chat about it. It’s usually never musical, usually we just laugh at each other.
Stelth:In my previous band it was ego after ego all butting heads, and though we have a ton of strong egos, in this band, I think we’ve all learned how to work together. I love it, they’re still like my best friends, more family than family, I see them way more than family.
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