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‘Turin has these characteristics of old Italian history and culture but it still feels very modern’

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Photo>>>Roberto Graziano Moro

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Feature by Giulia Mendes

So much of Jeremiah Fraites’ success in his career — and life — can be attributed to his willingness to move. To pick everything up, leave it all behind, and start all over again.

He first met Wesley Schultz, a friend of his brother’s, growing up in suburban New Jersey. The pair started playing music together in their small town, before a Brooklyn-based stint of savings-scrounging and anonymous gigging. When they failed to crack the New York scene, they headed down to Denver, Colorado, to begin from scratch. The year after that, their debut single ‘Ho Hey’ came out and changed everything. It was the perfect song for the moment, and it made The Lumineers into the mammoth success they are today. Ever since then, Fraites has been touring relentlessly around the world. But a couple of years ago, in typical fashion, he decided to go somewhere completely new: this time to Turin, Italy, his wife’s hometown. We caught up with Jeremiah to learn about the importance of being open to new experiences, life on tour, making music remotely, and finding community — as well as excellent restaurants and pasticcerias — in Turin.

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On growing up around musicians in New Jersey

I grew up in a small town called Ramsey, and there were so many talented musicians a little bit younger and older than me. When you're a 14-year-old, you typically wouldn’t hang out with people older than you, but in our high school, all the musicians hung out with whoever was good. Nobody cared if you were younger or older. All we did was talk about music — it was probably very boring to hang out with us if you weren’t a musician. So I made all these friends and was involved in different communities within this very small town. So that’s where it all started for me: being a kid in the suburbs, needing something to do to stimulate myself and finding it in music.

On how you met Wesley Schultz

Wes, the singer of the band, grew up about a mile down the street from me. He was actually friends with my older brother Joshua. As the years went by, I lost touch with him. When he graduated from university, he came back to Ramsey and wanted to start a band with our mutual friend, Justin. At the time me and Justin were making music — believe it or not, we were making rap and hip-hop instrumental beats — and then Justin said to Wes, 'Well, let's do the band, but not without Jerry, this guy's great.' That's how Wes and I started writing music together.

On Denver and the beginnings of The Lumineers

Wes lived in Brooklyn for about a year — I was still in New Jersey, finishing up school — and we realized that nothing was working out for us. It’s tough to make it in New York City; living there is very expensive. So we decided to move to Denver, Colorado. The idea was that if we could live somewhere a bit more affordable, we could eliminate distractions and work on music. So we moved and that’s where it all took off for us. Wes and I drove a minivan with our instruments, clothes and mattresses out to Denver. We had a bunch of The Lumineers songs written –– at this point, it was just Wes and me — and we started to record them and had a demo. And that’s how it kicked off for us in Denver. Wes still lives there.

In 2012, Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites’s first hit single as the Lumineers, ‘Ho Hey,’ made them one of the world’s most beloved bands. Now that each band member lives in a different part of the world, Jeremiah captures the moments when they’re together on tour with his trusty Polaroid camera. First and third rows by Olivia Bastone; second row by Austin Roa. Fouth row of Jeremiah Fraites and his son at the Coors Field in Denver before The Lumineers concert by Francesca Lazzarin.

On rehearsing around the world

Tomorrow I’m flying to the US to meet up with the five other band members in New York, and then we’re going to start our worldwide tour — where we’re going to all these crazy places. When we take two or three weeks off, we like to meet up somewhere in the world to rehearse. As crazy as it sounds, it really does work. All the band members live in all different parts of the country. I’m the farthest, in Italy, but we’re in California, Colorado, New York, Tennessee and Arizona. We’re all spread out, but it all works somehow.

‘That’s where it all started for me: being a kid in the suburbs, needing something to do to stimulate myself and finding it in music.’

On drawing inspiration from recorded ideas

Typically, I record a lot of ideas — I feel like I'm constantly feeling inspired. I'll play something and find it interesting, so I'll record that. One of the most exciting things about being a musician is forgetting about those ideas, and maybe six months or a year later, you sit down at a table with a cup of coffee and start to listen. And you think, 'What the hell, I don't even remember making that and I love this; did I make this? It's so cool.' And then I'll send those to Wes, and he’ll send me ideas back.

On when you know it’s a good song

With The Lumineers, we always try to make a song work just on a piano or just on the guitar. We feel that if the song is just working on the piano or just working on the guitar, then we know it's a good song. Then when we start working on it in the real studio and adding drums and synthesizers or whatever, we know that the song is good because we know that it works just on a single instrument. I feel like one of the worst things you can do as a musician is say, ‘Well, I don't really like the chorus, but we'll save it in the studio with tricks and effects and reverbs and delays.’ So I think that's the best thing that we do in our process. And it's always worked well for us.

When his son Tommaso was born, Jeremiah and wife, musician Francesca Lazzarin (pictured third row), decided to leave the United States, relocating to her home town of Turin, Italy. Top row left by Jeremiah Fraites, top row right by Francesca Lazzarin; second row by Jeremiah Fraites; third row by Francesca Lazzarin; fourth row by Antonio Sessa.

On exciting projects outside of the band

In 2020, because of the pandemic, there was this period where we couldn’t really do anything. Once I realized I’d be isolated at home for many months, I decided to make a piano album that I could do by myself. So I made a record called Piano Piano, which in Italian means ‘step by step.’ In Italian, it’s a good metaphor for how the album was made and how life truly unfolds step by step. If you try to overthink ahead, you’ll drive yourself crazy.

‘Music is sort of this third mutual language where we can communicate if we play with each other.’

On leaving the US for Italy

I lived in America for 34 years of my life, but when my wife and I had our first son, Tommaso, we started to think about what type of environment we wanted to raise our children in and where we wanted to live. And we thought it’d be amazing to move to Italy. It wasn’t possible at the time, with the band, but now we’ve figured out a way to work remotely and make all that happen. So we moved to Turin — my wife is actually from here originally — and absolutely love it. My wife’s parents and grandparents are still here, and she has a lot of friends and a great community. The culture is incredible! I feel really blessed and lucky to have moved here.

On finding musical community in Turin

It's been amazing to meet all these other musicians; my wife [Francesca Lazzarin] used to work in the music industry here in Italy and worked with amazing artists. Not all of her friends speak English, and I only speak a little bit of Italian, so there are moments when I'm meeting these people that I really wish I could speak Italian so that we can communicate better. But there are also moments when music is sort of this third mutual language where we can communicate if we play with each other. That's the beautiful thing about music — it has its own language.

Known for its refined architecture, Turin is also famous for its thriving contemporary art and live music scene. The pedestrian city center, the Centro Storico di Torino (pictured row one, image courtesy of Antonio Sessa), is the starting point for Jeremiah's long walks into the town’s action. Between the elegant buildings you might spot the snow-capped Alps and the shores of the majestic Po River (row two, images courtesy of Piermario E), Italy's longest river.

On the local talent

Turin is filled with so many talented musicians — there's folk and rock and rap and hip-hop and jazz and pop, all coming from Turin. It's quite remarkable, which is the same thing I thought about Ramsey, New Jersey, where a lot of different types of groups come from a small place. It's an incredible thing. I mean, there are a lot of incredible artists. For example, there's a girl named Levante. I don't believe she lives here anymore, but she's an incredible artist with amazing songs and production. There's Andrea Laszlo De Simone, one of my favorites, and he happens to be from Turin, also. So those are two artists that I really do love and listen to often.

‘Enzo e Grazia have these little pastries called zeppole, filled with cream — it's the most insanely delicious thing I've ever had in my entire life.’

On showing a friend around Turin for the day

There is a place in Turin called Enzo e Grazia; I'd definitely take friends there for breakfast. They have these little pastries called zeppole, filled with cream — it's the most insanely delicious thing I've ever had in my entire life. So I'd probably take them there for breakfast and have an espresso or a caffè macchiato, which is this amazing little shot of espresso with some frothy milk. And then walking around the city is just incredible. We have many bridges, and there's the Po River, which runs through the city and is very European. The city center is based around the water, and there are all these places to walk where cars can't go, so there’s lots of life and action there. The main focus would probably be showing people food because, in Italy, that's one of the most incredible things to do. Probably just a lot of walking and a lot of eating and a lot of coffee.

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On the best pizza in the world

There are amazing pizza places and places for spaghetti and all types of Italian dishes. Da Dino, which has been in Turin for many years, is absolutely incredible and probably my favorite pizza in the world. It's a really small-style pizza. It's good for lunch or dinner. We have another restaurant called Consorzio. It's not your typical Italian restaurant, which makes it very interesting and cool because it's different. And Consorzio is more for dinner.

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Jeremiah has found everything he needs in Turin. And like most Italian cities, the Piedmont capital doesn't disappoint when it comes to gastronomy. The musician relishes sipping an espresso or macchiato in the city's old cafes and having breakfast in the pasticcerias, savoring a zeppole at Enzo e Grazia (pictured row five, courtesy of Pasticceria Enzo e Grazia). First and second rows courtesy of Ristorante da Dino; third and fourth rows courtesy of Ristorante Consorzio.

On a song that best describes Turin for you

I'll say Radiohead, ‘All I Need.’ Radiohead is my favorite band of all time, and the lyrics of ‘All I Need,’ that's how I feel about Turin — have everything I need: my family, great food, a beautiful city, clean air, and a house. so I feel it represents Turin perfectly.

‘The lyrics of ‘All I Need,’ that's how I feel about Turin — I have everything I need.’

On a window or an aisle seat

Lately, I’ve been an aisle guy. Because I like to drink as much water as I can to stay hydrated, which means you have to go to the bathroom at some point.

On what to bring and watch on a long-haul flight

I'd bring my noise-canceling headphones and my iPad; filled up with my favorite shows. In fact, I leave tomorrow for a whole month, and we have 17 flights coming up that month. I downloaded like 30 movies and a bunch of TV shows I love — I've been rewatching Seinfeld for the third or fourth time and I love it — and we'll see how it goes. I'll try to stay sane on the flight.

On Turin in one word

Turin is captivating and magical. I feel like it's an interesting city and place to live. Not a big tourist city like Rome or Milan — it has these characteristics of old Italian history and culture, but still feels very modern. I'm still discovering different things about it every day. It's a city, but there are also lots of parks, green, and trees. It really feels like a one-of-a-kind place.

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‘Turin has these characteristics of old Italian history and culture but it still feels very modern’