By confronting the reality of addiction head on, the band hopes to address the stigma of the disease.
The Lumineers are using their latest album, III, to urge people to look at the cyclical, progressive nature of alcoholism and addiction.
The band members draw on their personal experiences with substance abuse to tell the story of three generations of a family touched by the disease, NPR reports.
“With drug addiction or alcoholism it really affects the individual and then it has a sort of fallout effect—similar to the effects of a radiation bomb—over time and over years and years, it continually tends to affect people’s loved ones,” said drummer Jeremiah Fraites, whose brother died from causes related to addiction.
His Brother’s Addiction
Fraites remembers watching his brother, Josh, suffer.
“I remember my mom woke me up. She said, ‘Sweetheart, your brother got arrested last night. He was arrested in a car was around 2:00 in the morning.’ He’d smoke PCP and he was so high on drugs that he went inside this A&P, which was like a local supermarket out in the East Coast, and he drank Drano which is just an unbelievable thing. I don’t know what compelled him to do that. But he was in the ICU for a couple of weeks with second and third degree burns on his throat,” Fraites said.
After that, Josh became more sick, until he died a few months later.
“You know they talk about addiction. It’s a progressive disease. It’s not something where you just wake up and you’re homeless and you’re begging for crack or heroin,” Fraites said.
The Story Of Gloria
The album opens with the song “Gloria,” which tells the story of an alcoholic woman and her interactions with her family. The band released a jarring music video in June to go with the song.
“Gloria being that important and also being that dysfunctional is where the album kind of begins,” lead singer Wes Schultz said.
He explained how the instrumentals on the song were meant to mimic the chaos of addiction.
“There’s this almost cartoonish piano that interrupts the guitar. Within the reality of being closely involved with an addict, there is a cartoonish nature to life. Like, you’ll get a call and it’s the most absurd thing you’ve ever heard. You can’t even wrap your head around it. And there’s a mania. There’s a manic nature to that is found in that piano,” he said.
The album continues with songs about Gloria’s son, Jimmy, and Jimmy’s son.
By confronting the reality of addiction head on, the band hopes to address the stigma of the disease. “It’s the family secret and it’s a taboo,” Schultz said.
So far, it’s working, as fans relate to the family on the album.
Schultz said, “Every show you ever go to, someone’s talking about getting their heart broken, most likely, and there are people who put their arms around each other. Coming together for a concert or hearing someone say something that you only thought you felt; I think that’s why it’s positive even though it’s counterintuitive that heartbreak music would be when people cheer the loudest.”