The Story of Cleopatra: The Lumineers

The Lumineers is a name that has shot to success in recent years. The indie group began with sets in Denver bars, and is now selling out arenas on multi-million dollar world tours.

The group is composed of six members, including Wesley Schultz, Neyla Pekarek, Jeremiah Caleb Fraites, Jay Van Dyke, Ben Wahamaki, and Maxwell Hughes.

With the release of their self-titled first album, the band quickly gained recognition. Their single, Ho Hey took the world by storm in 2012, and the catchy tune skyrocketed to many top charts. It was followed by another #1 hit, Stubborn Love, and their third charting single, Submarines.

After this success, the band was asked to write a song for the famous movie, The Hunger Games. They approached the project as a “dark nursery rhyme,” and the product was a song titled The Hanging Tree. This exposure led to a widespread fanbase.
Their first album, The Lumineers, became a bestseller, and fans wanted more. So in 2016 their second studio album, Cleopatra, was released. The group’s lead singer, Jeremiah Fraites, says this about their music style: “We want songs you can wrap you arms around. There’s enough generic stuff out there, full of recycled words that don’t really mean anything. There have to be other stories to tell, and other ways to tell them.”

Cleopatra was a highly-anticipated sophomore project, which came four years after their self-titled album. Their music video trilogy featuring the tracks Cleopatra, Angela, and Sleep on the Floor creates a storyline based on a true occurrence. This series traces the life of a woman, Cleopatra, in reverse chronological order. According to Wesley, “it’s inspired by a true story about a female taxi driver who, when she was younger, was proposed to. But her father had just passed away, so she didn’t give her boyfriend an answer. He left the village heart-broken and never came back. She loved him, and refused to wash the footprints off of the floor after he left.” The haunting story interested the band’s songwriters, and ultimately led to the creation of the album.

Although it was the last addition to the video trilogy, the story actually begins with Sleep on the Floor. It depicts a young couple after attending a funeral (for the woman’s father), where the boy asks her to leave town with him. Then she splits from her own body creating two scenarios, one where she goes away with the boy, and one where she stays in the lonely, small town. The video concludes with Cleopatra lying on the cold floor of her house. Even though her heart told her to go, her head told her to stay.

Second in the trilogy is the track, Angela. The same storyline is continued, and we see the same woman many years later. She doesn’t go with the boy from her younger years, and appears to be pregnant and sleeping next to someone, presumed to be her husband. Again, she splits from her body. Her head tells her to go back to bed, but her heart is fighting a painful internal conflict. It is clear that she no longer has feelings for her current husband, as she aimlessly drives around in the night until she finds herself at a motel.

Last is Cleopatra, where we fast-forward about 40 years. The same woman is now working as a taxi driver. According to Baeble Music, “appearances of the young couple in Sleep on the Floor and the pregnant woman all enter the cab. Although these aren’t literal, they play a metaphorical role in how the woman views her past decisions.” Then, the woman picks up her son and shares a meal with him, before dropping him off at her husband’s home. The last time that she splits from her body, the depressing reality of the story is seen. In one scenario, she comes inside the home, hugs her husband, and revels in the joy of a complete, happy family. But in reality, she sits in her taxi, exchanging a solemn look with her ex-husband before driving away.

The effort, thought, and beautiful detail is what sets The Lumineers apart from other artists, making their album a true work of art. Although they plan on releasing more music in the future, it could be a few years until the new album is released. But until then, fans can revel in the glory of Cleopatra.