Thursday, 31 January 2013

Remember when I interviewed Mumford & Sons?

It was September 2009 and a new band called Mumford & Sons were coming to The Forum in Tunbridge Wells. I was offered an interview. The name rang a bell so I looked them up and listened (all day) to two tracks: Little Lion Man and Blank White Page. I was hooked.

Here's the interview I did with Marcus Mumford for the Kent & Sussex Courier. Before he married a Hollywood film star and they became one of the biggest bands on the planet, naturally.

Mumford & Sons
September 2009

New bands come and they go, and let's face it –
few of them are anything really special. With what
was once indie music becoming more and more
mainstream, new bands have to really stand out
from the crowd if they're going to survive past the
initial hype.
One band with the potential to do just that is
Mumford & Sons. Four polite young men from
West London, they're selling out venues across
the country on the back of some great word of
mouth, a handful of EPs and one single.
Marcus Mumford, Winston "Country" Marshall,
Ben Lovett and Ted Dwane came together as a
band relatively recently, in December 2007.
Having all worked as session musicians and
played separately in bands across London, they
met and grew into a band in the most organic way
possible. Sharing a mutual love of country music,
folk and bluegrass, they decided to pick up their
instruments together and after one song,
realised they had to be a band.
With one single, the hypnotic Little Lion Man,
released to date and their debut album, Sigh No
More, set to hit the stores on October 5, Go!
spoke to frontman Marcus as the band were
about to begin their latest tour in Glasgow.
"Our music is hard to sum up. It's influenced by
country, bluegrass and folk but it's not exclusively
one thing or the other.
"There are times when we abandon the folk
instruments and just wig out on electric guitars.
Mostly though, I think our sound is vocal. We sing
a lot, all four of us sing and that's the most
consistent thing about our songs really."
The folk instruments Marcus refers to include
banjos, mandolins, a double bass and an
instrument called a dobro.
"It's basically a slide guitar," says Marcus. "It
sits on your lap and you play it with a slide, so
the strings are high off the fretboard and you
don't actually press them against the fret like you
do with a guitar."
Often compared to Crosby, Still And Nash and
even to Kings Of Leon, neither of these bands
feature on their list of musical influences. Citing
bands like Arcade Fire and The National as
personal influences on him, Marcus doesn't
really see the Kings Of Leon link.
"I just don't get that, no. Their early albums
were like proper southern garage but now they're
like stadium-filling pop anthems."
One word that repeatedly comes up when
Mumford & Sons are mentioned is 'passionate'.
They display their passion not only with their
energetic live shows but also with their honest,
evocative lyrics. Writing with their hearts firmly on
their sleeves, they each have a hand in the
resulting songs.
"On this album I wrote a lot of the lyrics,
Winston wrote a song and Ben wrote one but I
wrote a lot of the skeletal parts of songs.
"But recently we've all been writing and our
policy is if someone writes a good song, no
matter who it is, it gets in. It's more fun that way
because we all can write and I think we've got a
shared idea of what a good song is."
Over the past few months Go! has heard the
band's name mentioned a lot, usually being
recommended as a brilliant band to see live, but
it was only when Radio One's champion of new
music, Zane Lowe, played the single as his
'Hottest Record In The World Today' recently that
Go! got to hear them at last.
Marcus can't specify a moment when the band
thought they had made their big break, and he isn't
really convinced that they have yet, but with
several million listeners regularly heeding Zane
Lowe's tips, it must have been a turning point in
their careers.
"We're very lucky to have been heard by people
but we're just doing what we do. It was lovely to
play various festivals this summer and we had a
sold out tour in January/February. It's a great
feeling when people want to come and see you,
especially when we enjoy playing live so much.
"It was a massive honour to have been played
on Zane Lowe. We appreciate his opinion and his
support, that's lovely. And (Radio One DJ) Jo
Whiley has given us 'Record Of The Week'. That's
crazy because these are people you grow up with
on the radio and suddenly they're there talking
about you!"
The album promises to be an epic, expressing
the whole gamut of emotion from jubilant to
melancholic. The band are understandably
excited about the imminent release but Marcus
admits to also being relieved that the process is
finally over.
"We're basically away for nine weeks from
today, just touring, which feels like such a relief
after recording a lot and doing lots of press. It's
basically travelling round the country playing
music with your mates, after all. When you think
of it like that, it's the most awesome job!"
One of the strangest but best things for
Marcus has been audiences, even in Germany
where they've played recently, singing their songs
back to them. It's a testament to their reputation
and to the powerful influence of the internet that
a band who haven't even released an album yet
can have people that excited about them.
By Caroline Read

Here's some footage I've just found of The Forum gig. I was at the back (about three months pregnant), bouncing up and down like an overexcited puppy.