Interview with Mumford And Sons

by - Monday, May 21, 2012

Having lived in Huddersfield for the past 8 months or so, I consider it somewhat of a second home. I feel the town pride, so to speak. But much as I love my adopted place, with all its quirky bars, rolling hills and wonderful accents, it'd be fair to say that there isn't much going on in terms of mainstream music. With that in mind, when a Grammy nominated act that have sold over 3 million records, performed in the White House and single handedly brought banjo's back in fashion announce that they want to use your humble town to launch their live comeback, it's kind of a big deal.

And yet that is exactly what Mumford and Sons have done. Having kept a reasonably low profile ever since the commercial acclaim of their debut, they are marking their return with a series of low key shows in unlikely towns. With the Huddersfield and Galway dates being 'stopovers', (mini festivals if you will), everyones favourite waistcoated foursome have promised to integrate their impressively billed concert (including The Vaccines, Michael Kiwanuka and Slow Club) with local business and vendors to create some truly unique one off events.

I caught up with Marcus and Ben from the band via The University student paper to ask them about their plans for the day, how they came to settle on Huddersfield and when we can expect their follow up record.

Mumford and Sons Interview Transcription 18/05/2012

Jenessa Williams (JW): So, Mumford and Sons in Huddersfield, finally something exciting happening!  Why pick here, of all places, to kick start your Gentlemen of the Road tour?

Marcus Mumford (MM): We’ve never been here before, and we really like touring places we’ve never been. We’ve done Wakefield, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Bradford, but never here, and we really wanted to play in England this summer. We didn’t have an enormous amount of time, otherwise we would have wanted to do lots of small gigs, but we thought why not do it a different way, and have a big one day event with some of our favourite artists, making it bigger than just a Mumford and Sons show. When we saw pictures of the park and the town we were really amazed. We heard there was a strong student scene so it seemed like a really cool thing to do. We came up here today to scout around and we’re really impressed.

JW: So you’ve had a chance to nose around?

Ben Lovett (BL): Yeah, it’s a very cool place.

MM: It’s very friendly. Even earlier when we were walking around town, people in the street were stopping us to say ‘thanks for coming’ and then just walking on.

BL: There’s a definite air of northern hospitality in England, kind of like southern hospitality in America. There are very warm people up here.

JW: You've mentioned on the tour that you wanted to have a Victorian circus theme…

BL: There isn’t actually going to be a Victorian circus, that idea just inspired elements of it. It’s not going to be a strictly music festival, that’s what we were trying to convey. It’ll hopefully be an entire event of lots of fun little things to do, with little concession stalls, whether that be clothes, or local food, or just interesting things to enjoy whilst the music is flowing over you, and then if something grabs you can stop to watch it. After the stuff in the park, we want to do things in and around Huddersfield, incorporating elements of a circus and a carnival and a festival fete all into one, in the best way we can. It’s very much about who’s there; if people come in with the right mentality and want to engage with the more carnivally side of things they’ll have a better time than they would at just a big gig. We as Mumford and Sons are as much curators as we are participants in the day.

JW: You’ve reiterated a lot that the other artists on the bill are a big part of the day. Here in Huddersfield you’re having Willy Mason and Michael Kiwanuka on the bill, how did you go about deciding upon these acts?

MM: We talked about it a lot. We wanted to handpick the line-up, to really make it feel like we were curating it. We just picked bands we love at the moment and wanted to see. We all love Willy Mason a lot, and Michael is just brilliant. We’re having Slow Club at the Huddersfield show as well, we’ve known them for a really long time and they’re a really good band.

BL: It’s really important to push that home, that it’s not just an overpriced Mumford and Sons gig. We hope that people will get many different experiences throughout the day and evening, not just 45 minutes of our music. These other bands on the bill, either people already know them or will get to know them, because they’re such high quality.

JW: And an after party? What would that entail?

MM: We want to have many different ones really, we're going to have a look round in a bit for potential places. Our horn players are in a folk band, they’re called The Filthy Six and they’re amazing, so they’re going to play their stuff at one of the parties.  And then we want to have an indie night as well.

BL: Yeah, just straight up shameless indie.

MM: We want to try for some comedy as well, and then maybe just more traditional pub music, everyone picking up acoustic instruments whilst people drink local ale. It’s just going to be a great night out, when everyone’s moving away from the park. It’s kind of selfish I guess, because we’re always buzzing after a gig, and it’ll just be a fun thing to do rather than going home or going to a pub where no one else has been to the event.

JW: In terms of your set, how are you going to attempt to balance the older familiar tracks from Sigh No More with your newer material?

MM: We see these gigs and a good bridge between album one and two, so we’ll definitely be presenting some newer songs. We always like to involve new stuff because it keeps it fresh, and also it’s a good way of rehearsing! It’ll be a mixture of both, we still enjoy playing the Sigh No More songs but we love the new stuff too. Usually the crowd are really patient with us, so we generally get a positive reaction.

JW: Have you got any idea as to when we can expect your second album?

MM: Not yet. We can’t put a date on it until it’s finished. Saying that, we’re finishing it up soon, so you will know soon, I promise.

JW: Can you give us a ball park figure? This year, next year?

MM: Hopefully this year. That’s the plan, but we can’t really make promises.

JW: Are you feeling any pressure of having to follow up such a massive and successful debut?

MM: A little bit, but we feel good about it. We feel like it’s us, and that’s all you can do really.

BL: Hopefully the fans will agree.

JW: So lyrically, a lot of your songs have been inspired by literature, Shakespeare and John Steinbeck particularly. Is this something you’re looking to continue?

MM: It’s never really been a thought out theme for us, it’s just what we feel is relevant in our lives at the time. It’s quite autobiographical in that way; if we want to talk about something we find interesting, we just smash it down in a song, and if it works, it works, if it doesn’t, we bin it.

JW: You mentioned talking to NME that is was going to be a 'Doom Folk' record before admitting it a was a joke, but that got me thinking about all the other sub genres that seem to be emerging at the moment…

BL: That was kind of the gag, but it didn’t get picked up. There are a lot of people wanting to put stuff in boxes that really don’t need to be. The band names are their own box, and that’s fine; I think people just get a bit lazy. I could name my favourite music just by naming the bands I listen to, rather than being all like ‘I like rock music, and psychedelic folk’. It doesn’t really mean anything.

MM: I understand why people do it, but it’s just not very helpful.

JW: In terms of career achievements, you’ve done some amazing things in quite a short time, like performing at the White House. How was that?

BL: That was a huge call up from the president. We were just a little bit gobsmacked when it came in via email, from our manager. There’s no way you can say no to that, would anyone? It was great, but you’re right, we’ve had a catalogue of bizarre things happen to us but they’ve also been interspersed by a lot of grafting it out on the road and writing songs and doing interviews. People often hear about the crazier stuff and think that’s our lives, but it’s not; it’s just as mad to us as it is to them.

JW: Is performing for Obama your biggest career highlight?

MM: It’s still the gigs really. Some of the gigs we’ve had, particularly the summer festivals, have been wonderful, a lot of fun for us. I think this show here could be a highlight. We’re really excited.

JW: I know you’re not really keen on the folk label, but like it or not, you’ve kind of kick started the folk revival with bands like Dry The River and Ben Howard;  it could be said that you’ve made it a lot easier for acts like them to gain prominence…

MM: I think they already had that to be honest. I don’t Folk has ever not been cool; it’s such a loose term. Traditional Irish music gets called Folk and so does Bluegrass, but if you listen to it back to back they sound nothing alike. We don’t feel any ownership of the label, and we didn’t push it ourselves. I guess we play folk instruments and they haven’t had a banjo on radio 1 for a while, so… but no, we’re probably the last people you should ask.

JW: Are there any emerging artists out there that you wish would be championed on mainstream radio?

BL: So many. I’m sure there’s some great ones in Huddersfield, students at the Uni. My one thing would just be not to wait to be told that something is great before you think it is, people need to make up their own minds and if they’re going to go out and discover music just do it, recommend it to a friend and that will help that band get out of their city and get out there. You can’t just wait until we recommend something, or a radio station or a magazine does, just take the responsibility and find it!

JW: Quite right! Thanks for talking to us.

BL: Thank you, you’re very welcome. See you in two weeks!

The Huddersfield leg of The Gentlemen of the Road tour takes place in Greenhead Park on June 2nd, with support from Michael Kiwanuka, Willy Mason, Slow Club and more. Tickets and further information are available at Safety In Sound will be attending - keep your eyes peeled for the review in a few weeks time!

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  1. Great Blog and Great Interview Jenessa!(you lucky girl..) and don't the boys give amazing hugs? Thank you for keeping us informed. Looking forward to more in a couple of weeks.

  2. Thanks Donna, more will definitely be coming soon!