Keeping it in the family

Lucy Humphreys

I spot Mumford’s Ted and Ben outside King Tut’s, they seem pleased to be recognised, I introduce and identify myself as having been sent to interview them. After a small tour around their dressing room and backstage discussing musical interests including Ray Lamontagne and Ted’s tour of Glasgow, we settle on the sofas in the tour bus. They are very laid back, putting their feet up and opening a beer.

How are you feeling about the upcoming tour selling out at various venues?
Ben: It’s really exciting that in the last year we’ve gone from strength to strength. This is our fourth gig in Glagsow and it just gets better and better. It is inspiring that so many people want to see us.

You are often placed alongside bands such as Laura Marling and Noah and the Whale, how do you think your sound compares?
Ted: It is interesting, if there’s any comparison to be made it is probably a geographical one, we’re all from the same place.
Ben: They are good friends who we love and respect a lot but musically we aren’t that similar. It’s still flattering to be compared to them as they were real musicians who had released their album before we had even started.

When you were recording the album were you worried about how your sound would translate from a live setting?
Ted: We’ve always seen ourselves as a live band, in our minds that has always been our strength. When we went into recording the album we were a bit worried because we’d never really been in the studio for more than four days at a time. Ben produced our first three EP’s so it was all very wholesome and easy.

Would you say your music sticks to the folk narrative or is more emotional?
Ben: mmm, I would say it is a bit of both. I agree that folk is often about the narrative, a lot of the songs do have a narrative with presiding emotion throughout. Storytelling and narrative is very important to us. I would say the inspiration for the lyrics is mainly split between experiences which would have the narratives in them
and then the emotion behind them. I guess when it comes to narrative we are sharing things that probably most people have felt or experienced. A lot of it comes from relationships for instance, and friendships, adventures…

Who writes the songs?
Ben: We all write for the band and outside the band. And the more that we’re playing the more we’re learning each other’s sounds more and we’re each bringing something to the table.
Ted: Yeah, the fact that we are all songwriters and that we all play an instrument allows us to write songs, it allows each of us to understand each other’s vibe really well, so when it comes to developing ideas and developing songs, everyone knows what each other could potentially offer.
Ben: We get the odd day to take some time out of the rehearsal studio, which has only happened a handful of times, we can turn up and you might have an idea in your head, and then you know within about twenty minutes it will be a Mumford and Sons song, because of how the other three members just get it.
Ted: We were talking the other day about what the album is about, there wasn’t a pre-planned idea that we were going to write a concept album about a certain emotion, it was nothing like that, but the songs have all come from a similar place which is basically what it is to be a man. What is to grow up and in to the role of being a man, the mistakes you make, the people you hurt, the friends you make, everything that goes with it and so ‘Sigh No More’ for me is such an important song, I would say any lyric from that would sum up the album. It’s a song that holds a lot of significance, it’s the song we open the set with, it’s a brotherly thing.

What do you think about the relationship between music and lyrics when writing songs?
Ben: I think the music needs to fit the sentiment, so whether or not the lyrics are fully formed yet, the sentiment needs to come first. Either it starts musically or lyrically but what always happens is that we’ll get the sentiment.
Ted: There is no other way of putting it. I think that the greatest power from music comes when the melody and the mood of a song matches the sentiment of the lyrics, and it becomes one cohesive emotional experience. That is essentially what we aim for.

Do your personal music tastes correspond as a band?
Ted: No. Well they do, they overlap, but individually we all have quite diverse tastes. There is common ground, but there is massive breadth, there’s almost not a corner of musical genres that we don’t cover between the four of us.
Ben: And Mumford and Sons is our middle ground.

There seems to be a community of new acts coming out of London , which ones are you particularly excited about?
Ted and Ben: Alessi’s Ark
Ben: King Charles is on tour with us at the moment he is one of the best singer-songwriters in London and deserves so much more recognition for his work. There are countless amazing bands and friends of ours not only from London, anyone who we’ve met on the road, countless times we’ve been on tour and there has been local support that was just incredible.
Ben: The deeper you delve into any city, it just involves stepping away from Radio One and iTunes and anything that is filtered and given to you on a plate, because that’s really just one persons opinion, whereas if you are in a city and want to find new music just look a little bit deeper. It’s really not that hard.

You’ve recently signed to a major label, has it still affected the way you work?
Ben: Well we’re licensed to a major label, we own the rights to the record. But we are working with a major label.
Ted: It’s not a traditional record deal. We made the record before we signed the contracts. We made the record on our own so to be honest it hasn’t changed how we work that much but they’re helping out, they’re going to get it made and they’re going to distribute it.
Ben: They support us for the tour. They’re working hard, without them right now it doesn’t feel like we could have got to where we are today. But ultimately we’re trying to make sure that nothing happens unless we’ve put it in place, which isn’t very common. We just want to stay in control of our destinies for as long as we can.

Do you worry about commercial success?
Ben: It is actually a really big concern. It can ruin everything, people can write you off because of one song. My favourite musical career path is Radiohead, they got big with Creep, everyone in the UK knew about them and they have always tried to fight against but maintained a cult following. They got up and they’ve just stayed in
this perfect place.
Ted: There are other bands that are swallowed up by record companies that want to wring them dry and get every last drop out of them, but a lot of people get big because they are made big by a big label, and it’s not because they are making music that they want to make. You just need to take things slower. Essentially we’d love to share the music that we love with as many people as we can.
Ben: But only if they really give a shit. Some people go to gigs and they are there because they think they should be there but the people who have come to our shows so far have been really amazing
with their support.

How did you decide which songs made the album?
Ben: We wanted to put a collection of songs together that sums up who we are as band, some of the earlier songs such as ‘Liar’ and ‘Feel the Tide’ were from very early days, we found we didn’t want to release an 18 track album, and felt we’d got to the point where we didn’t want to hold songs back because we might not get to do a second album. We wanted to put our best foot forward and literally chose our best and most identifying songs.

What is the dream?
Ted: We literally just saw it. We’ve just been watching this band who have been doing the residency here [King Tut’s] for 50 years.
Ben: They were just playing downstairs and they play every Saturday. In ’61 they were recording with George Martin who did the Beatles stuff at Abbey Road, and they recorded their own stuff with him and released like 5,000 copies!
Ted: Still playing the same music that makes sense to them, the music that they love to play. In 2059 if we’re still doing exactly what we’re doing then that is the dream!
Mumford & Sons debut album is released on October 5th.


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