The UK folk favourites are sighing no more after charming the world on the road to their second album, as Cameron Adams reports
MUMFORD and Sons have used the ears of the world as a sounding board for their second album.
The British band toured relentlessly prior to the release of their 2009 debut Sigh No More. They adopted the same road- testing process for the follow- up.
Things have changed somewhat, however.
Sigh No More has sold more than four million copies, including peaking at No. 2 in the US. The staggering success in the US also increased the demand for the band to play live.
As such, they’ve effectively been on the road for three years.
‘‘ It’s been flat out, but that’s good,’’ Marcus Mumford says.
‘‘ We want to work hard. We’ll have a break at some point.
‘‘ We’ve been kept busy. People have wanted to see our gigs in various parts of the world, which means we have to travel, which takes up some time.
‘‘ So we did that in between recording. We’ve had a lot to do.’’
Buzzing from writing and recording new songs, Mumford and Sons regularly aired them live just to significantly larger audiences than before.
‘‘ We’ve involved our audiences a lot in the writing of this new album,’’ Mumford says.
‘‘ A lot of people have already been exposed to these songs. Records should be adverts for our live show.
‘‘ It’s important to know if a song can be played live, and enjoyed by us first and foremost, and secondarily by others. Some songs passed that test, some didn’t.’’
A handful of unreleased new songs – Ghosts That We Know, Lover’s Eyes, Below My Feet, Whispers In the Dark, Lover Of the Light, Hopeless Wanderer – are all floating around on YouTube in varying levels of recording quality.
‘‘ I do notice people singing along to new songs at gigs,’’ Mumford says.
‘‘ That’s amazing. But then people get emotionally attached to the sound of the songs, so there’ll be people who’ll be p----off when they hear the studio version.
‘‘ It’ll be ‘ Oh, it doesn’t sound like I imagined it would from what I remember of hearing it at that one gig when I was drunk’.’’
The new songs have had a lot of love on YouTube.
‘‘ As a policy I stay away from YouTube and YouTube comments especially. I’ve been told they’re pretty brutal and it’s a whole world of pain I don’t want to subject myself to.’’
Not that Mumford doesn’t have a sense of humour.
His band has been on the receiving end of feedback, good and bad, from both Gallagher brothers. Liam Gallagher said the band looked ‘‘ Amish’’.
‘‘ I thought that was hilarious,’’ Mumford says.
Noel Gallagher said he wished he’d written Mumford’s The Cave.
‘‘ Now that was a beautiful moment. We walked past each other in a hallway at a festival once and nodded at each other. I think he had no idea who I was, he was just being nice to a stranger. I gave him a little ‘ I’ll swap you The Cave for Wonderwall ’ look.’’
It’s a testament to the accidental but unstoppable success of Sigh No More, the modern folk rock album that could.
Mumford has seen everyone from Taylor Swift to a busker in London singing his songs in the past two years. ‘‘ It’s very surreal,’’ he says. The all- important follow- up is to be released in late September.
‘‘ People ask us to describe the sound of the new record,’’ Mumford says. ‘‘ We can’t, we’re the worst people to ask.
‘‘ It’s just us again; just us being a band again. The sound of the album is different certainly. Some people will like it, some will hate it, but that’s the same with any record.
‘‘ We’re not really keeping an eye on record sales. We never have.
‘‘ To us this makes sense as the next part of our story. We’re not freaking out. It’s an excuse to play more gigs.’’
For a band whose breakthrough hit Little Lion Man came with two unlikely ingredients for mainstream success – a banjo and the F bomb – no one was talking radio- friendly singles.
‘‘ The S word [ single] was banned in the studio,’’ Mumford says.
‘‘ It’s not our job to understand that. It’s pointless, people plucking a song from an album they think can get played on the radio. That’s not a good test of a record, it’s just cherry- picking. When we finished the first record we didn’t talk about singles until it was done.
‘‘ We did exactly the same this time.’’ Australians will get to see Mumford and their pals Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes when both bands ( and US singer Willy Mason) tour in October everywhere from Hobart to Cairns.
‘‘ We felt we owed it to Australia to do a more extensive tour,’’ Mumford says.
‘‘ We never felt we’d been around as many of the places as we should have.’’
Mumford is excited about longer sets with songs people will recognise.
‘‘ You do test the patience of your audience if you’ve only got one record out and you’re playing for an hour and a half; at least 30 minutes of that is new songs. Or just s--- chat.
‘‘ We figured people prefer new songs. Not that we can’t give them s--- chat as well.’’