The four young musicians of Mumford and Sons can boast of having a privilege available to very few: Bob Dylan crowned them. “It’s wonderful, as good as having the best of successes”, admits in a telephone conversation from London Ben Lovett, singer and keyboardist for this triumphant British band who hopes to maintain their growing success with the recent release of their new album, Babel (Island).
It happened at the Grammy Awards ceremony in February of last year, where they were nominated in the categories of Best Breakout Group and Best rock song. The author of Like a Rolling Stone, also accompanied by the magnificent Avett Brothers, sang with them to everyone’s surprise. Later, Dylan said that Mumford and Sons was one of his favorite bands today. And the water turned to wine. Sales of his debut album Sigh no more and its simple The cave they multiplied more than 200% in just a few weeks, according to data from the company Nielsen SoundScan. They became the first British band since Coldplay to sell more than a million albums in the saturated and closed American market, where music from the islands undergoes real tests of fire.
Faced with blazing success, it didn’t take long for the skeptics to emerge. Some referred to them sarcastically as “Coldplay with banjo.” Others saw them as a simple British version of The Fleet Foxes. On the other end of the phone line, Lovett seems to squirm in his chair. “It is not the first time that I hear it and it is not viable,” he says bluntly. “Many people only explain things if it is comparing but I do not share it. We are very different”. In fact, the British musician insists on distancing himself from The Fleet Foxes: “We are closer to electric pop. Our lives and our lyrics are different. Anyone who says we look alike is the person with the most erratic opinion I know. “
But truth be told, the career of Mumford and Sons, which formed in late 2007 in London, has paralleled the rise not only of The Fleet Foxes but of the entire stream of new folk that has conquered audiences unthinkable a decade ago. . “I can understand that we are part of a fashion but we are more important than that because we are also part of a folk community in London,” the musician defends himself. Lovett refers to what some British media call the “West London folk scene”, a label to group a good number of artists who move with ease between traditionalist forms and the indie rock like Laura Marling, Noah and the Whale, Johnny Flynn or Emmy the Great. Its epicenter would be Bosun’s Locker, the room where Marcus, singer of Mumford and Sons, began to play with the acclaimed Laura Marling and then decided to create his own group with Lovett. Marcus has refused to belong to this scene, which he called an “invention”, but the keyboard player praises it: “I think people in this music community love what they do because music is more than money to them.”
Babel is a continuation album with the successful folk-rock formula of Sigh no more, although with some ballads not very successful. At the helm of the production is Markus Dravs, the producer behind Arcade Fire, who rightly captures the enigmatic folk of circular guitars characteristic of the British group. “We’re not looking to be traditional but modern, although you feel like it’s all done and maybe it’s a matter of combining different influences,” explains Lovett. “You can listen to a Nick Drake record and then enjoy the Smiths,” he says. With that solid cultural base so much theirs, where the band makes references to works and sentimental aspects of William Shakespeare and John Steinbeck, the theme does not change either: lyrics of faith and survival. In a vein similar to that of Dylan himself or Bruce Springsteen, who gave them their last great gift three months ago, according to Lovett: “He invited us to go on stage with the E Street Band. It was incredible and very spontaneous to be by his side singing the lyrics of a song that I knew as a child. Hungry heart”. Another privilege available to very few.
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Mumford & Sons, success under the blessing of Bob Dylan | Culture