INTERVIEW: Mumford & Sons' significant connection to Singapore and why reflecting back as a band is so important

Reta Lee
Editor-in-Chief, Lifestyle
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - SEPTEMBER 21: (L-R) Ben Lovett, Marcus Mumford, Winston Marshall and Ted Dwane of Mumford & Sons attend the 2019 iHeartRadio Music Festival at T-Mobile Arena on September 21, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Bryan Steffy/Getty Images)

SINGAPORE  – British quartet Mumford & Sons has been producing rock and folk-influenced songs for a decade now, ever since their debut in 2007. Consisting of Marcus Mumford (lead vocals, guitars), Ben Lovette (vocals, keyboard), Winston Marshall (vocals, guitar banjo) and Ted Dwane (vocals, guitar), the band hit mainstream gold two years later, when a particular single, “Little Lion Man” that featured their banjo beats and a curse phrase in the chorus, rocked the charts and found commercial success in the US. 

The band has since churned out four studio albums, and raked in multiple awards during their career: Sigh No More picked up Brit Award for Best British Album in 2011, as well as Grammy Award for Album of the Year. The band also won a Brit Award for Best British Group in 2013.

Not to be contented with just your run-of-the-mill studio recorded albums and world tours, Mumford & Sons coined ‘Gentlemen of The Road Stopover Festivals’, where they hijack annual music events and even playing at never-heard-before places like Aviemore to Walla Walla, just to name a few. Oh, and if you haven’t heard, two of the members even found time to create their own banjo brand and opened new venue spaces just to diversify their interests. They are certainly not resting on their laurels. Making a pit stop in Singapore as part of Neon Lights Festival 2019, Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore reels in the members for a quick tête-à-tête. 

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The writer with the band. (PHOTO: Reta Lee/Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)

This is your Singapore debut; what are your first impressions of Singapore and Asia so far?

Marcus Mumford: I haven't gone to Ted's hometown before.

Ted Dwane: I grew up here, from age 11 to 18. We really wanted to come to Singapore to play a show for as long as we've been a band.

Wow! What were your fondest memories of Singapore, Ted?

Ted: Curry puffs (the rest of the band members laugh). Old Chang Kee!

How has the tour been for the band?

Ted: It's been an amazing tour. We started in Japan two weeks ago, and we've been working our way down. It's been one of our favourites and it's just been a brilliant, brilliant tour. We’ve been to most places, and this time, we're (touring places) we’ve never been to before. So that was a novelty for us; going farther and wider, so that’s great. 

You guys are not just musicians; I read that as entrepreneurs, you’ve opened event spaces to marketing banjos. So why is it so important for you to diversify your interests? 

Ben Lovett: I think a lot of people go about doing a single thing in their lives, but I think it's necessary and important for us as creative individuals to create things now, whether that's music or other endeavours. We've been doing this for a long time now. And it's fun to be able to try out different ideas, building an instrument or building a venue, whatever that thing is possible.

It's been 11 years since Sigh No More. Do you remember the first time when you guys got together to play gigs. Do you feel nostalgic when reflecting back?

Marcus: Yeah, I think there was a sort of 11-year period where we felt like a bit of a blur. So we just recently started reflecting a bit. I don't think we're leaning quite into nostalgia yet because that's just that we preferred then to now and I think we've really enjoyed the different life stages of our band. I think our favourite record to make is (sic) Delta. It’s the process we've enjoyed the most; I think it's been one of the best tours we've ever done. But that said, of course there's a fondness for those times because they were wild and they were fun. And I remember very vividly our first rehearsals, our first shows in a period of time over about two years, where we just said yes to every gig you can do.

We still have an attitude of we can make it happen and figure something out. Like when we lost power in South Korea, and we just played without the power. Every band that has ever been in the early days - just sleeping on floors and touring in a basic way - that was a very important period for our band and one that we're truly, hugely grateful for, as that set us up to be what we are now and what we will be next.

(PHOTO: Neon Lights)

So you mentioned you said yes to a lot of things. Are there some things that you would say no to?

Marcus: Yeah, sadly, because of scheduling, we've had to say no to Asia for so long. Things just got busier and it’s been amazing, so we're massively grateful. There are things we said no to, which we probably shouldn't have. I think it's interesting to reflect and I think this tour, particularly, have been stripped down to a smaller crew. That's led us to actually hang out more together, than we have for a while. It’s been really fun, and it's led to a bit more reflecting than we'd normally do on a tour. We've actually had lots of meals together and spent a lot of time together. 

What were some of these reflections across the dinner table?

Ben: Just figuring out and hearing from each other, what we want to do next, what's been great about this tour and what we would have done better. I think we’re constantly trying to improve as a band, as a live band as recording is mandatory. I think it's been good to spend more time together.

Being on the road, do you think you’ve done enough character building?

Ted: We are very lucky that we really enjoy it. It was one of the things we wanted to do, the desire to just travel, see the world and being in abundance. It's a great way to see your wealth if you only ever get to experience or value; we always try to optimise our time at any given places.

What's the best part of touring the Delta album?

Winston: This tour for me has been so rejuvenating and galvanising. It's so exciting to go to new places every day. When we play the songs, we're hearing them from new people's ears every night, so the songs feel fresh and exciting. Yeah, I think we've always got a kick out of good places.

So my favourite song is “I Will Wait.” Do you have a personal favourite song you would recommend for say, a road trip?

Marcus: Wilder Mind makes for a good album, for driving. It’s got a good tempo to it.

You’ve got new material slated for spring 2020. Is there a hint you could share with us?

Marcus: We will have a new EP that comes out in Spring, no full name yet. It's another collaboration with Senegalese singer Baaba Maal, who is a friend of ours. We put out an EP called Johannesburg. This time, we travelled to his hometown Podor in Senegal, and as part of our Gentlemen of The Road Stopover, played a festival there which was an extraordinary experience, and we recorded some songs whilst we were there. We made a film as well! So it really is a film about Baaba and his story, which is extraordinary actually.