Mumford & Sons

Digging into Mumford & Sons Strong Literary Influences

Digging into Mumford & Sons Strong Literary Influences

For a group whose meshing of rock and folk is so accessible, Mumford & Sons have a surprisingly intricate grasp of the literary classics. Their incorporation of these influences into their music will appear subtle to most listeners who enjoy their radio hits like “I Will Wait” and “Little Lion Man,” but those more invested in Mumford & Sons’ whole albums will likely catch literary hints embedded in the work. “Honestly, [literary references] appear everywhere,” frontman Marcus Mumford told BBC Radio 4 last year. “But I don’t think that’s a unique thing for us as a band. You just have to listen to Bob Dylan to realize that’s what people do when they write songs.” Well, it’s not as if every songwriter is able to inject these references so naturally. It makes sense that writers of songs are inspired by writers of various mediums, but it’s surprising how such a commercially receptive group like Mumford & Sons is able to incorporate literary themes into their music without dragging down the accessible aspects of their sound.

For Mumford & Sons, most of their literary connections come through lyrical content. But sometimes it’s as prevalent as an album title. The title of the English quartet’s debut, Sigh No More, was taken from a line in Shakespeare’s comedic play Much Ado About Nothing. For Shakespeare buffs and AP English graduates, they could tell Mumford & Sons were Shakespeare admirers just by glancing at the album title. When listening to Sigh No More, the lyrics show even more reverence for a number of Shakespeare’s works. The self-titled track includes lines like “Serve God love me and mend, For man is a giddy thing,” and “One foot in sea and one on shore.” It’s not exactly easy to incorporate lines like that into a song, but Marcus Mumford still doesn’t find anything particularly special about his band’s ability to do so. “A lot of the time writers are just sponges…for what’s around them, and so books are helpful for focusing your mind and literally putting it into words,” Mumford explains. “We don’t consider ourselves more of a literary band than any other band, you know. Every band reads.”

In terms of inspiration, the group also notes that the legality of being influenced by Shakespeare has a lot less stigma than borrowing from, say, Kurt Vonnegut or Tom Clancy. Unlike those authors, Shakespeare’s works are in the public domain, so extracting his lyrics word-for-word does not raise any legal red flags. Shakespeare isn’t the only legendary author the group is inspired by, though. Another one of their popular tracks, “The Cave”, borrows some details of Homer’s epic poem Odyssey, in addition to the title’s resemblance to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, which touches on the perception of reality from someone whose perceptive conscious arrives only through shaped shadows in a cave, until they emerge and dissect life without any prior bias. Its influence is echoed in lines like “So tie me to a post and block my ears I can see widows and orphans through my tears / I know my call despite my faults and despite my growing fears.”

Flourishes of literary influences can be found throughout Mumford & Sons’ songs, from the obvious infusion of Plato’s philosophy in “The Cave” and the name of their debut, Sigh No More, to more subtle touches, like the resemblance in “Little Lion Man” to a dramatic monologue from Chretien de Troyes’ Yvain, the Knight of the Lion. In addition, “Timshel” and “Dust Bowl Dance” are influenced by John Steinbeck novels East of Eden, Of Mice and Men, and The Grapes of Wrath. Mumford has mentioned in interviews that he enjoys Steinbeck’s conception of a journey in literature, and as they continue to construct their own successful journey in the music industry, Mumford & Sons’ love for literary classics doesn’t look like it will be abandoned any time soon.

Mumford & Sons Announce Indefinite Hiatus

Mumford & Sons Announce Indefinite Hiatus

Mumford & Sons fans are likely to have had a melancholic weekend, after the folk-rock band announced that they’d be taking an indefinite break from music.

As of Friday, the band had finished their most recent tour in support of second album, Babel, with a show in Bonner Springs, Kansas.

Earlier in the week, however, keyboardist Ben Lovett (he loves it), told Rolling Stone:

“There won’t be any Mumford & Sons activities for the foreseeable future following Friday’s show.”

When asked about how long “foreseeable future” actually meant, he responded, “We have no idea. We just know we’re going to take a considerable amount of time off and just go back to hanging out and having no commitments or pressure or anything like that. It feels like the last week of school right now, before school holiday when you’re in high school. The atmosphere on the road is one of… I think everyone’s excited about being free of schedules.”

He also added,”We’re just going to rest up. I don’t think we’ve had actually much time in the process to be with other people and living a life outside of the band. I think that’s what’s in place at the moment, to do very little – especially when it comes to Mumford & Sons.”

The whole thing kind of makes sense, to be perfectly honest – Mumford & Sons must be the most overworked band on the planet, having seemingly headlined every festival on the planet this year.

Marcus Mumford, the band’s singer and contrary to popular belief, not actually the father of the other members, posted a statement on their official website, thanking fans for their reaction to the band’s most recent tour:

“Well thank you everybody, once again, for an incredible tour. We cannot begin to tell you how much we love what we do and how lucky we feel that we’ve got to spend these past 6 years touring around the World, playing our songs to good people who have supported us the way that you do.”

Mumford & Sons fans: Please step down off the ledge. I promise the boys of modern bluegrass will be back.

How Mumford & Sons Made Bluegrass Cool Again

How Mumford & Sons Made Bluegrass Cool Again

The vintage sound of bluegrass has intermittently weaved in and out of the mainstream over the years, thanks to Dolly Parton and Patty Loveless’ occasional ventures into the genre, Alison Krauss & Union Station’s Grammy Award-winning efforts, and of course the soundtrack to The Coen Brothers’ 2000 Oscar nominee, O Brother, Where Art Thou. But it never really penetrated the MTV generation until a certain tweed-loving London four-piece took it by the scruff of the neck when they arrived on the scene at the tail end of the 00s.

Traditionally renowned as a form of US roots music, dandy highwaymen Mumford and Sons might not have been the most obvious act to revolutionize bluegrass. But in fact, the ‘hillbilly’ sound was first developed by British and Irish immigrants, who brought over the ballads and reels of their homeland to Appalachia in the 18th Century, and later fused it with elements of jazz, blues and African-American music.

Of course Marcus Mumford and company’s take on the genre is a little more contemporary, owing just as much to the British nu-folk scene they created alongside the likes of Laura Marling and Noah & The Whale, which has since exploded not only in the UK, but around the world. With their references to literary icons Shakespeare, Homer, and John Steinbeck, their heart-on-sleeve personal tales are a far cry from the protest themes usually associated with its more traditional fare.

But by utilizing a typically bluegrass array of instruments, including the mandolin, accordion, banjo, dobro and upright bass, not to mention their impressive four-part harmonies, there’s little denying Mumford’s connection to the genre. Taking up the banjo at high school, Winston Marshall became a bluegrass aficionado, turning the rest of the band on to its old-time charms after initially honing his craft in Captain Kick and the Cowboy Ramblers and citing Earl Scruggs as a major influence following his death last year (“He invented my job! For those who hear the banjo as something other than a joke instrument, it’s thanks to him”).

The quartet have also embraced their bluegrass leanings, announcing an E.P. of bluegrass songs in 2010, which unfortunately never came to fruition, performing at a series of specialist events including the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and the Railroad Revival Tour, while also appearing in a feature-length documentary about the sound, The Porchlight Sessions.

Their acceptance into the mainstream was confirmed when their 2009 debut album, Sigh No More, slowly went on to sell over three million copies worldwide, top the charts in the UK and reach No.2 in the US, and help the band receive both the BRIT Award for British Album of the Year and six Grammy nominations.
Paving the way for the likes of similar nu-folk purveyors Dry The River and Stornoway, Mumford and Sons also gave a bit of a leg-up to those who were already established amongst the bluegrass community. The Devil Makes Three, Trampled By Turtles and Old Crow Medicine Show had all been plugging away since the turn of the 21st Century, but all received their highest chart position following their English counterparts’ breakthrough. Ryan Bingham scooped the Academy Award for Best Original Song for his contribution to Jeff Bridges’ drama Crazy Heart (“The Weary Kind”), whilst Nickel Creek mandolinist Chris Thile and Michael Daves received rave reviews for their 2011 collaboration, Sleep With One Eye Open, for reviving the old Flatt & Scruggs method of playing.

But it’s not just their music which has proven to be an inspiration. Their old-fashioned sense of style may not be too popular with Liam Gallagher (“they look like f*****g Amish people”), but it unintentionally sparked a whole new fashion craze, as high street stores scrambled to stock checked shirts, waistcoats and blazers for those wanting to replicate the country bumpkin look.

It remains to be seen whether their fashion or their folk will be their lasting legacy. But with their 2012 second studio effort Babel following the same musical path as its era-defining predecessor, the bluegrass sound seems set to remain in-vogue for at least a little longer yet.

Mumford and Sons Add Fall Tour Dates to Current North American Run

Mumford and Sons Add Fall Tour Dates to Current North American Run

Not only has Mumford & Sons bassist Ted Dwane recovered from a recent brain surgery enough to perform this weekend, he also will join the group in newly announced North American dates — some of which are rescheduled concerts the band had to postpone because of the surgery.

Dwane had a blood clot removed from his brain earlier this month and was released from the hospital on June 14. And though the band had to cancel several North American shows, including Bonnaroo, it will be back on the road starting this weekend with an appearance at Glastonbury.

The rescheduled dates are for New Orleans; The Woodlands, Texas; Dallas and Bonner Springs, Kansas. Those dates will take place September 16-20 (the group is off September 19). Additionally, new dates are being dubbed “The Full English Tour,” and have been added from August 24-September 14. These dates surround the previously announced Gentlemen of the Road Stopover dates.

Cities along the newly announced route include Burgettstown, Pennsylvania; Noblesville, Indiana; Milwaukee; Pelham, Alabama and Simpsonville, South Caorlina. These shows (not part of the Gentlemen of the Road dates) will feature special guests The Vaccines and Bear’s Den.

A post on the band’s website says that Dwane is “wearing his newly acquired shaven-headed hairstyle with enviable levels of suave. A huge, huge thank you to all for your messages of support; the man himself is rather overwhelmed.” Keyboardist Ben Lovett was a bit more serious in an interview with the Radio Times.

“To be honest, Ted dealt with the whole thing better than any of us could have imagined,” Lovett said. “All we feel is incredibly grateful and happy that he’s going to be O.K. and that we’re going to get back out on that stage at Glastonbury as four brothers and do what we do.”

Jack Johnson Replaces Mumford & Sons at Bonnaroo 2013

Jack Johnson Replaces Mumford & Sons at Bonnaroo 2013

Special calls were made to whatever beach Jack Johnson happened to be sitting on this week, and the laid-back musician was called up to the big leagues to headline Bonnaroo on Saturday night in place of Mumford & Sons.

The latter band had to pull out of their scheduled appearance due to bassist Ted Dwane’s brain surgery to remove a blood clot, and Johnson got the last-minute call on Thursday.

“I’ve got a lot of lyrics and chords to relearn by Saturday night,” Johnson said in a statement. ” I was here to play the first Bonnaroo and it is a very special festival to my band. We are excited to hit the stage again.”

Contrary to what I would’ve thought (and stated in the first sentence), Johnson was already moving around doing surprise press appearances to start announcing his upcoming album, From Here to Now to You. But he wasn’t the first choice, as it looks like organizers also asked former Hootie Darius Rucker to step in, but he already had a show planned for Baltimore that night.

Mumford & Sons reports that Dwane’s surgery went well and that he is “on the road to a full recovery,” but the group wanted to cancel this performance to let him rest.

“If we could’ve we would’ve, you know that about us,” the band said in a post. “We trust that you can respect our collective desire to encourage Ted to make a full recovery, and that this is based purely on the medical advice we have received.”

I realize that Jack Johnson has been and in some circles still is a very popular artist, and that organizers were working to replace a headlining act at the very last minute, but I have a feeling there are quite a few people in Manchester, Tennessee right now that are fairly disappointed by this announcement. Still, the rest of the lineup for the weekend festival is extremely stellar, and I’m sure all will have quite the time, anyway.


Mumford & Sons Postpone Dallas, Houston, New Orleans After Blood Clot

Mumford & Sons Postpone Dallas, Houston, New Orleans After Blood Clot

Three Mumford & Sons dates — in Dallas; Woodlands, Texas and New Orleans — have been cancelled due to doctors discovering a blood clot on the surface of bassist Ted Dwane’s brain. Though he will require an operation to remove the clot, the band says he should recover quickly.

“Our friend and bandmate Ted has been feeling unwell for a few days, and yesterday he was taken to a hospital to receive emergency treatment,” said the band in a statement on its website. “The scans revealed a blood clot on the surface of his brain that requires an operation.  Ted is receiving excellent care and we are being assured that he will recover quickly from surgery.”

The make-up dates for the postponements should be announced soon, and the group says that all tickets for these dates will be honored at the new shows. Additionally, the group points out that they have no intention of cancelling or postponing any other upcoming dates.

The next scheduled appearance by the band after the New Orleans show, which was scheduled for June 13, is at the Bonnaroo Festival in Manchester, Tennessee on June 15. After that, the group has three more appearance in the U.S.: one in Bonner Springs, Kansas on June 17 and two in Telluride Colorado, the first at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival (June 20) and another at Telluride NightGrass (June 22). No word on yet whether a replacement will step in for Dwane.

After the last U.S. show, the band will kick off a round of European festival appearances with a performance at Glastonbury on June 30.

The band continues to support its second album, Babel, which was released in September of last year. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 Album charts, selling more than 600,000 copies in its first week.

Glastonbury 2013 Features Rolling Stones, Mumford, Arctic Monkeys

Glastonbury 2013 Features Rolling Stones, Mumford, Arctic Monkeys

The rumors were true: the Rolling Stones will play the 2013 Glastonbury Festival, marking the first time the group has appeared at the event. They will headline along with Arctic Monkeys and Mumford & Sons.

Mick Jagger tweeted about the news, writing “Can’t wait to play Glastonbury. I have my wellies and my yurt!”

But it was guitarist Ronnie Wood that claims to have been leading the campaign for the band to appear at the long-running festival.

“I’ve been using all my persuasive charm on the boys for a few weeks now, really pleased to be  doing it, can’t wait to be getting out on that stage,” he said, according to the BBC. To complete the requisite statement onslaught, Keith Richards added that, “We had such a ball last year, and the energy between the band is so good, we can’t wait to play Glastonbury, see you on a summer’s day in England.”

Of course, the headliners aren’t the only notable artists that appear in the eclectic and extensive lineup. Other performers include Elvis Costello, Vampire Weekend, Billy Bragg, Rufus Wainwright, Portishead, Smashing Pumpkins, the xx, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Johnny Marr, Alt-J and more. Even Kenny Rogers is making the trip across the pond for the festival. What a gambler.

This year’s festival will take place June 26-30 at the Worthy Farm, it’s traditional location.

Organizers seemed surprised they were able to cajole the Stones into appearing, with Emily Eavis telling the BBC that it is “as big a coup as we ever thought would be possible.”

“It’s something we never thought we’d be able to pull off — a dream booking,” she said. “We’ve tried or talked about getting the Rolling Stones to play Glastonbury throughout my entire life — I can’t remember a year it hasn’t been wished upon.”

The Stones also are expected to embark on an 18-date North American tour before the Glastonbury appearance, though that tour hasn’t been officially confirmed. Regardless, this year’s shows will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the band.

Mumford & Sons Head West of Mississippi for Summer Stampede

Mumford & Sons Head West of Mississippi for Summer Stampede

Mumford & Sons have announced a slew of new North American dates for later this year.

The group will kick off this leg of their tour on May 21 in Calgary, Alberta at the Scotiabank Saddledome. This leg of the group’s tour, known as the “Summer Stampede,” will continue through an appearance at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Telluride, Colorado on June 20. In between those dates, the band also will visit Edmonton, Alberta; Surrey, British Columbia; Berkeley, California; Chula Vista, California; and New Orleans, among others.

During that time, the band will play two other festivals, Sasquatch in George, Washington on May 26 and Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee on June 15. One festival they will not be playing is Lollapalooza, which they were unofficially announced to headline recently. Billboard reports out that scheduling won’t allow an appearance, as the group will be playing at Montreal’s Osheaga Festival during Lollapalooza, August 2-4 (though it seems they could hit both festivals during that weekend).

A second North American tour will start up later in August when the band fires up the “Gentlemen of the Road Stopover” tour once again. These are shows that pull into towns around the continent for two days at a time for more intimate shows.

“The Gentlemen of the Road Stopovers are all about live music,” the band said in a statement last month. “We get to put them on in towns not normally frequented by touring bands in busses or splitter vans. We deliberately look for towns that have something unique, or some vibe of which they are proud, explore them and enjoy what they have to offer.”

This time out, those towns will include Simcoe, Ontario (August 23-24), Troy, Ohio (August 30-31), Guthrie, Oklahoma (September 6-7) and St. Augustine, Florida (September 13-14).

The band first went on the Gentlemen of the Road trek last year, performing at similar out of the way towns with a host of support acts.

Lollapalooza 2013 to Feature The Killers, Mumford & Sons, Phoenix

Lollapalooza 2013 to Feature The Killers, Mumford & Sons, Phoenix

Mumford & Sons, the Killers, Vampire Weekend and Phoenix will headline this year’s Lollapalooza festival in Chicago this summer.

Festival organizers have not officially released the lineup, but the headliners were reported by the Chicago Tribute. Additionally, the paper says that “multiple industry sources” confirm that the National and the Postal Service also will appear at the festival.

The event will be held in the city’s Grant Park on August 2-4 this year.

Official confirmation should be coming in the second week of April. If these artists are confirmed, most will have new albums to support at the festival.

Vampire Weekend will release Modern Vampires of the City on May 7. The album will be the group’s third studio album, and the first since 2010’s Contra. The band appeared at the 2009 incarnation of Lollapalooza, as well.

Phoenix is expected to release its fifth studio album, Bankrupt! on April 22. The album will be the first since 2009’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix broke the French group to a wider mainstream audience and earned the band the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album.

The National is expected to release a new album sometime in May, though no official release date or an album title has yet been revealed. The band’s most recent album, High Violet, debuted at number 3 on the Billboard 200 albums charts. The new album will be the sixth by the band.

The appearance by the Postal Service will mark the 10th anniversary of the duo’s sole release, Give Up. The album, by Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello, is receiving a deluxe reissue this year with new tracks, rarities and alternate takes. The band will also appear at the Coachella Music Festival this year and take on a headlining tour.

Mumford & Sons and the Killers each put out records last year that they will continue to support at Lollapalooza.

Montreal’s Osheaga Festival Pulls The Cure, Mumford and Sons, Phoenix

Montreal’s Osheaga Festival Pulls The Cure, Mumford and Sons, Phoenix

For it’s 8th year, Montreal’s Osheaga Festival will welcome headliners the Cure, Mumford & Sons and Phoenix.

This year’s festival will take place August 2-4 at Parc Jean-Drapeau in the city. Other notable acts in the eclectic lineup include New Order, the Lumineers, Vampire Weekend, Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Alt-J, Gaslight Anthem, Father John Misty, Tegan and Sara, Ellie Goulding, Hot Chip, Beach House, Flogging Molly, Big Boi, Silversun Pickups, Azealia Banks and Jimmy Eat World, among others.

Tickets for the event go on sale this Friday, March 15, with general admission weekend passes starting at $235. That price jumps up to $395 for reserved seats at the festival. Additionally, there are two levels of VIP levels known as “The Osheaga Experience.” The first starts at $699 and features dedicated viewing areas, private bar, air conditioned restrooms, catered dinner and golf car transportation, among others. The second package comes with reserved seating access and otherwise is the similar to the first VIP package, though the cost goes up to $1099.

The festival also offers accommodation and travel packages, which include travel options and hotel stays, depending on the package.

The Parc Jean-Drapeau is on Ile Ste-Helene, an island located just off the island of Montreal. It features artwork created for Montreal’s Expo in 1967. The festival will include five stages throughout the park.

The Osheaga Music and Arts Festival was first held in 2006, and now is billed as “the largest festival of its kind in Canada.” More than 90 bands will play at the festival as the city welcomes tens of thousands of music fans. The festival’s website points out that last year’s festival was the first to sellout. Previous performers at Osheaga include The Killers, Arcade Fire, Weezer, Iggy & the Stooges, Rufus Wainwright, the Roots, Sonic Youth, Coldplay and Eminem, among many others.

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