Interview: Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons

What would you say your major influences are?
A whole bunch of different things because we are all song writers and we all listen to different things so there are like 4 bunches of things. I grew up playing jazz quite a lot. Ted grew up as a blues guitarist. No one likes to play the banjo in London and he wanted to get into a band so he figured he might as well play the banjo. It kind of fit because everyone was playing acoustic instruments at the time. Anyway, we love touring with bands that inspire us. Like on this tour we have got Mt. Desolation and King Charles who are London bands. And this Nashville band called Cadillac Sky and they are like blazing bluegrass and we saw them like a year ago and they kind of just blew our minds so we were like, “Do you want to go on tour with us?” We get to watch it every night so it just inspires us.

Is that how it works, you choose who goes on tour with you?
Yeah and we spend ages on it. I’m not sure how many bands labor over it as much as we do. We feel like at the beginning people gave us opportunities as a band. We were here in LA in 2008 supporting Johnny Flynn and Ramon who are friends from London, and they kindly gave us like a 15 minute set at a hotel café. Now we want to return the favor and put on a good show for everyone who buys tickets. We understand tickets are expensive and we want you to enjoy a whole night of music.

How did you guys all meet and come together as a band?
Marcus and I met when we were 8 years old and went to school until we were 17, started playing music at 12. We met Winston when we were 17. He was friends of friends. Marcus met Ted through a singer songwriter in London, called Adam Pownall, they were his backing band, did one gig and both got fired. Luckily I think we all got fired at one point or another and just became a reject band. Then we just wrote 4 or 5 songs together went on the road in 2007 and have been on the road since then.

When you are writing songs would you say that you’re writing them so people can relate to them or is it a cathartic experience or something else all together?
No we never try to write them so people can relate. There’s a thing about lyrics; you want them to be accessible. We write the music because we have to; we’re not trying to create something. We realized a couple years ago that we had nothing else to do with our lives but this. It’s like in our blood to do this. Music is a way of expressing what we have to say. I’m really not that good with words so it has to be music. Interviews are always a nightmare.

What do you guys listen to before you play?
Last tour, Frank Sinatra, but normally it’s the Maccabees and Arcade Fire just to rev us up.

Do you have suggestions of what you’re listening too that we and our listeners would enjoy?
I would say Matthew and the Atlas. I have a record label in the UK and we have released a couple of records with him. Alessi’s Ark. Winston and I used to play for the girl Alessi. She is amazing; her voice is incredible; she started when she was 16 and she’s 19 now. She’s the real deal. She did an album in the UK and recorded it with Bright Eyes. We also put a lot of effort into our top friends on MySpace. If anyone wanted to get our musical recommendations, it’s all on there.

Are you guys working on stuff now while you’re still touring or do you wait until your tour is over to write more music?
We only write on the road. Yeah we’re not really a studio band. So we’ve been gigging songs in venues like this that we haven’t even finished writing yet. Like we were just writing a song in sound check just now and we will just play it. Even if it’s not yet finished. Then it is road tested. We road tested the whole first album before we even recorded it. “After the Storm”, we were on tour for a year before we recorded it. We did 5 UK tours without an album and not thinking we would even making an album, just because we love touring so much. Then the album became the best set list we could put together.

We’re fans of Vincent Moon’s work with La Blogotheque, how did you arrange your video with him? Did he approach you?
Yeah we have known Vincent for a while. And he’s been asking to put something together with us. Videos like that are all really good, but of those types of videos I think he is the best. The Beirut album that he did in sequence is just awesome. We didn’t really want to just half do it, but when it got to it, it ended up being really rushed. We came up with the idea about ten minutes before we filmed it. It was just like we walked down the street and it came together when we were performing in that ally. The woman just like opened up her window and someone asked if she minded guests, then we just went in. I think we interrupted her washing.

What is like going from being friends in a band to being an international sensation?
We try not to notice. It isn’t really making a difference. We never read our own press. We never listen to the radio. We keep our heads down. Our most obscure moment, when we feel like things are so crazy, is when we lift our heads up as we’re walking on stage. We did so many festivals this summer and some of those crowds were incredible. The volume when they were singing was incredible. But off stage, none of us have been affected. I hope that when we take a few months off after this tour it doesn’t get to our heads and change our music. Our music came from a straight up place. It shouldn’t be corrupted by anything that has happened from its inception on. We don’t want to get to a place where our honest place is only us talking about how great everything is. People don’t want to hear that.

What’s your favorite part of America?
I love how direct the people are. I think you underestimate how many people will look you in the eyes. If you go to Europe people seem to be less open, more coy. It’s a sober lack of inhabitation. Probably staying sober for a little longer has given Americans better social skills. It sounds funny but in London we started drinking and going out at like 12 or 13, but here you guys wait until you’re like 17 or 18 I think, right?

-Haley Earl-Lynn & Kristiana Lehn