Mumford and Sons are coming to Yorkshire with a one-day festival the band has organised itself. Nick Ahad spoke to them.
They might look like Worzel Gummidge on a dress down day, but having seen their debut album win multiple awards and sell more than a million in both the UK and America, Mumford and Sons could afford to smarten up.
They could also afford to leave behind their hard- working lifestyle which sees them tour relentlessly.
And yet... Instead of counting their money in a comfortable tour bus, playing soulless arenas to rake in serious cash, the band are coming to Huddersfield to play as part of a day-long festival they are organising because they really, truly believe in the live experience and in bringing their faultlessly energetic live show to certain areas of the UK.
“I suppose it would be easy for us to do a city like Leeds or Manchester and play the big arenas, but what we wanted to do was go to places that were a bit off the beaten track, places we hadn’t been before,” says Marcus Mumford, the frontman of the four piece.
“We knew we wanted to play some gigs in the UK this summer and just because we’ve had some success, it doesn’t mean we’re somehow ‘above’ playing a less obvious town like Huddersfield. The other thing is, because we’re playing places that don’t necessarily get bands coming to play because they are a bit out of the way, there has been a really great reception.”
Mumford and Sons are coming to Huddersfield to play Greenhead Park on June 2 as part of a touring show called Gentlemen of the Road Stopover which is set to tour across the world – after kicking off in Huddersfield and Galway. The show is a one-day festival, curated by the band themselves, which sees them invite other musicians to play in out-of-the-way towns.
Once at their destinations, the one-day festival will also feature a genuinely local flavour, with bands from the towns playing at after-show events, locally-sourced produce on sites and, in Huddersfield, a local pub serving a specially brewed beer on the day.
Demonstrating that their commitment to keeping it local with the tour is genuine, the whole band spent the day in Huddersfield recently, finalising their plans.
“We thought it was important to come up, have a look around. We’ve had a look at the park where the event is going to be happening and seen some of the venues where the after-show parties are going to be,” says Mumford. “Walking down the street just now someone came up to us and said ‘we’re really glad you’re coming to Huddersfield’ and then walked off.
“I’m not saying that wouldn’t happen somewhere like Leeds, but being here in the town means we can really sense the fact that people seem grateful to have us playing here. I think the fact that a town like Huddersfield doesn’t get many big gigs means that they are really up for it when you bring something to the town.”
The idea for the gigs came from festivals like Colorado’s Telluride Bluegrass and Scotland’s Loopallu Festivals – the sorts of festivals where the town becomes a real part of the fabric of the event.
Mumford says: “We’re keen to promote the town’s local businesses, and we’ll be using the local bars and venues working closely with the local people to get everyone involved in making these shows.”
The line up for the event includes Michael Kiwanuka, Willy Mason and The Correspondents, but there is no mistaking that the major draw for the day is the band that seemed to come out of nowhere and heralded a new wave of folk that became stratospherically popular.
Their debut album, Sigh No More, sold over 1.4m in the UK and more than a million in America. Its combination of soaring harmonies, led by Marcus Mumford’s grumbling vocals and an almost nuclear energy that roared the songs along was irresistible to many. In fact, they became so popular that they became victims of their own success, playing music in a genre that is generally left to its own niche area – which is where the “real” fans like it.
“I’m actually one of those people that stops liking something when it becomes ‘popular’ so I understand the criticism. But we’ve stopped caring. We’re just interested in making the music,” says Mumford.
The men who make up Mumford and Sons
Mumford and Sons are Marcus Mumford and Ben Lovett – playing together since they were school friends – and Winston Marshall and Ted Dwane. They came together in 2007, emerging from the west London folk scene and quickly gained an impressive reputation on the back of their incredibly energetic live shows. Working with Arcade Fire producer Markus Dravis, they released Sigh No More, in October 2010, which stayed in the chart for 72 weeks.
Gentlemen of the Road Stopover: Greenhead Park, Huddersfield, June 2. Tickets 0844 8110051 www.gentlemenoftheroad.com