Mumford & Sons are stuck in Tennessee traffic about the way to Bonnaroo each day before their headlining set, their bus nosing past a number of Waffle Houses and Flying J truck stops. “Is it about to take us three hours to go to this f**** place?” banjo-guitarist Winston Marshall wonders to no-one in particular. A messy-haired Marcus Mumford flips channels about the bus TV, failing to discover the Wales-Belgium soccer game. Marshall sits within the couch, his newly grown-out hair spilling onto his unbuttoned white Renaissance-style shirt, blasting Kendrick Lamar from his iPad.
It’s your second week of the summer U.S. tour, and something of the most important shows of these career: the 1st major festival set because the release with their third album, Wilder Mind, as well as a return to Bonnaroo, a gig that they to cancel in 2013 after bassist Ted Dwane fell ill. “It feels really lucky to become back,” says Mumford. “It causes us to be want to smash it a lot more than we would’ve done a couple of years ago.”
Bonnaroo holds a particular place in their hearts: They were nervous before they first played here, really, nonetheless heroes Dave Rawlings, Gillian Welch and Old Crow Medicine Show all joined them in their side-stage afternoon slot for the version of “Wagon Wheel.” “British bands may be gang-y at London festivals,” says Marshall. “Here, they welcomed us with open arms.”
Mumford moved up to your huge second stage next year, and so they were booked to headline the leading stage in 2013 following your enormous success in their second album, Babel. But fourteen days before that set, Dwane started queasy onstage in Berkeley. He played other dates before doctors told him he needed emergency surgery; a blood clot was taken out of the surface of his brain. “It only agreed to be pure relief, really, because I had been feeling so bad to get a week,” says Dwane.
The band held a tense meeting within an Austin accommodation, where Dwane insisted he could play Bonnaroo against doctors’ orders, but his bandmates outvoted him. “He became skinny and he’d been sick for, like, fourteen days, just vomiting his guts out — great weight-loss program,” says Mumford. “He still had that blue marker on his head. He looked fucking awesome. He appeared as if something outside of Schindler’s List.”
“That could possibly be my next look, actually,” adds Marshall.
Despite today’s traffic, they may be in good spirits, bantering in regards to the escaped prisoners in New York state (“Fair play directly to them,” says keyboardist Ben Lovett). Marshall makes fun of Bonnaroo’s slogan (“Radiate positivity, guys!” he tells mockingly while he flips over the schedule) and wonders regardless of if the waitress was flirting with him at breakfast that morning. “It was totally unprofessional — she practically invited me nearly her room,” he tells, with over a little pride.
“You were peacocking,” says Dwane. In contrast for the rest on the group — especially Mumford and Lovett, whorrrre both married — the exuberant Marshall cannot make secret of how much he’s experiencing and enjoying the rock-star life around the road: “I’m an individual man, so I’ve got little to go the place to find,” he tells. “And I haven’t got many friends, either. I’m losing them. Will you be my buddy?” When the bus finally makes it on the festival’s back entrance, he looks the window and sees an audience of barely dressed women. “Titties!” he exclaims. “Time for babe-watch. I’ll be at the cab end of the bus.”
Mumford are time for Bonnaroo looking and sounding as being a very different band from your one they were not sometime ago. Wilder Mind replaces the banjo, kick drum and acoustic instruments of these first two albums with drum machines, in addition to electric guitars soaked in delay pedals. “It’s been interesting approaching the set list, because we’re definitely different to the way you were 24 months ago,” says Mumford. “Part of people has been like, ‘Well, should we be playing the show we would’ve played 2 yrs ago?’ but we don’t wish to do that.” He smiles. “Is the audience about to want us to learn the show we did 2 yrs ago? Probably they are doing, but you are not likely to get that. They’re gonna customize the one, which we feel is way better.”
The instrumentation is not the only new element on Wilder Mind. After a conversation for the last tour, the bandmates completely changed their songwriting process. While Mumford wrote most with the God-fearing, Shakespeare-influenced lyrics with their first two albums, this time around every band member brought songs towards the sessions, with studio time divided equally between each member’s material.
The band also won’t say who wrote what song — even if you can estimate that Dwane or Marshall, each whom recently split with longtime girlfriends, experienced a hand in breakup songs for example “Tompkins Square Park” and “Ditmas.” “There’s for ages been very little ego inside the band, which has for ages been very healthy and perfect for us,” says Lovett backstage in a Massachusetts gig a couple of days before Bonnaroo. “Much to Marcus’ credit — especially with his name across the door is actually people constantly pushing the limelight onto him — he up to all folks understands the pure democracy from the band.”
Wilder Mind sold fewer than half of what Babel did in the opening week, and reviews have already been mixed. But the group stands by it: “It’s good record,” says Lovett. Adds Mumford, “People are actually willing to have us. Because we did not know whether they would. There was no guaranteeing, because we changed quite a lot in the formulas that have been working for people, you understand.”
In addition to acoustic instruments, the group has also abandoned the waistcoats and vests of their old wardrobe, leaning more heavily now on blazers and leather jackets. “[People are saying] ‘Wow, so you’ve really changed your appearance,’ ” says Mumford. “Everyone changes that they look over a nine-year period, other than my dad. What kind of a fucking real question is that? It’s the kind of celebrity culture we live in.”
Perhaps because he’s most inside public eye, Mumford is specially sensitive to any discuss his personal life. I met him earlier that week in Massachusetts, hours from a news report broke that his wife, actress Carey Mulligan, was pregnant using their first child. As we played basketball, I offered brief congratulations. “For what?” he stated, stepping back. “Is that news? I think that’s gossip.” (He then headed to soundcheck and canceled the job interview. He doesn’t mention it if we meet again at Bonnaroo.)
Back at Bonnaroo, after the searing set by My Morning Jacket because the sun was lost, a sunburned crowd bounces beach balls and waits for Mumford & Sons to accept the stage. From there, the target audience seems to search on forever — more fans checked into Mumford’s performance within the festival app than another act with the weekend.
Mumford stubs out a cigarette as the group reach the stage and deliver their solemn acoustic hymn “Lovers’ Eyes” in complete darkness for three minutes, until after the next chorus, if your lights increase with a kick-drum thud plus a blast of horns and strings. The field erupts, plus the bandmates harmonize as Mumford strums his acoustic furiously. “Holy shit, there are many you,” he tells.
There are some jitters — Mumford grabs an acoustic guitar and starts playing a new song when he was supposed to learn “Lover from the Light.” “I fucked up,” he admits that, before heading for the drum set for the slow rendition of “Lover.” Afterward, he shakes his head and Marshall pats him within the back.
It was all forgotten as soon as Ed Helms came onstage to try out banjo around the singalong “Awake My Soul.” Mumford introduces this guitar rock band, and Dwane contains the biggest response, the competition chanting his name because he plays a goofy bass line, as though to deflect attention. “One with the reasons we’re glad he’s alive is very we could revisit and play this festival,” Mumford says. “He made it happen to get more attention. What a wanker.”
For one more song, Mumford invites people Dawes, My Morning Jacket and Hozier for that Joe Cocker version on the Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends.” Mumford trades verses with Jim James and Taylor Goldsmith before he perfectly nails Cocker’s ragged, climactic shriek. Then, because song enters double time, he grabs a tambourine and pounds away. As the song fades out, you will find bro hugs all-around onstage. “It was obviously a good day,” Mumford says which has a wave. “It was obviously a good day.”