/ FACES Magazine July 2016
Mumford & Sons - Ted Dwane
British rock Band, Mumford and Sons, lives for the stage – it is where they love to be, and where they do their best work. Forming in 2007, the band crashed into each other over their shared love of acoustic and folk music, and has captured the hearts of millions since. The bands debut album, “Sigh No More”, earned the band 6 Grammy nominations – not an easy feat to accomplish. It’s no surprise that their second album, “Babel”, garnered another 8 Grammy nominations including the win for Album of the Year.
Mumford and Sons is the kind of band that truly cares about creating wicked music. The band explores every idea and experiments with different instrumentation to find what will fit each song perfectly. Evolving from acoustic folk music to a more electric sound, when you hear their songs on the radio, you still know it belongs to them.
FACES had the fortunate opportunity to chat with bassist, Ted Dwane, after sound check to talk about the band’s journey over the last 9-10 years and their newest project, Johannesburg. Mumford and Sons performed in Ottawa for the first time on June 12th at the Canadian Tire Centre, and they rocked our city to a sold out crowd.
What was your favourite part about growing up in England (besides having the best candy)?
(Laughs) We actually moved around quite a bit, we were in Singapore for a lot of my childhood, so I’ve been itchy-footed ever since then - but it means that the touring lifestyle fits me pretty well. If I had to choose a favourite thing about growing up in England, it would have to be the countryside, the fresh air and the beautiful hills.
When you first hit the music scene, your songs used a lot of folk and bluegrass sounds. With your recent music the band has started adding more guitar and modern drums, becoming a little more electric. Why the transition and how has it been for the band?
I think the very course of the universe is changing and moving all the time – human beings are always changing, and when you try to cling onto something, you generally go mad, because it’s impossible. When we met in 2006/07, we all met in the same moment of digging acoustic and folky music so we kind of collided with a lot of enthusiasm and Mumford and Sons was born. As human beings tend to, we all have a lot of different interests and like to explore different things. As a band we really wanted to focus on writing and lyrics before instrumentation and genres – we wanted the songs to be amazing. The instrumentation is put in place to serve the songs and is an exploration and evolution for us, which is quite important for us, and for creative people – you don’t want to be doing the same thing for too long.
Not only did “Babel” become the fastest selling rock album of its decade, it also won the band the Grammy for Album of the Year. What was it like to see this album become such a huge success?
It was quite strange because we were so busy touring. We took a moment out to go to the Grammy’s and win something for the first time, which was really exciting, but aside from that your head is kind of stuck in the shows. We have always been such a live band that our records kind of serve as an advert for our shows. So we stand by that to a degree, despite enjoying the studio more and more. It was quite abstract really, you know we can understand shows and you can see people’s faces and see them singing along and having a good time, but with records, there is a sort of abstraction to it, a distance between the reality of record streams and sales. So it was quite strange and I don’t think we still really thought about it too much – we don’t like to dwell on these things too much – we are just really just excited about making more music and to get the 4th record out before too long.
You had the opportunity to play at a Whitehouse state dinner for Barack Obama and David Cameron with along John Legend. What was that experience like for you?
Slightly surreal! It was really cool because we were asked to do it, and I think you’d be mad to say no – I don’t think anyone really would! Our relations between America and the U.K have, historically, been many things, but at the moment they are quite good! So we all went and invited our girlfriends and wives, and we met some very interesting and clever people, and then we played 3 songs - it was a really cool night. I remember stepping out of this big marquee for a cigarette thinking I was all alone, and then I turned around and there was this fully armoured man with a gun just standing in the darkness, and I was reminded where I was because I had forgotten for a moment (laughs).
Does the band have any pre-show rituals before going on stage?
Yea, we often watch a bit of the support band, which helps get us in the mood. The 4 of us, and our fellow musicians, have a vaguely similar last few hours together before the show, because if we step on stage and someone has been stuck in traffic for hours, and another has just finished a massive meal, and someone else is drunk, it makes it hard to be on the same level to play music. So we basically just hang out for an hour or 2 before the show – have a little drink, have a little cuddle, and just step out on that stage united and intent on giving it all we’ve got.
Tell us about the experience recording Johannesburg with Baaba Maal, The Very Best and Beatenberg in South Africa.
It was a bit of an experiment – we set out with a bit of a loose brief as to what we were going to do. We were touring with Beatenberg, The Very Best and Baaba Maal and we had known Baaba Maal for a while and the others are new friends. We had the studio in Johannesburg for 2 days, and despite our attempts to prepare for it and write something in advance, we kind of failed in preparing so we just walked in and made the whole thing in 2 days. There were lots of live takes, lots of fun, and a huge amount of creativity from everyone just piling their ideas. We came away with the 5-track EP, which we are really proud of. We played some of the songs during our last gigs in South Africa, which is awesome. We made a DVD that night too, which is really fortuitous because the gig was amazing.
I think you can just hear the fun that everyone was having on that EP.
The band sold 85,000 tickets, which sold out 6 shows in South Africa. What was your favourite part about performing and recording in South Africa?
There was a huge sense of anticipation from the audience because they had played us on the radio quite early on, but with the world as big as it is we hadn’t made it down there yet, so this was our first stop in South Africa. The shows were some of the biggest we have ever done, so that combined with the energy was a real atmosphere, a real anticipation of reckless abandon, which usually makes for a bit of a fun show! Wherever we are in the world, we always try and find ways of engaging with where we are. The stopovers we do, little 2-day festivals we do in small towns, are a big way of doing that. For a big touring band it is a really nice punctuation to be able to settle into a place and meet some people. The equivalent of that experience on the South Africa trip was recorded in that EP – we got to work with some local people and settle into the place for a while. It was a very valuable experience; we sort of feel like we made a connection there now – it wasn’t a superficial visit, but really quite emotional and a nice sort of output for us.
You are making 3 stops in Canada during this tour; including a stop here in Ottawa on June 12th.What are you looking forward to the most about being here?
I think that Canada has always been one of the places that has been the most generous to us as a band. The shows have always been amazing and we played our first ever arena in Toronto. The Niagara on the Lakes show we did not too long ago was one of our biggest ever shows. It’s just amazing; somewhere you can genuinely look forward to playing a show. Sometimes you go somewhere and for one reason or another they over-anticipate you and it doesn’t work – you just kind of miss each other and there isn’t a connection (thankfully it happens very rarely), but in Canada, that has never happened. Every show we have done has been a really natural experience, so we always look forward to coming back again.