For a band who had gigged pretty much nonstop since forming, Mumford & Sons’ five-month hiatus – which began when they completed their world tour for the ‘Babel’ album in September 2013 – was their first proper break in almost five years. Yet their decision to step off the merry-go-round was born as much of confidence as it was exhaustion, or a desire to catch up with themselves.
When the band reconvened at Eastcote Studios in London, where they had recorded their debut album, ‘Sigh No More’ - so began an eight-month period of writing. Right from the opening bars of ‘Tompkins Square Park’, it’s apparent that those early sessions in New York and London witnessed a change in the band’s approach not just to writing and recording, but to texture and dynamics, too. There is a minimalist yet panoramic feel to ‘Wilder Mind’, whose sound Marcus describes as “a development, not a departure”. He continues: “We didn’t say: ‘No acoustic instruments.’ But I think all of us had this desire to shake it up. The songwriting hasn’t changed drastically; it was led by a desire not do the same thing. Plus, we fell back in love with drums! It’s as simple as that.”
In another development, the new album is the band’s most collaborative to date, with all four musicians putting their shoulders to the wheel, and much of the writing taking place in the studio. Lyrically, the album comes across like a series of snapshots – diary entries, postcards, internal conversations, about misunderstandings, heartache, commitment, deception and loss. It’s a night-time record, a city record. Flitting in and out of the darkness of the shadows and brightness of the lights. Sound-tracking these clamorous emotions is music of incredible intricacy and subtlety, drama and depth, urgency and soul, which undoubtedly sounds like the turning of a new page, yet is still identifiably the work of a band whose songs struck a chord with millions because of the passion and fervour they conveyed.
“That’s the feeling that has always driven us to make music,” says Ted. “Going to a gig, standing there with this feeling of how mystifying and amazing it all is.” Inevitably, after such a long break, they are itching to play live again. And there is a clutch of new songs – ‘Only Love’, ‘Believe’, ‘Ditmus’, ‘The Wolf’, ‘Wilder Mind’, ‘Just Smoke’ – that are going to soar in a live setting, and take us with them.