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Thursday, 18 March 2010

The Ten Minute Dram with.... Mumford And Sons

Last year, we promised many more of our 'Ten Minute Dram with...' interviews and must confess, although the intention was there, the right subject just didn't present themselves... until now that is.

Last week, we got to meet up with the creators of our favourite album of 2009 and undoubtedly the band that will be on every UK stereo this summer. Londoner's Mumford and Sons have been around on the fringes of the capital's Nu Folk scene since late 2007, playing alongside the likes of Laura Marling, Noah and The Whale and Johnny Flynn and The Sussex Wit. From starting their own club nights, (with performances often spilling out into the street outside) to gigging solidly across the UK, the band have built up a formidable following, helping to send their debut album ‘Sigh No More’ into the UK top 10 and No.1 in Australia no less!

We spoke to Ted Dwane, the band's bassist about the steady rise to success, the (supposed) restorative properties of whisky and how a certain Islay dram changed his perception on whisky…

(CS) "So Ted, it’s been a phenomenal year so far, with the band’s tour selling out and the album consistently hanging around the top 10 – has the level of success you’ve achieved come as a surprise?"

(TD) “In a way... yes and no. We’ve been touring as a band for around 2 years, so really it feels like a slow and steady rise in fortunes, luckily with no steps back. But I don’t think any of us really anticipated selling as many albums as we have, so in that sense it’s been amazing. We used to joke about playing to 40 people and what it’d be like to play a big venue like the Shepherds Bush Empire - and now we’re actually doing it!!" (the band recently sold out not one, but two consecutive nights at the venue...)

(CS) "You spent a lot of time building your fans through the new London folk circuit (actually more of a like-minded community of musicians), what’s it like playing to those bigger audiences now?"

(TD) "Different cities have really different vibes, but London always has a really diverse audience – it ranges from younger fans to older people who have seen us in the past at smaller venues, but it always feels like a sense of occasion- rather like a village Fete!!”

(CS) "You list your influences from bands like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to American rockers Kings Of Leon- what essentially bought you all together?"

(TD) "Well Marcus (lead singer) and Ben (keyboardist/backing vocals) met at school and I joined them slightly after that. We were just really into playing together and started a little Club Night at a pub called the Bosun’s Locker on the Kings Road." "It really felt like there was a great musical community starting to form around there, which just clicked."

(CS) "What was it like working on ‘Sigh No More’ with producer Markus Dravs?" (Dravs also made albums with Arcade Fire, Brian Eno, Bjork, oh… and a relatively unknown band called 'Coldplay'…)

(TD) "Markus was absolutely amazing to work with- he really helped us pull together all these ideas and sounds we had and give the songs a sense of solidity. He also really helped us with our equipment too- I had this knackered old bass with was literally falling apart from all the touring we were doing!"

(CS) "Let’s jump onto whisky. Do you have any whisky related stories or high jinks on tour?"

(TD) "Actually yes! We were doing a series of gigs of the US a while back with both Laura Marling and Johnny Flynn (the 'Fee Fi Fo Fum' tour) and our tour manager suddenly got this really nasty stomach bug. As we were all sharing the same tour bus, we really didn’t want to catch it. We thought that by drinking large ‘cups’ of Bells whisky, we’d stay healthy and the whisky would have medicinal properties. It actually turned out that the TM just had a stomach Flu and we all ended up just being really hungover from the whisky, so that idea didn’t really work out!!"
"We also played a great little tour of Scotland, which included gigs on Stornoway and Harris, as well as a wonderful drive down to the Glen Livet Estate."

(CS) "What was the dram that really switched you onto whisky?"

(TD) "It would have to be Caol Ila. From the first time I tried it, I really fell in love with the peaty flavour- it’s one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever tasted. A girlfriend once bought me a bottle and we’ve been pretty much inseparable ever since (...the whisky that is…!)"

(CS) "What’s next for the band?"

(TD) "We have lots more touring now including Europe throughout April, then out to the US until the end of June. We’ll be playing a few festivals around then too- fortunately we’ve been writing songs on the road and we’re starting to play 3-4 new ones in the set now, so hopefully we’ll be working on our next album too."

We wish Ted, Marcus, Winston and Ben the best of luck on their upcoming tour and urge you to check out the band if you haven’t already- a truly amazing live band with a wonderful debut album, which is certainly not to be missed. My preferred listening dram is Highland Park Earl Magnus. Listening to the track 'White Blank Page' after dark, with a large dram is truly magical.

You can grab tickets to see the fabulous Mumford and Sons here and listen to/buy ‘Sigh No More’ here.