Mumford & Sons: In These Bodies, We Will Live. In These Bodies, We Will Die.
It’s nearing midnight and the electronic African group The Very Best are closing out the Bristol Stopover with one more song on the second stage. When they break into “Will You Be There,” Marshall begins jumping up and down with excitement and drags his girlfriend out to dance onstage. “Let’s go. No one’s left behind,” Mumford chides, as he coaxes the rest of the backstage contingent to join them in dancing for the final number onstage.
All day, the members of Mumford & Sons have been attentively watching the bands they handpicked to play their festival. Their biggest concern is making sure that the bands and fans have a positive experience. They realize that their popularity has allowed them to become tastemakers and the more they can share their success with other bands, the better.
“They’re the kindest guys around,” says Goldsmith after his set. “Their fans are exactly the kind of fans we want to play to. There’s no better place for us to be right now.”
The night before the Stopover, the singer/songwriter Aaron Embry tells me that he’s impressed with all of the planning that went into executing the festival and tour. “They also take care of the logistics here,” he says placing his hand over his heart.
On my flight back to New York the next morning, I end up sitting next to the band Delta Spirit, who are returning from a festival in Nebraska. When I mention where I was coming from, the lead singer, Matt Vasquez, says, “Those guys have helped out some of my friends’ bands more than their [own] record labels have.”
Mike Luba, a producer for band’s Stopovers who also works with The String Cheese Incident, hopes that other popular bands will take notice not only of the Stopovers and artist camaraderie, but also of Mumford & Sons’ fan-friendly tactics in general. “This is a game changing shift to show what can be done if you’re willing to put your money where your mouth is,” he says. “There are no limits as to what this can and will be, as long as they keep making music and playing shows.”
Part of Luba’s point is illustrated by the fact that, at 1 a.m., Lovett has just wrapped up DJing to a small crowd of fans at a club downtown while, just down the street, Mumford and Dwane are sitting-in with an ad hoc group of local musicians and their touring horn section for a funk jam. While Lovett’s DJing sensibilities leave something to be desired and Mumford’s funk drumming could use a little more punch, it’s the idea that they’re making these efforts at all that resonate the most. I’m hard-pressed to think of another band this size that routinely engages with fans this way.
In speaking to all four twenty-somethings, each remains extremely enthusiastic about a life spent mostly on the road—the chance to make memories in places like Bristol and Dixon—despite the stress it may put on their romantic relationships or bodies. “We’re hungrier to tour now than we ever have been,” says the recently married Mumford. “I’ve also never been more aware of the importance of balance, of having time off.”
It’s just that—a sense of balance—that I come away with after observing the band for the weekend. They don’t take themselves particularly seriously nor are they overly precious about the music they’ve created. They readily acknowledge that many of the musicians they surround themselves with are, technically speaking, more gifted than they are. Their extracurricular activities are voraciously reading (Marshall), motorcycle riding (Mumford), photography (Dwane), concert promoting (Lovett) and playing any sport that comes their way (all).
Their idea of good time Friday night wasn’t remotely close to the cliché of hookers and blow—it was playing Marco Polo in a pool with Haim, Apache Relay, their managers and friends. Sure, there was plenty of drinking, smoking and some irresponsible firework lighting, but that was the extent of bad-boy behavior.
“We genuinely have a shitload of fun but it’s stable people trying to seek out stable people—the crew and everyone around us,” says Lovett.
It wasn’t that long ago that the band’s benchmark of success was simply being able to tour. “[Getting your] travel paid for and having a bed for the night—that was all that mattered for me,” Dwane says. “We could have gone on like that forever, I think. We had such a good time. It’s easy to feel nostalgic of that time—it was much simpler.”
Like the rest of the group, Lovett is pragmatic in his assessment of their future in understanding how hard longevity can be to achieve. “It will be interesting to see how we handle the plateau or the fall,” he says of the band’s popularity shortly before Mumford & Sons’ headlining set. “I think we’re grounded enough to weather that storm—but it has to happen.”
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