’23 Splendour Spotlight: Mumford & Sons

Zoe reflects on the nostalgia of the band, and longs for a Sydney sideshow.

In 2009, my parents travelled to Ireland for a friend’s wedding. Having hired a car to drive from Dublin to Dingle, it was Mumford & Sons’ first studio album, Sigh No More (2009) which (partially) soundtracked their journey (joined also by The Saw Doctors’ If This Is Rock and Roll, I Want My Old Job Back (1991)). Whilst perhaps sacrilegious to associate an English folk rock band with the Irish countryside, this album – now steeped in nostalgia for rolling green hills, pints of Guinness, and life-long friendships – became a CD on permanent rotation in our family car. And so, my own adoration for Mumford & Sons began at age 8, when I didn’t have the words to describe music, but I still knew it made me feel something.

Whether your cup of tea or not, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who can’t concede (at the very least) that Mumford & Sons’ music has heart to it. Sigh No More (2009) is a debut wrought with growing pains – quite literally a banjo-drenched reflection of a journey towards emotional maturity (see lead singles ‘Little Lion Man’ and ‘The Cave’). Grammy-winning Babel (2012) sharpened but otherwise continued Mumford & Sons’ indie-folk project, produced similarly to their debut by Markus Dravs (I am a big fan of quite literally every album that this man has produced). 

Mumford & Sons – ‘The Cave’ (2009) official video

After their sophomore album, Mumford & Sons have sought to experiment. Wilder Mind (2015) took a spin toward more mature rock, and Delta (2018) proved that the band now feel comfortable making music they want to make, introducing alt RnB sounds (‘Woman’) and even some spoken word (‘Darkness Visible’). 

But the underlying thread throughout the band’s discography is sincerity. Whilst to some their lyrics might be overly-ambitious or veering toward pretentious, this has never particularly bothered me (and yeah, maybe my fantasy/fiction/narrative obsession might have something to do with it).  

Headlining Day 3 of Splendour in the Grass 2023, Mumford & Sons will make their first return Down Under since their 2019 tour before the pandemic. Delta (2018) still remains their latest studio album release, but the band has continued touring since it was safe to do so. Marcus Mumford even joined Taylor Swift in Las Vegas in March this year on her Eras Tour to perform ‘Cowboy Like Me’ off of Evermore (2020), a track for which Mumford provided backing vocals, and one which he has played more than once at his own live shows and as part of his festival sets. 

Marcus Mumford and Maggie Rogers cover Taylor Swift’s ‘Cowboy Like Me’ (2020) at Sommo Fest (15 July 2023) (film credits: Heather Towey)

Since 2019, Mumford & Sons have also become a 3-piece, after lead guitarist and banjoist, Winston Marshall, stepped away from the spotlight after receiving backlash for praising right-wing media personality Andy Ngo for his new book. So, Splendour will be the first time an Aussie audience will get to experience the band’s new(ish) arrangement. 

Now, at the age of 21, and almost 11 years after its release, Grammy-winning Babel (2012) has joined the CD rotation in the car – a gift from my sister to my mum which she bought from a little record store on her own trip to Dublin in February this year.

So, whilst I continue to yearn for a Sydney side-show (however unrealistic that may be), I’m going to vicariously live through the videos from everyone I know at SITG ‘23.

If you’re an old fan and you’re chasing the same high that Mumford & Sons’ music gives you, the following albums are must-listens from other artists. If you’ve heard some of these though, but never Mumford & Sons, then this is your sign to get right into a new discography.

A little like Mumford & Sons:

Bon Iver – Bon Iver (2011)

Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes (2008)

Hozier – Hozier (2014)

Jack Botts – Slow Mornings (2021)

Noah Kahan – Stick Season (Extended Version) (2023)

The Dreggs – Seas Embrace (2018)

The Head and the Heart – The Head and the Heart (2011)

The Lumineers – Cleopatra (2016)

The Paper Kites – Woodland – EP (2011)

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