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MUMFORD AND SONS/ From pubs to stars, the most “popular” band in the world?

How did Mumford and Sons go from nothing to one of the most popular bands in the word? TOMMASO PAVARINI comments on the folk-rock phenomenon and why so many like it.

(Infophoto) (Infophoto)

It was on October 5, 2009, just over three years ago, when Sigh No More, the debut album of four British men that was destined to climb the world rankings in no time, was released. They were discovered by chance thanks to the advice of a friend when they were about to release their first album, which had been preceded by three EPs with little success, but one must begin somewhere. They went from rags to riches, or rather from the pub to the top of the charts.

In the end they are simple men of the countryside, like all folkmen in that respect, dealing with simple things, the things of everyday life, and the lyrics of their songs witness to this. However, far from wishing to be seen as a “Christian band”, in a recent interview with the Guardian, they found themselves agreeing in stating: “We are not all Christians. In fact, none of us are, really. We have a full spectrum of beliefs”. It seems that these beliefs are well rooted in the compositional fabric that they have embroidered and can now wear without shame. Mumford and Sons has also had to defend itself against accusations of playing a rock 'n' roll “for old ladies”, to which they answered loud and clear that they are not a rock band, at least as that is classically understood. The authenticity thing has never been an issue for me," Marcus Mumford said in the same interview, “Not since I came to the realization that Dylan, who's probably my favorite artist ever, the richest artist for me, didn't give a shit about authenticity. He changed his name. And modeled himself on Woody Guthrie. And lied to everyone about who he was”.

Therefore, as if it wasn’t enough, after the success of the first album (number one on the charts in Ireland, Australia and New Zealand and number two in the UK and the US) they had nothing to lose. Last month they released Babel, the second chapter of a saga that hopefully will not end soon. Babel is an album that does not depart easily from the style of the first, but which attempts to develop the musical idea already expressed in Sigh No More and to perfect it (and to perfect itself). They worked on the sound, trying to clean it and make it less crude, and even if the value of a band or singer from a musical point of view is not measured by record sales, I'd say they succeeded in their aim. Babel is first in the rankings of almost all English-speaking countries, and it has already sold more than one million copies in the US. In the interview cited above, the journalist Tom Lamont observes how valid bands can be recognized by their ability to keep their feet on the ground and keep their sense of humor even if submerged in sudden success (as happened with Chris Martin and his band, for example).