When I dialed up Mumford & Sons‘ singer Marcus Mumford and bassist Ted Dwane last week, they were taking a momentary break during rehearsals. For 99.9% of other bands, this would be as significant as tuning their instruments or riding on the bus between gigs, just business as usual in the industry of making music. But for the four-piece London band, practicing is both indicative of where they are in their career and what they have just created.
They are about to release Delta, their fourth career album and most ambitious recording yet. The group that was once known for their banjo-featuring acoustic instrumentation that seemed as ready for a subway platform as it was for an arena audience have become something of studio rats on their latest endeavor. The album features everything-but-the-kitchen-sink arrangements and production techniques that never rely on a particular aesthetic, instead using the band’s own voices and taste level as the barometer for continuity.
“Yeah, it’s not quite a first for us, but it might be a second,” Dwane said of the rehearsals with a laugh, calling the album “a more elaborate process,” an assessment that is readily apparent to anyone that’s heard the record. “We’ve come across various moments this week where in the old days we were just like ‘that’ll do,’ Mumford added, “but now we take our lives and jobs a little more seriously.”
To hear both of them explain it, none of this is a bad thing. Mumford noted that the band has been talking about performing music for many months while this new album was crafted, so now there is a particular excitement to be able to actually do that again. But there’s also a lot of excitement for their fans to hear what they’ve been cooking up with beloved British producer Paul Epworth, whose credits runs the gamut from Florence And The Machine to U2. “I think we all feel like it is the album we’re most proud of,” Dwane said. “In terms of what we set out to do, to make an honest expression of who and where we are at this time, that’s what a record is to this band.”
The record offers up songs that reach for the rafters with uplifting reverence, as seen on the soaring single “Guiding Light” and the cinematic “Slip Away.” On these tracks, the band seems to have found a happy medium between the folk rock of their first two albums and the expansive electric guitars of 2015’s Wilder Mind. But elsewhere, the band drifts further into uncharted territory, with everything from the finger-snap percussion on “Picture Of You” to the piano-driven fury of the (mostly) instrumental “Darkness Visible” portraying versions of the band never before heard. For a group that refuses to be defined by their past, Delta presents a lush and vibrant vision of the band’s future.
Mumford and Dwane spoke candidly about the creation of Delta, about the plans to make a second album in 2019, and about the controversial photo taken with Jordan Peterson that emerged earlier this year.