Interview: Mumford & Sons' Marshall Winston chats backstage

Marshall Winston (left) at the Current studios
Marshall Winston (left) at the Current studios
Photo by Stacy Schwartz


Mumford & Sons are the epitome of bottom to top success; in less than 3 years they've signed to major record labels (Glassnote and Island) and faired into the hearts of many diverse fans internationally. With Marcus Mumford's dirty, sexy, baron vocals and romantically tragic lyrics set to raging folk hormones--something rather akin to the likings of The Avett Brothers--it is easy to see how Mumford & Sons sold out the Varsity Theater well in advance of their show date last night. With their hit record Sigh No More, Mumford & Sons have come a long way from their home in London, England to spend a very special evening with us here in Dinkytown.

This reporter was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to sit down with Marshall "Country" Winston (banjo, vocals, dobro) for an exclusive interview prior to Tuesday night's performance.

Talk to me about the future plans for Mumford & Sons; do you plan on recording after this?

Yeah well, the songs coming together at the moment. Before you go into record an album you kind of -- let's say it's about a 12-13 track record. You need to go in it with 10-20 songs so you can choose the best. You can't go in with 10 and hope to run through, you can't go in with 12 and hope for to get it all in, some are going to fall out, some you're going to realize aren't going to stand up to the others. You've got to put your best foot forward, it's kind of quality control, we are quite keen on quality control. It's quite heartbreaking really, because you can write a song, and it can mean a shit load to you, but to someone else it doesn't mean anything.  

What is the specific meaning behind the song "Timshel"? I know it means "Thou Mayest."

I didn't write that song myself, but that was written very influenced by Steinbeck's East of Eden, which I haven't read. I might make some mistakes here, but I think it's a Hebrew word, and it means Thou Mayest. But the difference, within the Christian denominations is over time it's been interpreted differently. Some interpret it as, Thou Must, Thou Can. Thou Mayest: You have the choice, Thou Should, or Thou Ought to, and then Thou Mayest, I am not sure quite honestly. Read the book, and you've got your answer.

What took you so long to get signed?

We've got our own label, and we have licensing deals with different labels in different territories. So in Britain, we are licensed to Island Records, and Glassnote Records here in the U.S., Due Process Records in Australia, and Co-Op Records in Europe. So we didn't sign anything until after we recorded the record, which I suppose is quite different than the way a lot of people do it. Which actually, I think we got signed quite quickly, because we've only been a band since 2007. My favorite band, the Avett Brothers have been putting out records for something like 10 years. But they've only just been big. And on that note their album Four Thieves Gone, I still can't get over it, I love all their stuff, but that record... Like our song "Winter Winds" on our record, was written after listening to that album for like three, four times a day for a week.

Okay, so I know who Mumford is (Marcus), but who are the sons, is it just because it sounds cute?

I don't know does it sound cute?

I think so, there is a very kitschy, cute sound that goes along with Mumford & Sons.

We chose the name because in the U.K., and I think you get it here as well in the States, but a lot of companies, like anything from undertakers to cobblers -- like Marcus and I both worked in an antique shop called 'Something & Partners' -- we tried to set the band up as like an English family business sort of thing. And it's very hard to name a band, it is very hard to do it, cause it's something you've got to stick with, we've got to really like it. So we thought it best represented us.

So let me get this straight, you are touring for God knows how long, and you will probably record a new album?

We are definitely going to record a new album, God willing, unless something bad happens; we are recording a new album.  

Are you happy with your record labels?

We are very, very happy with our American label. Glassnote are fantastic! They are really a small company, they have really good rapport with everyone that works for them. They really let us do what we want to do. For a bunch of blokes from West London, I mean we get to tour this country.

A friend of mine told me about a gig you played in New York, and was rather disgruntled by the performance. What do you have to say in regards to shows that sometimes don't go so well?

That was a shitty gig, that one went really badly. I'll tell ya what actually, I blame your friend. The gig at the Bowery Ballroom that we did in February -- basically Manhattan gigs are nightmare. The first gig we did on this tour was in Manhattan actually, and it was really, really nice. But the problem that you get is that Manhattan gigs -- it's kind of like playing a London gig. A BLS (Big London Shows) show for me, always plays bad. But you see, in Manhattan you can't see people's faces, because they're on their Blackberry's Twittering, or whatever they're doing -- updating you on how shit, or how great an evening they're having. So they are not really there, you can just see their faces lit up by their Blackberry's. Either that or they're flashing cameras, and it's like just enjoy the moment.

See also: Our review of last night's concert at the Varsity.

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