By Alex Green
RIDING high after finishing their fourth album and halfway through recording their fifth, Mumford & Sons are at a crossroads.
Looking back, the folk rockers recognise a time they were restricted by the music that made them famous. Looking forward, they see a 60-date world tour that takes in Ireland, and a new-found creative freedom.
Recorded with super producer and “mad genius” Paul Epworth (Adele, Rihanna, Florence And The Machine) in London’s Church Studios, new album Delta sees the group settle into their new identity as post-Americana troubadours.
After two albums of banjo-forward rabble-rousing songs and one of unobjectionable indie rock, the group’s latest effort sees them embrace a wider range of sounds.
Their most recent effort was influenced by the idea of “self-serving” modern love, the power of nature and, most poignantly, the spectre of death.
“I’ve felt much closer to death over the last couple of years,” band leader Marcus Mumford says. “Partly personally, my family, but also with some trips with the charity War Child, who I am an ambassador for.”
After returning from a trip to Mosul in Iraq, Mumford looked out the window of his west London home to see Grenfell Tower burning.
“Like most of the community who live in that part of the city, I went down and stayed involved. That’s really, properly changed my life,” he declares. “I’ve been listening lots and I’m starting to do a bit more. It’s been very affecting.”
Since then, Mumford has remained involved, helping the survivors of the fire that claimed 72 lives.
Delta was also influenced by the birth of Mumford’s second child with his wife, actress Carey Mulligan. “The stakes get higher. I think it probably expands your capacity for empathy,” he says of his child’s birth last year. “Especially seeing other people’s children in really hard situations.”
“But I think being away from family is something you have to do when you work.”
Three years ago, Mumford & Sons released Wilder Mind, where they eschewed the folk sound to which they owe their success.
Instead, they recorded an album of what many critics considered mild-mannered indie rock.
The reception was lukewarm and sometimes scathing, and Wilder Mind sold only 500,000 copies - one million less than their charts-slaying debut Sigh No More.
But on Delta the band have dusted off the banjos, the source of their success and also ridicule by parts of the press.
Now, they are using the instrument in subtler ways. Delta is a complex, multi-layered affair that could only have been made in the wake of Wilder Mind.
But the group have no regrets, denying that their third record even divided their fan base.
Mumford suggests it was only the press who had been surprised by their change of direction.
“The more we played it, the more people have understood it. I think you are always a couple of years ahead of your audience,” he maintains.
Mumford & Sons play 3Arena, Dublin, on Friday, November 16