"This video tells the story of Communion and features interviews from Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons and Kevin Jones, co-founders of the collective. It also features music from Communion artists, including Matthew And The Atlas, who are on the US tour."
For further info: http://www.communionmusic.co.uk
A Conversation with Mumford & Sons' Ben Lovett
Mike Ragogna: Ben Lovett--keyboard player, accordion player, drummer, and vocalist of the group Mumford & Sons. How are you?
Ben Lovett: I'm very well Mike.
MR: Ben, we're going to be talking about your three-day Communion In The Redwoods among other related things. How did this event come about?
BL: That's one of the things happening next month. It started as a live club night, there's a whole bunch of these nights in London, different people put them on. It's really an opportunity to promote a selection of bands from London and beyond in one evening. We started it in 2005, which was before Mumford & Sons had even been conceived. It was set up by myself and a man called Kevin Jones and a man called Ian Grimble. It was really just there to find a platform for music that we liked, and it has gone on to expand to ten different cities around the UK, and we curate the events. We basically share much of the music that we think is great, because the rooms that we are talking about are about 200 capacity. So many of the artists playing are completely new people.
MR: This was your brainchild from back in 2006, it goes back that far, right?
BL: Yeah, that's right.
MR: Who are some of your favorite young acts that you've been promoting and working with?
BL: We've been really grateful to listen to bands at live shows and on records. When we see their shows and it's time for them to release a record, we can put it out on our own independent record label called Communion Records. I suppose the 18 records we've put out on the label, would be some great singer-songwriters, also one of Americas finest, Nathaniel Rateliff. Some great guys out of the UK...there are Marcus Foster and Michael Kiwanuka. We also work with bands and one of those bands is Matthew and the Atlas who supported Mumford & Sons in America this year. They're an incredible band, and they're going to be doing a Communion tour in the States, it's our first ever foray into America. That's going to be throughout October and November, and they're going to be touring with two American artists--The David Mayfield Parade, and Lauren Shera, all around the States. One of the stops they're going to is going to be in the Redwoods, which is, as we said, one of the things we're going to talk about today.
MR: Well, some of the acts associated with your troop are Laura Marling and Noah & The Whale. And now Communion In The Redwoods is how you're kicking off the latest round?
BL: Communion In The Redwoods is one element in the kick off month of October, the real kick-off happened in San Francisco on October 3rd at Café Du Nord. The Communion In The Redwoods, it's going to be a festival in the natural backdrop of the Redwoods, putting on a small little festival there. We're going to showcase some of the acts we've been working with, but also expand the idea of community and musical discovery to thousands of miles away from where we start in London.
MR: Has this been growing to the point where communion is in a global concept?
BL: Yeah, I guess what was quite strange was that before coming to America with it, we went to Australia, and we had been putting shows on in Sydney, which has been really successful. I think America is very intimidating to us Brits as a whole. We felt that we would wait until the time was right, and this year, we've decided about launching a monthly show in New York and San Francisco, this tour with one of our favorite Communion artists, Matthew and the Atlas, and the Redwood festival covers all the angles of what we're about when we're introducing ourselves.
MR: Have you kept your eye on some of these acts to see what progress has been made?
BL: Oh completely, yeah. There's actually quite a lot of time when you're in a band to do things that--especially on the road when you're playing an hour and a half each evening--there's a lot of travel time. Apart from reading and hanging out, it's fun to have something else as enthusiastic about as I am about these artists. I find it very inspirational to hear developments coming from the songwriting and new recordings that get sent over to me. Some of the artists help on the production side, quite a few of them actually join us on the road. It's not as hard as it may seem.
MR: Is Mumford & Sons on tour as well?
BL: No, we're away recording for our next record. It's kind of home-based for the most part. We are coming over to play the States for the Bridge Benefit for Neil Young in October. It's actually the same weekend as Communion In The Redwoods, which is quite fortuitous for the locality of it.
MR: Does Mumford & Sons use some of the Communion artists as opening acts on the road?
BL: We do, some of them like Matt and the Atlas, we toured with them in the UK and the US. This discovery happened because of Mumford & Sons. We're out on the road in 2008...you know how at shows you have opening acts from the local towns? This guy came up on stage who we'd never heard of named Matthew Hegarty. It was incredible...what had been a whole bunch of acts that had filled that opening spot, he had really shined through. So, we approached him and helped him build a band out of the Communion community in London of which there are all of these musicians and songwriters, and everyone comes to the Communion night. There is a sharing of backing bands and it's a really vibrant affair, and is really important for people looking for bands or looking for new music to love and be inspired by.
MR: Are you surprised about how much success Mumford & Sons had in the US with that debut album?
BL: Yeah, it was an enormous surprise. I wouldn't know where to start. We were very fortunate and we really appreciate how much support we've had, especially in America. I'm looking forward to bringing a lot better musicians and songwriters out to America to people. For a large part of our history, we were just a band out of many bands we would hang out in London with. Many of these bands have gone out to do other things, but some of these bands are just emerging out of London. So, it's a great opportunity to share and see the discovery, and no doubt, success of the acts coming out of Communion in America.
MR: I imagine that word of mouth and social networking played and is playing a part in the success of Mumford & Sons and Communion.
BL: Yeah, that was a part of it. I think there's nothing more powerful these days than word of mouth. If you're recommended something by a friend, it cuts through all the mass marketing. With Communion, we want the strength and the belief to be in Communion. We hosted 150 events in the UK last year. When we put on an event, people go to it even if they don't know who's playing because they trust the quality. It's important that people recognize, as much as Communion is a vehicle for the bands, it also shines a torch for people to trust and invest in as well. In America, I would like to develop the same basis. If you have an evening free and you wanted to go find some good music, you could head down to Communion and you wouldn't know any of the bands playing. That's totally fine, but you might come away with one or two new favorite acts. I feel a responsibility to provide that.
MR: Beautiful. Ben, what advice do you have for new artists?
BL: I guess my advice would be there's no better way than working hard when it comes to being a musician. You can't fast track your way to stardom, and there's much misunderstanding about how the media has created shows, and the record industry has encouraged these hype machines. It doesn't compare to writing good songs; and spend time on writing good songs. Also, just getting out there and playing shows, it's better to go that way than the fast way, it's a lot more satisfying that's for sure.
MR: How's the progress on the new Mumford & Sons album coming?
BL: It's getting there. We had some songs written on the road already, we had a bit of a head start. We're looking forward to sharing it sometime next year if we can get it finished, basically.
MR: I think everybody's awaiting the follow up to that brilliant debut album. It was such a breath of fresh air.
BL: We're hoping the anticipation hasn't gone down before we get it out.
MR: One thing I want to throw out is your Berklee performance at the end of the tour. You know the significance of the Berklee in the United States. What's wonderful is you're bringing your acts into an establishment like this at the end, ending with a statement, almost.
BL: I think it's going to be good, especially for the students. You get to see what a difference the road can make. Matt and The Atlas was a very different band before they had the last couple of years developing together. Even though the songs are mostly the same, it's very well rehearsed. I think it's going to be a good evening for anybody that attends these events. I wish I could be at all of them.
MR: You will be at that one though?
BL: I'm going to try to get to as many as I can, it all depends on obligations to the band.
MR: Have you dabbled with residencies?
BL: It's a Communion residency, that's the whole point. In San Francisco and Brooklyn, we are setting up shop the first Sunday of every month in Brooklyn and the first Monday of every month in San Francisco. That's going to be the residency, and different bands will pass through and be able to play.
MR: I'm assuming you're looking at different ways of social networking and getting the music out there.
BL: I think nothing will compare to word of mouth and real life discovery. The challenge is you can't spread something if you've haven't heard about it. I think it will naturally grow after the kick off...we'll see how it goes. Different countries have a different climate, and it's a different world in some ways.
MR: If a band doesn't necessarily break here in the States, it could be the biggest band in the world anyway.
BL: Or the other way around.
MR: Ben, please let's do this again when we've got Mumford & Sons music and another chapter of the Communion story. Thank you so much for your time and all the best with Communion.
BL: Take care, man.
Transcribed by Theo Shier
COMMUNION TOUR DATES
Featuring Matthew and the Atlas • The David Mayfield Parade • Lauren Shera
October 18 /// Hotel Cafe /// Los Angeles, CA
October 20 /// Swedish American Hall /// San Francisco, CA
October 21-23 /// Communion In The Redwoods /// Big Sur, CA
October 25 /// The Tractor Tavern /// Seattle, WA
October 26 /// Mississippi Studios /// Portland, OR
October 28 /// Soiled Dove /// Denver, CO
October 29 /// Maintenance Shop @ Iowa State University /// Ames, IA
October 30 /// 7th Street Entry /// Minneapolis, MN
October 31 /// SPACE /// Evanston, IL
November 1 /// Rozz Tox /// Rock Island, IL
November 3 /// Blueberry Hill /// St. Louis, MO
November 4 /// 3rd & Lindsley /// Nashville, TN
November 5 /// Smith's Olde Bar /// Atlanta, GA
November 6 /// Lincoln Theater /// Raleigh, NC
November 8 /// Jammin' Java /// Vienna, VA
November 9 /// World Café Live /// Philadelphia, PA
November 10 /// Mercury Lounge /// New York, NY
November 11 /// Higher Ground Showcase Lounge /// Burlington, VT
November 12 /// Cafe 939 @ Berklee College of Music /// Boston, MA