"I actually saw Noel Gallagher at a pub, and we were talking," Marcus recalled. "He's such a nice man - I mean, he's a prick as well, but he's a nice man. And he said to me, 'what are you doing at the moment?' I said, 'ah, man, I'm taking a little bit of a break from writing. I've just found it a bit hard.' And he was like, 'Man, what the FUCK are you doing with your life if you're not writing songs? You're a fucking songwriter. Get on with it!' So I went out and wrote 'Delta' and 'Guiding Light' that week, as a result of that conversation."
Marcus, and for that matter the rest of his bandmates, may not be able to tell you what it is that lights the spark, but they can tell you the band is smack in the middle of its most fertile creative period to date. That's why Marcus decided the new record should be called Delta, after that fertile ground where things grow best. The title is also a nod to the much more literal fact that this album is the band's fourth, delta being the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet.
The new release is the follow-up to their 2016 EP Johannesburg and 2015's Wilder Mind, which debuted at No. 1 in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands and Norway. In celebration of Delta's arrival, the band -- which also includes Ben Lovett, Ted Dwane and Winston Marshall -- is hitting the road for a 63-date worldwide arena tour that includes a new in-the-round stage design. The tour, Mumford and Sons' largest ever, kicks off on Delta's release day in Dublin and runs through next spring, including several North American stops in cities like Boston, Washington DC and two nights at Madison Square Garden.
By this point, you could argue Mumford and Sons is approaching middle age as far as the lives of bands go, which might explain why they're comfortable shaking things up a little. That involves the new stage design you'll see on the tour and even the way they recorded Delta, which they did all together, not with band members spread out in separate studio spaces. Ted, the bassist, said the band is even starting to fancy itself more of a recording unit now than being the live act they're known for. And he raves about producer Paul Epworth's London studio. "It's beautiful. It's all in one room. There's no sort of divide between the live space and the control room. Everyone's involved and included in every minute of recording that's going on. You hear everything."
Indeed, Epworth pushed the band to try and step out of their comfort zone a bit on the new record, sonically speaking. Says Marcus, "Just making an album that sounded like any of the ones we'd done before wouldn't be that exciting to us, but we also wanted to embrace some of the things we've enjoyed in the past. Acoustic instruments, me playing drums, singing loud choruses and having really quiet, intimate moments. Some songs we do around one microphone, one take, straight to tape and put it on the record. And then some songs we approach like a fucking Skrillex song. Chopping up beats, starting on the computer, sampling the banjo, layering it up, tweaking it with effects. Process-wise, it's a very varied record. I think that could have led to a very disparate sound, but I'm proud of the fact that it feels like it fits together."
The band enjoyed the process with Epworth so much they've actually already started on their next album with him and are set to head back into the studio in a few months. From the sound of things, they would have actually had to try hard not to enjoy the process. Most evenings during the recording of Delta, the band had family and friends come through. "I think when you have other people come in, it makes you listen to the music you're making with a different ear," Marcus says. "On Delta, I performed in front of the speakers full -- like, fully turned on. Ten people sat around on the sofas, by the side. So at times it was like we were performing live in front of our very own small private audience, and that helped with the record."