Over the past few years, while Mumford & Sons were rocketing from playing small, hushed clubs on the London folk circuit to stamping their feet on the main stages at the Coachella and Glastonbury festivals, they learned something about how to make a record. "Touring so much and playing so many different kinds of places, especially big ones, affected how we hear ourselves as a band," says Mumford vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Ben Lovett, speaking about the quartet's upcoming sophomore album, Babel (Glassnote), out September 25. "The dynamics of the new album are totally influenced by understanding what works live and what doesn't. The trick is to make the intimate moments more intimate and the big moments bigger. That wasn't something we understood when we made [2009's debut full-length] "Sigh No More."
Recorded last winter with Sigh producer Markus Dravs, Babel, explains Lovett, is more of a band album than its predecessor. "Another big step up for us with this one is that it was much more collaborative," he says. "It wasn't me or one of the other guys coming in with a whole song finished and saying 'Here it is.' It was more a case of someone coming in with an idea for a song and saying to the other guys, 'Can you help me with it?' That happened because we've gotten so comfortable playing together as a unit."
Though Lovett says the band is eager to get back on the road and start playing the new album for fans, he's not so keen on the extra-musical aspects of having a new release. "It took quite a bit of getting used to having to explain your music all the time," he says. "It's unnatural to analyze yourself as much as we were being asked to do with all the attention we've had since our first album came out. When someone asks you about whether or not you're responsible for a resurgence in acoustic music — we didn't start a band to answer those kinds of questions." Which might be why Lovett says, "I can't really describe specific songs; I think the album speaks for itself" when asked for standouts from Babel. "The best I can really say is that we made an album that is as honest about who we are as we can be."
He's more chatty when it comes to the band's upcoming tour dates, which kick off August 1 with a show in Hoboken, New Jersey. "The magnetic pull of the road is still very strong with us," Lovett says. "We can't wait to be back out there. That's when the feeling of adventure is at the strongest. It's not just the gigs, it's the whole thing. Being able to walk around Louisville or Kansas City or Philadelphia and talk to people and feel free. That's way better than the money or the fame. That's what we live for."
And that's what they're about to do.