In June this year, Mumford & Sons Ted Dwane found himself at the sharp end of a scalpel and, amongst the less serious consequences, a tour cancellation, pulling out of a series of large scale American shows after a clot was discovered in his brain. At just 28, the bassist’s four-piece had already been branded as the biggest band in the world (The Guardian, November 2012), bursting out of a backroom folk scene to a point at which their position as headliners of Glastonbury – billed alongside the Rolling Stones at one of the world’s largest and most prestigious festivals – simply seemed natural. Dwane’s operation, which has left him with a sizeable scar across his crown, did leave the eventual, triumphant appearance in doubt. Perhaps even more so than the press suggested at the time.
“In retrospect, there was a real possibility we wouldn’t play Glastonbury”, Dwane tells us from backstage at the bands’ Phoenix Park headliner. “It was funny, a couple of the guys had meetings after the surgery and reluctantly decided to cancel a bunch of shows in America, but we never talked about cancelling Glastonbury. I guess we were just too determined to do it.” Dwane’s already keen to put the entire thing behind him, professing a love for the scar rather than reflecting on its causes: “Apart from a pretty cool scar, things are all pretty good now. They shaved my head, so I woke up after the op totally hairless. It’s growing back slowly, but I can’t really help showing off the scar right now.”
The short term issues already seem to have been swept aside, though, and the popularity that led Mumford & Sons to this point has offered huge highs, not least a greater element of control. Alongside the major arena shows, Mumford & Sons are promoting their own, far more in depth town takeovers, the second ever of which was in Galway back in 2012. Tours have also taken on some unique qualities. “Where possible, we try to do something at every gig where we go to the back of the arena and stand and play; it’s nice to bring in the people who have been so far away for an hour for a few songs. Engagement is our primary goal, really. We want to connect with everybody. We did the tour of two halves in December in the UK, playing theatres of one or two thousand, having a few days off and then going back out and doing the arenas, which was really nice, giving people the option. We’re doing takeover weekend shows too, eight so far. It’s very much a collaboration, we want to get people excited about the place we’re playing, maybe with a local brewery and beer, lots of bands, bigger crowds. Basically it’s trying to be responsible, taking the best from all the festivals we’ve been to and trying to make something great. It’s hard to move on from the scale of show we’ve been doing, but this is the plan going forward.”