"We're fucking knackered," says Marcus Mumford, sipping a coffee on a leather couch backstage at Brooklyn's Barclays Center yesterday. He sounds hoarse and a little dazed from Mumford & Sons' biggest weekend ever: After playing their first of two shows at the Barclays Center last Wednesday, they flew to L.A., where they played for Bruce Springsteen at a Grammy tribute event, performed during the live Grammy broadcast – and won Album of the Year for their second LP, Babel. "When we released [2009's] Sigh No More, our manager said, 'We're probably gonna sell between 100,000 and 150,00 records.' And we were like, 'That's amazing!'" says Mumford. "Since then, everything has gotten more ridiculous, fantastical and mind-fucking."
Sigh No More ended up becoming a double-platinum smash, creating intense pressure for the band's follow-up. "As we were making Babel, Sigh No More's shadow kept getting bigger and bigger. There was a lot in us that was like, 'That's OK, fuck it, Babel will be the disappointing second child – like a lot of us are, actually,'" the singer says with a big laugh. "And that's fine. We were making it really believing it and thinking about that as much as possible – and so it's really sweet now to see it do its thing as well. That's crazy for us."
Coming from the U.K., the band didn't take the Grammys completely seriously. "I actually said to Adele she should read out our name no matter who it was," says keyboardist Ben Lovett. Adds bassist Ted Dwane, "It felt really weird. We'd been [to the Grammys] a few times. The physiological experience of sitting there and being shortlisted and calling out someone else's name was rehearsed. But this third time, we won. They called us up. And it was the big one, as well. Really crazy."
Marcus Mumford says he doesn't pay too much attention to mainstream music, but he found himself surprised by the night's performances. "Bruno Mars was fucking amazing. He's a badass. When he played with Sting, that was sick. I've heard so many things about Frank Ocean. Now I really want to go hear his record."
The band were also stunned to meet heroes like Elton John and Jack White ("He was so nice – I was so surprised," says Mumford). Says Dwane, "I remember seeing the Black Keys at a venue twice the size of this dressing room. I was a die-hard fan. It's just so weird being in a category with them. Sitting next to them, these people I've had posters of. I was in tears."
No one loomed larger for banjo player Winston Marshall than Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello. "It meant a lot to me," he says. "I was a bit too young to see Rage before their hiatus, but I went to every single Audioslave show in London. I went to three in a row once. I fucking loved that band. I loved Tom Morello. To have him liking our music – apparently he'd been to our gigs – for me was just fucking surreal. We talk to these people, and whether it's fucking Jack White or Elton John, they're just lovely people who love music as much as you do."
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