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First Days Of Spring. Like Marling, Fink feels alienated by the world of Twitter, loves the romance of vinyl and even had a stand- off with iTunes as he attempted to prevent tracks from The First Days Of Spring being downloaded in isolation, arguing they didn’t make sense out of sequence or context (he lost).


A big Dylan fan, he was raised on Woody Guthrie, Fairport Convention, Peter, Paul & Mary, The Dubliners and other favourites in his mother’s record collection and appeared on stage in his first band, the Ostrich Project, at the tender age of 13. Lyri- cally at least, several of his early songs appear inspired by the folk tradition, in a similar way to Alasdair Roberts. Jocasta opens with a verse about a baby being dumped in the snow so it can be eaten by wolves; Second Lover comes in the form of a suicide note after a one-night stand; and Mary is something of a gothic horror story.


Fink is a free-thinker with a do-it-yourself policy that hasn’t shifted throughout his band’s rise from early releases on the indie Young & Lost Club label based in a tiny South London flat, to shar- ing major label space with Rihanna, The Killers and Kanye West. But if Mercury Records was anticipating wall-to-wall singalong anthems of a 5 Years Time vintage, it was in for a severe shock as Fink crafted The First Days Of Spring, a highly charged song cycle detailing, with measured weightiness, his recovery after breaking up with his girlfriend… Laura Marling.


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“I remember Emmylou Harris saying it took her ages to write a song because it was so distressing and she felt she was in a cage the whole time,” he says, by way of explanation. “The only way anyone’s songs can have any worth is if you really mean them. Unless they mean something to you, then there’s no hope of them meaning anything to anyone else.”


umford & Sons – “Coldplay with banjos” as one fRoots message board contributor memorably described them – are currently the most successful of the unholy nu-folk trilogy. The Mumfords, who were once Marling’s backing band, have a distinc- tively American bluegrass tone. Then again, mainman Marcus Mumford – now Laura Marling’s beau – was born in Anaheim, California and carries dual citizenship so he’s allowed. Names like Fleet Foxes and Arcade Fire are invariably invoked in press descriptions (their all-conquering debut album Sigh No More was produced by Markus Dravs, responsible for Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible and The Suburbs) and Mumford’s formative influences include Dylan, Fairport, Pentangle, Alison Krauss, Old Crow Medicine Show and Gillian Welch. “I’ve always loved music at the folkier end for its honesty and simplicity,” he says. “I think people want to hear stuff from the heart that’s less formulaic.”


The paths of Laura, Mumfords & The Whale originally con- nected in south-west London as part of an informal collective pro- moting their own gigs, running club nights, playing in each other’s bands and even forming a record label, Communion. Oblivious to the wider world of folk music, they effectively set up their own underground scene with like-minded artists, including Emmy The Great, Peggy Sue, Alessi’s Ark, Cherbourg and Johnny Flynn, all sharing enthusiasms and influences …


Continued on page 83 Mumford & Sons


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