By Amanda Gentry
It's late Monday afternoon,and I'm Gchatting classmates as my graduate course trundles into its second hour. Our instructor speaks in a monotone that could cure insomnia and the subject matter - plots of differences of log baselines hazard ratios - isn't exactly blowing my skirt up. Our banter typically includes URLs for the shoes we're thinking about buying or the latest funny Elite Daily article we read. Amidst this, a classmate drops the link with a comment about my favorite band, Mumford & Sons.
I read, but cannot keep my nose from turning up as the article describes "the band moving into more traditional rock territory and not using the banjo" in their new album, Wilder Mind.
This announcement is interesting and a little disheartening, but I am flabbergasted when I read the self-condemnation coming from Mumford and the Sons themselves. As it happens, not only are they steering away from their folk vibes, they never cared for their image and have even pronounced regret over their name.
Crushed as I am (everything about Mumford has always been perfect! How can they not see this?), I do not boil with righteous indignation until I read that the formerly-banjo-strumming Marshall stated, “I have a fucking banjo tattooed to my arm. It’s a disaster. I have to think of something to put over it.”
No one is allowed to hate Mumford. Not even Mumford. That banjo made you.
Full personal disclosure: I don't follow Mumford & Sons religiously. I couldn't even tell you their full names or match them with their respective instruments (or pictures, for that matter). I heard they'd gone on a break two years ago, a "hiatus" as the music industry labeled it, but I didn't know until Monday afternoon that they'd even started working on a new album, let alone will be releasing it in May.
However, Mumford & Sons is weaved into my most formative year of life (which was also my senior year of college), 2010-2011. If there were ever a truly organic and honest video montage made of the life of Amanda during those critical months, Sigh No More would be the soundtrack. Without romanticizing, I will just say that that was the year I grew into my independence and began to embrace the adventure of life with forward-looking eyes. Before that time, I was quiet and shy, but not in an endearing way. In a more self-obsessed, rule-follower, puritanical way (no offense to the Puritans, but they really should have lightened up...).
Again sparing the nostalgic details, that was the year I met and got engaged to my husband. As the most inspiring human on whom I've ever laid eyes, it's like he's on a mission to squeeze every last ounce of life from each waking moment. Our wedding bands are engraved with three words: Awake my Soul. These words mean more to me, I think, than they do to my husband. I am neither a writer nor an artist, so I am forever grateful to Mumford & Sons for the expression of something in my heart for which I could not ascribe words or pictures:
Lend me your hand, and we'll conquer them all But lend me your heart, and I'll just let you fall Lend me your eyes, I can change what you see But your soul you must keep totally free
That most formative year was the one in which I learned something about having open eyes and a free soul. I'd tell you more about it, but it doesn't mean much unless you're conquering it with your own two feet.
The end of this story is anticlimactic. I laid down my arms long enough to actually read the commentaries and I realize that Mumford may have committed no damning offense. They aren't actually trashing their former selves or their former sounds and neither are they slacking on "storytelling in music." Without putting artificial distance between themselves and their previous work, they're just artistically evolving.
So I apologize, Mumford, for jumping to conclusions.
And you have your choices And these are what make man great.
But, Marshall, don't you dare cover up that banjo tattoo. It tells a story.
*Amanda is today's guest blogger and an eternal graduate student and mother of one 80-lb lap dog. When not banging her head against her desk, she may be found drinking unhealthy amounts of coffee, modge-podging magazines pictures like a 5-year old, and sneaking kale into meals she cooks for her husband. She tweets at @AmandaEGentry. If you're interested in writing for ATOB, contact us at AsToldOverBrunch@gmail.com.