Last month, a photograph of Mumford and Sons in the studio with Canadian clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson surfaced and stirred quite a bit of controversy. Peterson’s views on things like white privilege, gender identity, and feminism — while well articulated and considered — have turned him into a contentious personality favored by the far right and opposed by the left (though he would identify himself as “a classic British liberal” and notably is no darling of the alt-right). Now, the British band has responded to the criticism they received for appearing so close to such a polarizing figure.
Speaking with CBC Radio, frontman Marcus Mumford and guitarist/banjoist Winston Marshall were asked rather directly about the image with Peterson. Marshall said that he’d become interested in Dr. Peterson’s work in psychology after reading both his books. After being introduced by a mutual acquaintance, he invited the doctor down to the band’s London studio, one of many visitors they welcomed.
“I think with the controversial stuff that you’re talking about, I don’t think [Peterson’s] psychology is controversial, but the quasi-political stuff…” Marshall said. “I think it’s a conversation we’re having a little bit as a band and, do we want to get into the political stuff? Probably not.”
“I don’t think that having a photograph with someone means you agree with everything they say,” Marshall said when asked if he was considered about losing fans. “Because then I wouldn’t be able to have a photograph of anyone at risk of trying to offend anyone so I think I don’t see the harm in engaging in conversation.”
Mumford was then asked if he believed a musician’s political views should be taken into account by fans. He responded by saying that while “most people start bands because they like playing music” and not to be political figures, at some point you reach a status where you’re responsible for how your opinions and choices are perceived by the public. That said, Mumford argued that taking a picture with someone doesn’t indicate an alignment of beliefs:
“We love the opportunity to disagree and I think that’s something that’s at risk of being quashed to too much of an extent. And really, I think over the last couple years we’ve been in listening mode — I don’t think any of us listen enough, I don’t think we listen enough as a culture — so, we’ve spent as much time as possible making the most of the real privilege that we get to meeting people and listening to them. Whether or not people then assume that we just endorse politics when we’re not saying anything about politics is their end choice and we certainly hope people don’t feel alienated… I think if we stop listening then we stop progressing, right?”
“The divisive side of things is something that we find tiring and a shame that it’s such a dominant part of the discourse right now,” concluded Marshall. “And if there is any opportunity to unite, we think that’s what we were excited about.”
Read more of what they had to say at CBC. The interview came as Mumford and Sons announced their new album, Delta. Set for a November 16th release, the record has been previewed with the lead single “Guiding Light”.