America has always been a place that can make or break bands. For musicians and solo artists alike, whether you’ve topped your country’s chart or are polishing off your first EP, if you can make it over the Atlantic, then you feel like you have taken the world. The British, or European, mind-set towards music is altogether more open-minded and searching than our cousins’ across the pond; the top 40 chart over here would be considerably slimmer without a bit of American input, but it seems that, when it comes to transatlantic imports, music isn’t their top priority.

Take a band like The Libertines; they managed a number two single and number one album in the UK, paved the way for the members to create relatively popular new bands, and they remind the people of Britain that Pete Doherty is famous for more than just drugs and hats. But despite their fame and success here, they never really made it in America. At the time, it seemed as if Doherty’s problems and the band’s tension seemed to eclipse their talents, and ultimately stopped people caring about their music, but with hindsight, and seeing other British indie bands struggle stateside since, it is almost as if Americans just don’t get that arrogant London drawl that we seem to love so much.

…the real heroes of this movement are without a doubt their West London folk contemporaries, Mumford & Sons.

If you were to see them playing in Brixton, drinking cheap beer in their charmingly shabby suits and swelling with arrogant London pride, they make sense; but, just like the average cockney wouldn’t fit in one of those high-school, rich-kid, US dramas, they just can’t relate, and so subsequently just don’t care.

That said, there are more ways to gain attention than just selling a lot of albums or playing some good shows, as Brit folk favourites Noah and the Whale showed, albeit rather regrettably, when they agreed to have their debut single 5 Years Time on an American crisp advert. As expected, it not only prompted Americans to eat more crisps, but to wonder who that cheerful little band was and where they could hear more of them. Now – though, I should say, not entirely because on that advert – their American fans and tour dates have grown every year. However, despite Noah and the Whale’s success overseas, the real heroes of this movement are without a doubt their West London folk contemporaries, Mumford & Sons.

…all we need are four boys from West London.

It is common knowledge that Leona Lewis, winner of the X-Factor in 2006, quickly stormed America with Simon Cowell, and M.I.A., gaining a place on Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People list in 2009, apparently had no problem in America with her genre-spanning music. But Mumford & Sons, with one album of pure, powerful folk (and no Simon Cowell) stormed their way over, challenging Justin Bieber and now sit comfortably in the US charts, and they did all this by simply being very good at what they do.

Obviously there are many things that go into gaining success in America: timing, advertising, contacts, but it still seems that folk, and the ballad-singing women of pop have what indie just doesn’t, and that’s an appreciation for American music themselves, such as Mumford’s kinship with Dylan or Duffy’s affiliation with US 60s soul. Bands like these have joined the legendary likes of The Who, The Kinks and The Beatles on the list of star-spangled success stories, and continue to make music that we think is unique and original, and the Americans just see it as a remake of their own. Whatever the reasons for their US triumphs, these bands are doing us proud and proving that when it comes to worldwide fame, rather than million dollar talent shows and agents, all we need are four boys from West London.

 

About The Author

Josh is an English and Creative Writing graduate from Royal Holloway University of London. He writes plays, presents radio, draws comics and listens to folk music.

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