UPDATE, February 8: Shortly after publishing this article, a friend of the site reached out to tell us that she had a chance last weekend to speak with one of the Mumford & Sons band members, who confirmed to her that Tom Hobden had joined Gang of Youths.
Our original article is below.
This could be totally wrong, or it could be totally right … so follow along for a moment and feel free to draw your own conclusions.
Ever since Joji Malani left Gang of Youths back in October, fans have been wondering if and how the band would replace him.
The band, meanwhile, has been quiet and made no official announcement even as they continue to make progress toward completing a new album. A tweet last week from Conner Habib shows the band in the studio with Peter Katis (far left in the first photo), the man who mixed both The Positions and Go Farther In Lightness … and who is presumably mixing, or even producing, this new album.
That photo doesn’t show a fifth band member, but I think we can piece together some of the band’s other social media posts — which sure seem like clues they want someone to solve — and maybe figure out who’s joined the band.
Let’s start with the January 20th Instagram story that came from the band’s official account. Since it’s a story that disappeared after 24 hours, we can’t link to it now, but we did screenshot it and share it on our own social media channels. Here’s what it looked like:
The post says “Sunday League transfer window open” and shows two “teams” of names on opposite sides of a soccer/football field. The bottom group of names lists Max, Donnie, Dave, Jung … and Tom.
The implication sure seems to be that a “Tom” has transferred into the band, isn’t it?
We think it’s Tom Hobden, a guy who’s been an auxiliary member of Mumford & Sons for several years now. He tours with the band, usually playing fiddle or guitar. You can see him playing fiddle at the 1:35 mark on that great “Blood” video from Stockholm. Hobden has also performed on three of Mumford & Sons’ four studio albums, playing violin and other string parts.
The names on top of the band’s Instagram story are Sam, Chris, Ben, Graham and Jon — that could just be random names. But there’s a Ben Lovett in Mumford & Sons, and their drummer on last year’s tour was Chris Maas.
So what makes us think Tom Hobden is the “Tom” mentioned in that January 20 “transfer league” post — even though only two of the five names across from GOY could be guys in Mumford & Sons?
Well, the main evidence is that Tom has shown up (without being named) in several of the band’s social media posts over the past few weeks. The most recent instance was this past Sunday, when he’s with the band in Jung’s Instagram story that appears to be from a gathering at Max’s place in London. That’s Tom in the blue shirt in the screenshot below; Donnie is on the left, and barely visible right next to Tom is Kurt Bailey, the band’s manager.
There’s more. Back on January 15, five days before the band’s “transfer league” post, Tom showed up in one of Max’s Instagram posts. He’s standing in the kitchen behind Dave in this photo. (And, FWIW, that’s Peter Katis again seated at the table with Dave.) If you click the photo, you can even see that Tom has been tagged.
I remember seeing Tom in at least one other, and possibly more, social media posts/stories (from either the band’s account or one of the band members’ accounts) in the past month or two. But I didn’t get a screenshot of it/them.
It’s also interesting that on Instagram, Donnie, Jung, Max and manager Kurt Bailey are all following Tom, while Tom is following them all back, and also following the band’s official account.
None of that is 100% undeniable proof, of course. And like I said … I could be totally wrong. But it sure seems pretty convincing when you consider it all together, doesn’t it? The band posts an IG story talking about “transfer window open” with the name “Tom” on their side, and there just happens to be a Tom (Hobden) who’s an accomplished musician, who spent time with GOY twice in 2019 during Mumford & Sons tours, and has now been showing up in various band photos for at least several weeks.
From what we can tell, Tom is more of a string instrument player than a guitarist, so if he’s joining the band it’s not as a direct replacement for Joji. That role would likely to fall to Jung, which reminds us of this post the band shared back in November — a terrific B&W photo of Jung playing guitar in the studio.
It makes you wonder if that was the first clue to the band’s plans for its new lineup. And if that clue was followed up by the various posts and stories with Tom, and then the “transfer window open” post. Seems like a fun way to announce things without really announcing them.
FWIW, I did get in touch a few days ago with manager Kurt Bailey to ask about this, but have not yet had a reply. We’ll update if we hear anything. Or maybe we’ll all find out in about 10 days when the band performs in London.