Interview: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

In case you haven’t noticed, we are big fans of Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros here at O&B.

Their breezy debut, Up From Below, topped our Best of 2009 list, and it’s still in heavy rotation here at O&B headquarters. The album has just been given the iTunes Deluxe Edition treatment, with three bonus tracks and two music videos added to sweeten the deal. You can purchase it here.

We had the pleasure of sitting down with messianic frontman Edward Sharpe, né Alex Ebert, to discuss his personal transformation, hadron colliders, and the new solo album he just finished recording.

Owl and Bear: Up From Below earned you a lot of praise and a cult following in a short amount of time. How would you characterize the last couple years of your life?

Alex Ebert: Like a garden. [Laughs] Too much Chauncey Gardner, but you asked me. I feel the rising of things sown and cared for. We started making Up From Below two and a half years ago, which is amazing, and I started writing a lot of those songs a year before that and going through a lot of “personal transformations” and all that. So this all feels like a continuation.

Owl and Bear: Stylistically, your previous band, Ima Robot, was very different from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Is that a result of your personal transformation?

Alex Ebert: Yeah. Musically, the only thing I care about is, do I have the affinity? Am I feeling this? So that doesn’t sequester me to one kind of music. It just so happens to be what I’m feeling. Right now, I’m writing songs that seem to sound a certain way and could be classified in a particular category. [Laughs]

Owl and Bear: I think it’s really cool that you can go from that sound to this one.

Alex Ebert: Physics right? They have proven now that things aren’t themselves — they only have tendencies to be themselves. Because of hadron colliders, they are able to smash these electrons together. They see the electron go off, turn into a proton, turn into a nucleon, and then back to an electron at random. [Laughs] Not that I’m doing that, but that is sort of what transcendence is in a way. It’s like coming out and into something else and over and over again — going through periods or phases, or learning or growing, and having different emotions within one album. Or different voices within one album. Do you know what I mean? It all seems very, very natural to me.

Owl and Bear: Where do you see your music going from here? Have you done any recording?

Alex Ebert: Yeah, a little. I did a solo album this spring in my bedroom.

Owl and Bear: Do you have a name for it?

Alex Ebert: Yeah, Alexander — I’m going with good old Alexander. So I’m doing that, but we have been writing; we’re starting to put together a bunch of stuff. We haven’t played it that much live yet, but it’s coming together, and it feels really good. The songs are mostly about raising the tent.

Owl and Bear: Up From Below has a very communal feeling to it. I’m interested in hearing how you recorded it.

Alex Ebert: Almost all the songs were at least bass, drums, and something else recorded at the same time. So the real feeling when recording in a room was like riding these horses and these bulls together and it’s going and you’re surfing and then you’re getting toward the end of the song and you’re like, “Fuck! Okay! We can do this!”

Owl and Bear: Some of your songs do have that galloping, Old West feeling.

Alex Ebert: Totally, and that feeling was really important. Bringing that feeling of expansion, or of adventure, or journey. So the recording process was really fun and we did it all up at Aaron [Older] and Nico [Aglietti]’s house. We did it on tape and it was really fun, man, really fun.



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