Home Is Where Ed Sharpe Is

Column: Features   |   Date Published: Wednesday, 11 May 16   |   Author: Claudia Tilley   |   1 year, 1 month ago

     "One song is one landscape, so you gotta be a tree, and another one is another landscape, so you gotta be a cactus."

A little folk, a pinch of psychedelic, some hella gospel sounds and you’ve got EDWARD SHARPE AND THE MAGNETIC ZEROS. The band have just released their fourth studio album, titled PersonA – this time without the notable singer Jade Castrinos, who left the band in 2014.

The audience is first drawn in to the band’s new musical experience through the album’s cover art. It is a painting by their guitarist Christian Letts, and over the painting is the band’s name, however “Edward Sharpe And” has been crossed out in red painted lines. It suggests the phasing out of the crafted character Edward Sharpe, and the proposal of a new direction and sound for the musical collective.

“It signifies the destruction of the façade and the entire myth of the persona that the performer supposedly wears,” said Alex Ebert, lead singer of the band. He goes on to explain that any performer is their truer self when they are liberated – for Ebert, this is when he is in midst of performing a song. In a philosophical manner (which is always in the underlay of his tone), Ebert says that, “Unless you really let yourself go and you get to the place that people call ‘the zone’, where you don’t really have a personality but you simply let it flow through you, then you can’t really access the full scope of your being.” This notion is confronted in PersonA, as well as themes of death and rebirth.

Ebert describes death as being a “transcendent thing”. He elaborates, “A couple of our band members’ fathers died during the making of the album and a couple of us had kids.” That theme of rebirth comes alive in tracks ‘Somewhere’ and ‘Lullaby’, and it’s highlighted by a strong, grounded sense of love for one’s children. But ‘Let It Down’ deals with the emotions of losing a loved one. “I think I am more open to more ideas,” Ebert said about his personal growth as a musician. “I don’t have to be preoccupied with one thing, I seem to be able to grasp all concepts at once.” 

Interestingly, PersonA was the first album the band wrote together as a group. “When we wrote, we really wrote all of each other’s presence,” said Ebert. “It was like working as one brain, it was brilliant. Everyone left their worries at the door and we just went for it.” ES&TMZ currently consists of ten members – a large amount to have in one studio, let alone to write alongside. This is what makes the band so unique, however: with a large group, they have the creative freedom and flexibility to experiment with lots of different sounds.

“We are very individualistic musicians, yet we are able to lock ourselves and interlock with other musicians,” commented Ebert. He goes on to give an analogy about the flexibility a musician needs when working in a band, “We have to change ourselves just a little bit at times … one song is one landscape, so you gotta be a tree, and another one is another landscape, so you gotta be a cactus.”

This time, the band is without Jade Castrinos, who sang and wrote music with them for seven years. Controversy arose when it became unclear whether Castrinos was booted from ES&TMZ, or if she left after being asked by the band to take a tour off. Whatever the reason for her leaving, Ebert spoke calmly about the situation. “When you want to be somewhere else or something is not quite clicking anymore, it can always be a positive thing to change it up.” The pair met in 2008 outside a coffee shop; from there, they began writing and playing music together. They surrounded themselves with a group of local musicians and thus Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros came to be. When asked how parting ways with Jade Castrinos changed the dynamics and sounds of the band, Ebert replied, “I miss what we always wanted it to be. We were never really able to bring it there … so we parted ways.” He continued, “I think the result of that is a band that feels no sense of anything other then the music, and not a lot of social blockage … freedom to express, without the sense you are going to upset someone.”

From the beginning ’til now, ES&TMZ have changed from an amateur group and grown into a proficient and professional band. Ebert originally began making music in a band called Ima Robot; after that fell through he locked himself away with no internet or phone and began conjuring up the messianic figure we now know as Edward Sharpe. He eventually recruited up to 15 musicians, all of whom hit the road with him and toured the US in a communal van.

But it hasn’t always been a bed of roses for Ebert: the release of his own album in 2011, titled Alexander, did not pick up much speed in the industry. “You’re not always batting a thousand,” admits Ebert, “I mean, we just recorded a song that the chorus had eluded me for, shit, now a year and a half … I just couldn’t figure it out, so we all just sat around the piano and figured it. It was awesome.”

Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros will be touring the US ’til the end of August, before a short but sweet European tour. Plans are currently in the works for an Australian tour. In the meantime, go check out PersonA, and let yourself be immersed in their soulful sound. 



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