Friday, 21 March 2014

Feature - Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

Published in the Shortlist section of the Sydney Morning Herald, March 21.

Long Way From Home

In this day and age, all it takes is one song. The bouncy and melodic Home was that song for Los Angeles group Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, a mish-mash of odd little couplets combining to create a modern paean to love, “Home is when I’m alone with you.”

From their debut long-player, Up From Below, released in 2009, it took the oft-time 12-piece to the top of the indie folk/rock pile. The difference between them and many others who’ve been propelled to the lofty heights of international stardom with a single number however, is that they’ve not faded away; one-hit-wonders they ain’t.

What’s followed has been a study in solid growth. “[That] first album has some really interesting stuff, but [wasn’t] really quite as sure of itself,” says frontman Alex Ebert.

“Production-wise, and songwriting-wise, [2013’s self-titled effort] is the most adventurous stuff we’ve ever done. By quite a ways, actually.” Evolution is the key here, the reason Edward Sharpe have been able to stay on top.

The band, fronted by Ebert and Jade Castrinos, and driven in large part by the writing of the former, has, since Home brought them to international recognition, released two more albums, toured the world, including Australia a number of times, and continued writing.

“I’m writing tons and tons of stuff [at the moment],” Ebert laughs, going on to say evolution in sound is still very important to the group. “At the moment, I’m exploring just about everything.”

Given the band operates with as many as a dozen players at any one time, you’d think they’d have no trouble continually coming up with new musical directions in which to travel. You’d think as well, that it could be a case of ‘too many cooks’.

“Well, usually it’s one person presenting a song, usually it’s me so far,” explains Ebert, who earlier this year, won a Golden Globe for his scoring of the Robert Redford film, All Is Lost. “What we’d like to do though… is get into a room with all 12 of us, and try and write songs as a gigantic group. I think that would be fun.”

Risky, but then Edward Sharpe have never been ones to do things by the book. Another possible left-of-centre idea Ebert has been toying with is a live album, with a twist. “We’re putting out a live recording towards the end of this year, and I love our live recordings, but it would be fun to just write an album, tour it, record the tour, and then put that out as the album.

“You’d really have to work through [the songs], and they’d have to really work live, which I think would be a really fun experiment.”

As they look to the future then, and another studio recording, the fact the path isn’t cogently mapped out is all part of the Edward Sharpe adventure. “You know, I’m not totally sure,” Ebert muses on where to next, sonically. “I’m not sure I have a lead on exactly what we’re supposed to do yet… we have gone into the studio and stood around the mic and come up with things on the fly… that won’t indicate what kind of songs are going to happen, but that’s the process [this time].”

It’s from the unknown that those great songs spring – that’s where Edward Sharpe are most at home.

Samuel J. Fell

Gig: Enmore Theatre, April 10 / Byron Bay Bluesfest, April 17
Tickets: /
Live: Folk/pop with a twist

Best Track: Home, from Up From Below

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