Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros is a 10-piece musical ensemble founded in 2007 during the yearlong recording of their first album, Up From Below. Disillusionment with his major label experience with Ima Robot drove founding singer-songwriter Alex Ebert to maintain a DIY recording ethos. “Un-professionalizing professionalism is my profession,” he recently quipped at a show. Considered pioneers of the folk-pop revival, the band’s self-produced albums have experienced some popular success (plus one platinum song, “Home”).
It is the band’s live shows, however, that have seen them celebrated by fans and critics alike. Often likened to “a religious experience,” many of their live shows have taken place in unusual venues (cathedrals, circus tents, underground train depots – even off of trains themselves, as seen in their Grammy-winning documentary Big Easy Express). Their shows are performed without set lists and their songs usually undergo spontaneous improvisation, with Ebert spending a portion of the show singing amongst the crowd. “Our shows give us a chance to break the barriers between ourselves – to ‘break the glass ceiling’ as we say.”
Since its founding, the band has undergone several iterations. Most notably, singer Jade Castrinos left the band in 2014. According to lead singer Ebert, this marked a transformation in the band’s music. “We had long been a social experiment first, musicians second. Over time, though, we were emerging, by virtue of hours spent, into a group of musicians who could really play together. When Jade left, that confirmed our new fate – music first.”
The shift is tangible in the band’s 4th studio album (set for release in the spring of 2016). Recording the music almost entirely in one room together in New Orleans, their approach was a far cry from their ramshackle, come-one-come-all production audible on recordings of their previous albums. “We seem to be done for now with distractions from the music itself, the bones of it,” says Ebert. This album also marks the first time that the band has jointly collaborated on a majority of the songwriting.
The band’s members are Mark Noseworthy, Orpheo McCord, Josh Collazo, Christian Letts, Nico Aglietti, Seth Ford-Young, Mitchell Yoshida, Christopher Richard, Stewart Cole, and Alex Ebert.
Every one of its members has their own “solo” projects outside of the group. Most recently, Letts and Richard (aka “Crash”) released albums and Ebert won a Golden Globe for Best Original Score for All Is Lost.
The band also operates Big Sun, a non-profit focused on funding and developing co-ops and land trusts in urban areas around the world. Their first large-scale project, “Avalon Village,” is in Highland Park (within Detroit), Michigan.
PersonA, the new studio album from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros is out now!