In the true spirit of indie music, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros are winning fans over one show at a time with their organic sound, full of improvisation and unique surprises at every turn. Unlike the typical indie pop band, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros’ 10 official members all crowd the stage with whatever instrument, drum or object they can play or beat on. The result is music brimming with emotion, so it’s no surprise the band is staying busy on the summer festival circuit as well as earning placements in TV commercials and film trailers (such for the Ford Fiesta as well as the trailer for the movie Cyrus). Guitarist and vocalist Christian Letts got in touch with OurStage to offer his own take on the band’s many projects.
OS: So, who is Edward Sharpe?
CL: Edward Sharpe is everybody. Originally he was a character in a novel Alex was writing. In the book, he was a character that was sent from heaven to save the world, but he keeps getting distracted and falling in love with girls along the way. He doesn’t ever get around to doing it. I don’t think the novel’s even finished. It’s something that Alex has been working on for years and years.
OS: When performing “Home” live, there’s almost always a different monologue toward the end of the song. Do you determine these topics before you go onstage, or is it strictly improv?
CL: Definitely not. It’s not just even “Home”. Every song we play is different every night. We rarely play anything the same twice. It makes it really fun to play, you don’t ever really get bored of playing songs. Sometimes people ask us about that. “Does it get monotonous playing the same song over and over again?” It actually really doesn’t because of that. It’s really free flowing, you know? We really never know what’s going to happen in that breakdown. We just kind of follow along, and we ride it out, you know?
OS: Yeah it definitely seems like you’re all usually just going with the flow and having fun. Was there a specific time onstage that you really noticed was set apart from the rest?
CL: There are moments all the time that feel different, and like we’re growing as a band. We’re getting better and better at playing with each other. It’s always been really good, and it’s cool that it keeps going. We’re always pushing each other to become a better unit. It’s not even really pushing. It just naturally happens with us. Even at acoustic radio shows we do, it’s really cool to see an acoustic version of things grow. It’s really beautiful. I’ll be like “Holy shit man, this is great tonight, and I thought it was great before.” It happens a lot, but it’s hard to pinpoint one time though because there’s been a bunch of them.
OS: So, it’s tough to pick out just one because you guys just keep getting better and better?
CL: Definitely, it’s great man. It just keeps growing. Sometimes there are these happy accidents that happen, where the whole band will cut out. Well, there was one point I remember in Williamsburg. On one song, the band dropped out and it was just us singing one part. It was so hypnotic even when I was singing, I just really felt like I was meditating. We all talk about how special that felt. We’ve added that to how we play the song, and it’s even changed more since then. So that’s one moment I really remember.
OS: You released some vinyl’s surrounding Up From Below last year, which had limited pressings. What was the purpose of these releases?
CL: People like collecting vinyl. We’ve actually had to keep ordering more. I really like listening to the album on vinyl, because there’s something really special about the way it sounds. Also, we recorded the takes in analog and everything. It’s just a different experience than on the CD.
OS: Last year you released a couple of music videos from a “12-part musical,” right?
CL: Yeah, we’re trying to eventually finish a video, or short film basically, for each song on the album, and they’ll all go together and make sense in the end. Another one should be coming up pretty soon, but I don’t really know how long it’s going to take. But, eventually it will all be done.
OS: Was there any sort of inspiration for the plot or the visuals in these short films?
CL: Alex had this idea, and we’re all just like “Wow, that’s fucking great.” We were all at his friend’s house and just started brainstorming and kicking around things. We’re really fortunate to have a bunch of very talented friends around us that are great at whatever it is they do. It all kind of stayed within the family of buddies getting together and shooting stuff. You don’t know how everything is going to be when it’s done. You’re there when it’s being shot, but when it was finished, we all got together and watched the first video. We were like “Holy shit, this looks so good!”
OS: You guys are a big festival band during the summers, but there’s a big difference between club and festival dates. So, how does the connection with the crowd differ between these?
CL: Well, it changes from festival to festival too. It’s not something you force. However the experience is, you just sort of let it happen. Whenever you try to force anything, it doesn’t feel very natural. We’ve had festivals where I’ve been like “God, this whole crowd, I feel like we’re all in this one unit right now.” I remember early on, when I was in other bands, we’d try to force a connection. For this one, it’s not something I ever feel like I’m trying to force. It feels like I’m in the ocean rolling with it. Sometimes there’re really calm shows, even at venues. At clubs there will be mellow shows. There are other ones where it’s just so hyped, and the sweatiest shit and walls are dripping with water because everyone is sweating. I really like the sweaty nights man, they’re a lot of fun. Nothing is really predetermined before going onstage, other than to just have fun. One thing we agree on is to just enjoy ourselves.
OS: So, do you find yourselves anywhere in particular after shows when you’re just kind of hanging out?
CL: We’ll go out to a bar afterward and have a couple drinks maybe. Sometimes, we’ll just go back to the bus and chill and jam. There are so many people. It’s funny. We’ll all wander off in different directions and somehow usually end up at the same place. Everybody just sort of trickles in. It’s really interesting actually. “How did they know we were here?” With 10 people, if you want to do something, sometimes you can’t wait for everyone to rally. Otherwise you’re going to miss out.
End your summer with a Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros as they close of their festival circuit/ fall tour!
9/1- Wow Hall, Eugene, OR
9/2- Wonder Ballroom, Portland, OR
9/3- Wonder Ballroom, Portland, OR
9/4- Bumbershoot Festival, Seattle, WA
9/25- Virgin Mobile FreeFest, Columbia, MD
10/7- Rialto Theatre, Tucson, AZ
10/9- Warehouse Live, Houston, TX
10/10- Austin City Limites Festival, Austin, TX
10/11- The Collective, Shreveport, LA
10/12- The Lyric Oxford, Oxford, MS