Frontman Alex Ebert crafted the persona of flawed superhero Edward Sharpe in the middle of the last decade and has since released a number of acclaimed albums with his larger-than-life collective, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. They have travelled the world and played some of the biggest festivals (including an appearance at Hangout 2012) and venues with some of this century’s biggest acts. They show no signs of slowing down, as revealed in our interview with percussionist Christopher “Crash” Richard.
Chris K. Davidson: Obviously, you guys have experienced a lot of success in the last six years or so since the band formed. How have these experiences shaped the music that you have been writing lately?
Christopher “Crash” Richard: It certainly helped us reach a point where we feel we can go into the studio and freely make the songs that we want to hear, instead of concerning ourselves with what other people want to hear. On this most recent record, I think that sentiment comes out and we’re able to hopefully show some appreciation for the last six years through these songs, and even more so. I think before we hit the road, we’re going to try and get together and record some new material. Just on the fly and not spend a lot of time with it, simply because we feel inspired and we just want to be creating right now. Of course, I do think the experience of the last six years has a lot to do with that.
YHT?: I’ve noticed that with the Internet and recording technology the way it is now, it makes thing a little simpler to get two albums out in two years and record new material on top of that.
CR: As far as quickness goes, a lot of gear has been in and out of the studio. We’ve gone through two studios on this record and instrumentation is everywhere, especially when there’s twelve of us to participate. There is that, but the future recording is a new approach that we want to try on. Our objective is to be minimal with equipment and with gear. The attention is on the sounds we’re making that we can do live and in a room together. We’re going to try this downsizing, so we have the ability to record anywhere we happen to be. We’ve all heard the stories about hip-hop artists doing that with studios on their bus. We don’t have anything like that, but slimming down the production, so that we can go on a whim and record a song, an idea or performance. That approach is intriguing to us.
YHT?: How does songwriting work with twelve band members?
CR: The twelve people would not work if some weren’t into it. We’re all involved because we want to be. The numbers thing does come up a lot, and I’m going to sound like a broken record, but we’re all there because we want to be. Being able to play on everything that you would want to or being able to contribute all of your ideas would be very unrealistic in this particular setting. The best that we can do is see where we sit and contribute the most, then try and work together.
I’d like to think that the chemistry that we’ve build and created together has allowed us to do those things and it not be too big of a deal on what we didn’t do, but rather celebration and happiness on what we were able to contribute. Sometimes, you have to pick your battles.
YHT?: I wanted to ask about the persona of Edward Sharpe and if it still informed the lyrical content.
CR: Maybe in some way. In others, it can seem like just a jumping off point. Personally, that’s not quite the experience I’ve been having as the Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros collective. Definitely inspiration for the story, but who knows? We’re now in this new chapter as we’re writing as we go. Maybe the new chapter is a new purpose or has a different goal for the time being. In the story, Edward Sharpe shows up to save the world. Maybe the story can go any way our imaginations choose. Maybe one day, Edward Sharpe wakes up and thinks that’s a big thing to swallow, so maybe he’ll just save a community instead of the world. The story can change and continue to inspire and evolve. Edward Sharpe can be anything and anyone.
YHT?: So you’re touring with Mumford and Sons this fall?
CR: We’re very lucky to have been invited on this tour with Mumford, but sometimes we’ll play with them two days at a time, and then not see them for weeks down the road. It’s sort of sporadic, our schedule with Mumford. We went to Australia last year. That entire run for us with them, but that was only half of their run. Scheduling can get a little crazy and overlapping. We play a show and say our goodbyes, only to see them shortly after.
YHT?: Is this the band’s first time in Birmingham?
CR: I can’t recall, but maybe around there.
YHT?: I think I remember you all played Hangout Festival last year.
CR: That’s right. Last year, we did two shows opening for Dave Matthews in Texas, and then we went to that Hangout Festival, where he was headlining. That was huge and cool. This year, we did some festivals with Tom Petty headlining.
Considering that the show is sold out, I would like to mention that much like I said earlier in the reflection of the six years and what’s all happened with the new record, and what all I told you with the output that we’ve been able to enjoy and experience together. That even overflows into some solo projects. There is a handful of us in the band that are cooking up some solo records. Alex Ebert may even be doing a new Alexander record, but Christian Letts has a solo record that he’s working on that Marcus Mumford is producing. Jade Castrinos has been working on her solo record with Nico Aglietti. I’m currently mastering my solo record right now, and we’re going to release that one in the new year.
The cool thing about these solo records is that we’re all playing on the records together. It’s given us a way to still play together, and of course, oftentimes as we are writing, a song can go in the Edward Sharpe vault or it goes on a solo record. Sometimes, it seems fitting to go on one or the other. So it’s still this thing that we can do as bandmates that allows the songs to carry on and keep going. Even during the sets, we are able to pass the hat with Jade, Christian or myself do a song. We’re even trying to expand as far as we can to get our fill.
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros play a sold out show at Iron City on Monday, September 9th. For those fortunate enough to snag tickets, the all-ages show kicks off with opener Willy Mason at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7 p.m.