Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros bring musical circus to Jannus Live
Formed in 2007, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are trying to redifine the typical indie folk band by creating a traveling musical commune that consists of 11 singers and band members.
In October, the band will be turning their act into a circus-themed, four-day festival in Los Angeles, where concertgoers will get a chance to experience more than a typical show.
“Crash,” a vocalist and percussionist in the band, discussed the release of the band’s new album, “Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros,” the festival, his aspiring solo career and the band’s stop at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg tonight. Crash encourages the audience to bring instruments and join in the fun.
The Oracle: How would you explain the unique sound of the band?
Crash: Even when it comes to genre, I’m slightly stumped. I have gone with using the term psychedelic folk in the past. If I was extending the invitation to someone, I would simply say, ‘It’s a really good time, you should come and check it out.’ Man I’m really pitching this, huh? It’s like, how do you describe a circus act inside the tent? It’s really hard to convey in one sentence or something.
O: What is the creative process like in such a large band?
C: Like in any craft, where you have a large collective contributing, sometimes it can be pretty easy and all make sense and fall together. Then there are other times where you have to practice applying certain virtues, whether it’s patience or being willing to let go of some ideas for the sake of seeing something better develop. The group dynamic relies heavily on the chemistry of us working together. You can’t allow things to be personal. Focusing on output gets the best outcome.
O: How is life on tour with such a big group?
C: It’s crowded. It’s kind of beautiful though. You read about so many smaller bands that don’t get along. I think we’re so fortunate because it’s enjoying the act of building this family together. With all of this time you spend together, you grow closer and closer. We all try to keep a boundless connection so that we can all have good dialog on making the shows the best they can be.
O: Can you tell me about your upcoming festival?
C: The Big Top is an opportunity for us to invite more bands and more acts that we are friends with to come on the bill and play with us. It’s going to be like creating this immersive environment for the concertgoer. People can come and see more than music acts. We will have other entertainment there. It will make for a whole experience versus just buying your ticket and going in and watching live music. There will be magic, talented hosts to MC everyone through the night, a farmer’s market. It’s going to be larger than a concert experience.
O: Where did the idea of the circus come from?
C: I can’t speak on the origin of the idea, but the word circus is sort of a roundabout way that people have mentioned us. I think even I have referred to us as a circus over the years, because it sort of is. Even our set is like a variety show, the way the dynamic tends to change from song to song. The Big Top idea may be a way of embracing that concept and expanding on it to become almost a fairytale of a circus.
O: How does the band’s child-like attitude translate offstage?
C: We enjoy all the juvenile things, having fun, talking s–t. We spend a lot of time together, so any bit of levity and fun that can pass the time, we’re most certainly going to choose that. Some of the best memories made on the road so far have been when we’re having carefree fun.
O: How did you produce a new album after only one year?
C: Some of the music was already there. It was leftovers from the “Here” record. Just by listening to the new album, you can clearly hear that the vibe is different in the new album. Once we started doctoring the older songs, we began to write the new ones that would fit with the tone that we were setting. Alex (Ebert) spent every available waking hour in the studio working on the album. A year is a pretty quick turnaround for an album, but it got all the time it needed to be the record that it is.
O: Many of the members are releasing solo albums. Can you tell me about yours?
C: My new album will be released in the beginning of 2014. It’s called “Hardly Criminal.” Jade (Castrinos) is working on a record, as is Christian (Letts), Josh (Collazo) and I believe Seth (Ford-Young). As individuals, we can have quite a bit of material coming out from every corner of the Magnetic Zeros. During the Ed Sharpe sets, we’ve been able to play one of my songs. It’s called “Motion Animal.” It’s pretty much a gospel-soul song that ended up on the record. It’s the only song like it on the album, but it’s one of the more fun songs to play.
O: With so many members pushing out solo albums, what does the future hold for the band?
C: The main focus right now is the festival. We are putting a lot of energy into that. We want to make it the best it can be. Once we are able to execute that and figure out what the future of the festival can be, I think we can put our effort more on the solo efforts, hopefully intertwining it with what we do as the Magnetic Zeros. Hopefully we can see how big the fondue pot can get.