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Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros

Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros

Wednesday 29th December, 2010 10:01AM

Edward Sharpe and Magnetic Zeros started off as an off-shoot from lead singer Alex Ebert's other band, Ima Robot. Whereas Ima Robot is pop-punk-y, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros touch on '60s psychedelia and communal influences. And the occasional 11-piece band has had some success too, particularly with singles 'Home' and 'Janglin' from their 2009 debut album Up From Below which have appeared on primetime TV advertisements and TV programmes. I talk to guitar Jade Castrinos before their visit to New Zealand to play in the Big Day Out.

I thought I'd start with a basic question: what got you into music in the first place?

It's always been around me since I was a kid. My parents listened to it all the time. I guess I started developing a taste for music when I was really young. It was always around, and I went to a very creative elementary school, and I remember having to play an instrument there. I remember feeling like I didn't have to, I wanted to. The first thing I played was the recorder actually. I started really enjoying that. When I was 16, Dad put on – every now and then he'd put on music and I'd be like 'why', like he made me watch all the Godfather movies, these weird kind of moments like that – but one time he put on 'Minor Swing' by Django Reinhart, and he made me sit down and listen to it. That sparked my interest in the guitar and I thought 'I want to be able to play this. I'm relating to this so much.' It started talking to me. I really enjoyed hearing the conversation between him and Stéphane Grappelli on the violin. That was the beginning of it.


How did you hook up with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros...

We've known each other since we were three. He [Ebert] called me up. He'd been writing a bunch of songs and he wanted some guitar parts. I went round to his apartment and laid them down. I remember, it was an 'aha' kind of moment'. 'Oh, right, this is what I'm supposed to be doing'.

Was there much of a concept when it started as a band, or did it build as new people came along?

Alex had written a bunch of music already before I even got over there. It just kept growing and growing.

Has it been a challenge dealing with ten, eleven people in a band?

Absolutely. There have been a lot of ups and downs, but there are a lot of ups. There's a lot of love in the band. They're some of the most important people in my world. I love all of them. We all love each other a lot. It's a challenge, but that's part of life.

Is it easy to feel rewarded as a musician being part of such a big band?

Oh man yeah. We're all satellites orbiting the song. We're making a contribution to something bigger than us. There are no real egos in the band at all, it's really rare. I feel very rewarded.

How was Up From Below recorded? Did Alex just come with a whole bunch of songs, or was it collaborated?

Alex had written a bunch of songs and we went to a studio, a house and it ended up being Airin [Older] and Nico [Aglietti]'s place – Nico plays guitar in the band as well, and Airin plays bass, and Nico, Airin and Alex would just dabble there. They recorded there for about two years. We did it all there. We would go straight down to the studio and lay down a song. It was really cool.

Were you surprised with how much success you had with songs like 'Home'….

It grabbed me the moment I heard it. I played on it for a long time, so after that for it to reach other people and get into their bloodstream. I loved it, I really loved it. It was one of the first things we laid down. I thought it was cool, it's cool that it has caught on.

Did you expect that to happen?

I had a feeling. I had a gut feeling about it. I didn't think it would blow up, but I thought it was special. It has, it exploded to amazing things. I thought for me especially, there's something beautiful about it.

Was it a difficult album to put together, given you'd been recording for a couple of years and working on it a long time?

We spent two years in the studio recording it, really taking our time.

Were you sure when you released that it was really ready?

It's quite tricky, you never really know when it's done. It's amazing, it's easy to overdo it as well. You can put that one brushstroke too many, and the painting has lost its whole, you know. That's what really tricky about art – when is enough enough? I remember that great story. I think it was in 1915, or early on in the twentieth century. There was a guy looking at a Picasso, and he standing there at the ropes at the Louvre, and hopped over with a bucket of paint, and started scribbling all over. He got taken down to the police station and the police were 'why the fu ck did you do that?' And he goes 'it wasn't finished, it's never finished'. And the police were 'who the fu ck are you?' And it was Picasso, he had done it to his own painting. It is really tricky. It felt really good, when we listened to the first mixes we thought 'this is good'.

You've played in quite a few big festivals – do you find your music translates well in festival settings? Or do you prefer clubs?

It seems to work in every setting. Festivals are really fun, because there's heaps of people there and everybody's contributing to the experience and being part of it. Hundreds of people singing along and dancing around and having a good time.

You guys are also working on a feature musical?

It's more of a film than a musical. It's going to be a twelve part series. It's going to be coming out pretty soon.

How much say have you got in that process? Do you guys as musicians have much say?

Yeah man, we're all part of it. It's looking really good.

What's next for you guys?

We'll be in the studio, we're recording the new album. We're recording it in Louisiana, an hour and a half north of New Orleans, and hopefully we'll finish our second album.

Have you found the process easier this time around?

It's tricky, it's never easy. It's always fun. Anything that takes a lot of work, you've always got to be patient with it. Some of us were 'it's really great', and some of us were 'it's not really working'. It's all part of the process. It's in a weird setting, it's this wooded area with these strange trees around it, and it's a house which was built in 1905. It's been very fun so far.

Have you found guys have been pigeonholed with the '60s references which seem to follow you guys around as a band?

I don't feel pigeonholed at all. I've never even thought about that.

Do you think anyone in the band does is conscious of the constant comparisons?

We always just play what we love.

What has influenced the second album?

It's been a very eclectic writing process. It's been very fun. When we're recording when we're playing live, which is really cool, because you're away from everything when you're in the studio. It's been really great, I'm really excited about it.

I also imagine with so many of you, you'll all bring your influences to table…

Oh definitely, that's part of who we are. There's a very different music and different tastes, which contributes to what we do.

Do you have any plans when you come down to New Zealand?

I'm really excited, I've never been down here before. I'm really excited to see, I hear really incredible things about it. Everyone says how beautiful it is.

Brannavan Gnanlingam


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