It’s been a long strange trip for Alexander Ebert. Before he formed the much buzzed about new band Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, he was the frontman for Ima Robot. But after the band dissolved, nobody would have thought that Ebert would not only reemerge, but also come back with a band that was bigger and brought indie rock/folk into the mainstream. He’s done exactly that.
With the help of 11 of his closest friends, Ebert has made Edward Sharpe a household name. After the release of the outfit’s first album, Up From Below, in 2009, the band toured relentlessly, building a strong following in their home of Los Angeles before breaking through with their acclaimed single, “Home.” The song was everywhere, literally. You couldn’t walk into a department store or even watch TV without hearing it blaring through your screen (it was featured on a NFL commercial).
But after three years of living on the laurels of their debut (and a solo album from Ebert), the band is back with not just one, but two new albums slated for release in 2012. In order to escape the hustle and bustle of L.A., the band decided to head up to Ojai to write and record their new albums. The first of the two, Here, will be released on May 29 and the nine-song record has the familiar brand of indie-folk that is synonymous with the band. However, what makes this effort different is the evolution of the band’s sound. But why two records as opposed to one long one?
“There were a lot of factors that went into it,” Ebert explains. “One was a timing issue. There were some songs that have affinities with others and two albums was sort of becoming apparent. In some ways it was an idea to break them up and put them together later on down the road as a double album or to let people digest them in small bits.”
Easy enough. Some of the songs that were used on the album were culled from the singer’s solo album, which he thought would sound better as full-band version. And he’s right. The band sounds fuller and tighter than their earlier effort, showing their maturity and comfort with each other as musicians, which isn’t easy for a band as big as they are.
Photo: Randal Michelson
As the band is in the midst of a month-long tour to introduce the album, which we caught at the Greek Theatre last week, they demonstrated that they’re more than capable of handling the expectations that come with a sophomore effort. However, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are more than capable of handling the scrutiny and challenges that come with raised expectations. That doesn’t phase them though as the band will continue to go about their business and churn out catchy songs that may not be as epic as “Home,” but nonetheless, will be appreciated in their own right.For now, the second album is slated to be released in October or November, but until then, enjoy Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros for what they are: the pioneering alt folk group that helped bring indie rock to the mainstream.