MUSIC BOX: The Magnetic entourage
JACKSON HOLE, WYO – I was somewhat bewildered that an individual like Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros’ frontman and creator, Alex Ebert–who developed and adopted the Sharpe alter ego in rehab after he “lost his identity” – would expose some of his deepest personal secrets in a candid interview. But first, a bit of back history.
After dropping out of college because it “moved too slow” for him, Ebert wrote a screenplay and directed a short film before getting a beat machine to accompany his hobby of rapping and beat boxing. After a short stint with a band called The Lucky 13’s, Ebert fronted indie dance/pop-punk band Ima Robot that formed in 1997 and gained traction in the early ’00s. In Ziggy Stardust fashion, Ebert and Ima Robot played on the 2006 Warped Tour and released an album as recent as 2010, Another Man’s Treasure. For reference, check Ima Robot’s frantic video of “Dynomite.” It will leave an impression.
“I started doing a lot of drugs [as a teenager]. In college, it was a lot of ecstasy, and it fucked up my body, but I was constantly looking for the heroin in ecstasy,” Ebert told Face Culture. “But then I was looking for opium because it was sort of romantic and poetic. My buddy said he could get some and he did, but it ended up being heroin and I said to myself, ‘this is what I was looking for.’”
It’s unclear whether Ebert’s openness to discuss his dark past – and his youthful pursuit of wanting to be a derelict and fabricate hardship because of his upper-middle class upbringing – is in or out of character. After all, Edward Sharpe is supposed to be a messianic figure. But it doesn’t really matter. Where all of this comes into play is onstage and on record. The incredibly popular Up From Below (2009) that included the hit single “Home” and was pieced together from demos, put the gypsy-esque twelve-piece Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros on the map.
The Zeros’ folky, psychedelic charm was followed up with last year’s low-key and casual LP, Here, which was more of a collaborative project that included all of the band members rather than just demos from Ebert. The album was met with mediocrity in the press. Considering the amount of people on stage and in the studio, the Zeros maintain an around-the-kitchen-table, day-dreamy ambience with its music that stands out amongst the fray. Live and in-person the band is said to be ultra positive, sprawled across stage like a hippy commune and instigating a happy free-for-all of song and dance.
“The experience of linking up with the ideal version of myself, [Edward Sharpe], is really interesting because what happens is I disappear,” Ebert explained. “There is no ideal self. It’s just compete presence, and it’ll happen during shows where its like I’m not really even witnessing what’s happening. There’s no processing. That is a very powerful mode of existence, and whether that’s possible all of the time I don’t know.”
The Portland, Oregon-based entourage will roll into Jackson after performing at Sasquatch Music Festival. Their forthcoming self-titled album is what Ebert calls, “the rawest, most liberated, most rambunctious stuff we’ve done.”
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, 9 p.m. Wednesday May 29 at the Pink Garter Theatre. Sold Out. PinkGarterTheatre.com.