Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros had good success with its first CD. The group’s acclaimed debut, “Up From Below,” featured the single “Home,” which got widespread exposure in commercials, movies and television shows.
It might seem that the acclaim and success would have given frontman Alex Ebert and his bandmates plenty of confidence heading into album No. 2, the recently released “Here.”
But that wasn’t the case, Ebert said, because the band dynamic that had developed during three-plus years on tour behind “Up From Below” had changed in significant ways shortly before it was time to start work on the new CD.
The reason: the departures of guitarist/keyboardist Nico Aglietta and keyboardist Aaron Embry – two key members of the group. Aglietta, in particular, had played a key role, co-producing “Up From Below” with Ebert and taking the lead on technical/engineering aspects of the project.
“I’d rather not talk about why (Aglietta and Embry left) exactly, but it was just sort of a part of the process, I suppose,” Ebert said. “Whenever things feel like they’re crumbling and you’ve been working really hard at something for a long time, and the feeling of it is getting a little wearisome, you start to question exactly what you’re doing and where is this going. And I think that we all had probably, maybe not all of us, but to have a moment of sort of repose where you’re allowing the question to sit with yourself for a second.
“I felt we were all kind of having that teetering moment to some degree or other. Then everyone had been touring for so long, that even the idea of going up to Ojai (California) to record the album did not sound good to a lot of the guys. You had this sort of feeling of where is the commitment level exactly?”
But eventually Ebert and the other band members decided to move forward, and in doing “Here,” even evolved into a collaborative unit.
“The first album I had written a lot of the stuff and demoed it before we were a band,” Ebert said. “Then we became a band while recording it.”
For “Here,” Ebert had a few demos of new songs, but for the most part, Ebert involved the entire band from the start of the project. The other band members are Jade Castrinos (vocals/guitar), Stewart Cole (horns/keyboards), Josh Collazo (drums), Orpheo McCord (percussion), Nora Kirkpatrick (accordion), Christian Letts (guitar), Seth Ford-Young (bass), plus two musicians who joined the lineup last spring, Mark Noseworthy (guitar) and Aaron Arntz (piano).
“For the most part we sat down and worked out arrangements and put in the time that you put in when you’re doing things together,” Ebert said.
Things went so well, in fact, that the recordings sessions will generate two albums – “Here” followed by a second CD, a self-titled release, which will arrive on July 23.
“They’re a nice complement to each other,” Ebert said of the two CDs. “‘Here’ is, to me, pretty meditative and sort of speaking from a place of being and the next one is sort of a little bit more, I guess, I don’t know, a little less meditative and a little bit more on its toes. So a little bit more aggressive, I suppose, and has a little bit more of a sort of ambitious, adventuresome sort of qualities.”
The current 10-musician lineup is touring behind “Here,” and while a few players are new to the group, Ebert said the group continues to do what it did in touring behind “Up From Below.” The band continues to change up set lists, explore new ways of playing the songs and tries to turn each concert into a transcendent experience for the audience.
“I think night to night it is sort of an adventure because those moments, the map for getting there to that sort of explosive, transcendent moment can be written down, but to actually put it into three-dimensional action, a confluence of energy has to happen,” Ebert said. “So from night to night, it happens in different ways and I think we allow for a lot of, certainly show to show it is different and it also depends on where we are and what the vibe is and are the people sitting, standing, yelling, quiet. It’s all just an interplay.”
The group, Ebert said, has become good at consistently creating the kind of communal excitement the band wants to achieve, frequently even allowing varying numbers of fans on stage during shows to join in the fun.
“Yeah, stuff has been broken and all that,” Ebert said, mentioning one of the problems that goes with letting fans get on stage. “But I think the overall (purpose), beyond just the fun of it, is the importance of sort of remembering that the divide, (we’re) endeavoring to break the divide between us and them, and that’s one way to do it.”