Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros: Being Here Now Never Felt So Good
Songs for the album began pouring in from all directions. For a while, the musicians toyed with the notion of a double album to encompass the sheer volume of music they were making, but, as it turned out, two divergent tones were emerging simultaneously. At some point, it became clear that the band was making two separate albums, although how they relate to one another remains tenuous.
“I held onto the idea of doing it as a double album almost right up to the very end, even though it just didn’t seem like it was going to end up working out that way,” says Ebert. “I’m interested to see how it feels [as two albums]. To me, they live together as a unified expression of where we’re at now.”
Adds McCord: “There was no intention when we were recording of this being here and that being there. We had to let it out and then make sense of it all later.”
With hindsight, it becomes clear that these albums, Here and its untitled sibling, speak to each other in a way that affixes additional meaning. In other words, the narrative expands inside the space that exists between the two albums. Each band member describes the records differently, but the general consensus is that Here is a healing album, as its songs mend the cracks that began to emerge during the stress of touring on Up From Below. Its successor paints broader, darker strokes, dipping into experimental, psychedelic territory. Although they will be released and sold separately, there is a sense that in order to fully understand one, you will need to listen to the other as well.
“One album will exist in a way and the other album will exist in a way, and the meaning will be applied in separate instances,” says Ebert. “And hopefully, that is something that feels good, too. In some ways, it might end up being more impactful for listeners to digest one thing and sit on that and be brought something else. I don’t know how it will work—it’s an experiment.” He pauses, adding, “I think historically, looking back, I’d like them to be thought of as connected in time and space.”
The story of Edward Sharpe—and, specifically—of Ebert as a songwriter and artist, feels linked with something nebulous and almost indescribable. There is a sense that Ebert and the other band members are tapped into something intangible, a sort of divine presence that guides their creative process.
Meditation, it turns out, plays a key role in the band’s process, both in the studio and on the stage, and the discussions about songwriting all eventually lead to words like “empath” and “channeled.”
“It’s a very expansive experience to me,” Ebert says of songwriting. “You’re communicating with everything at once.” This sentiment, conveyed by Ebert alone in a room, is reflected later by McCord, who says, “It seems like everything organically flowers. It just comes out, almost like we’re an empath for something to come through. We have to stand back later and say, ‘OK, what just happened?’”
If this feels familiar to you as an Edward Sharpe fan, then that’s probably because it’s something that the band brings into the live setting as well, aided by the energy generated by their audience members, which Ebert describes as “high vibrational beings.”
“One thing I know that certainly does a lot [to connect with the fans]—because I’m not in a living room with someone or in their headphones with them when they’re listening to our album—is the live show,” says Ebert. “I can experience the nearing transcendence of the physical realm [and] this dimension [when I’m onstage]. Sometimes it feels like the whole place is going to blast off, and all our worries are forgotten. It feels very euphoric and really good. I think that inspires me.”
The idea of meditation, which Kirkpatrick—a pretty blonde who, initially, appears more clean-cut than her bandmates—describes as whatever each member employs as their own “creative incubation space,” is essential to generating the necessary energy onstage, at least for Ebert, who says he actually meditates while performing. The band, as a whole, engages in a collective “om” chant before each show and then disperse onstage to find their own means of urging a communal flow between themselves and the audience.
If Ebert’s methods sound extreme, then their results are unmistakable, particularly at the band’s KRCW performance, which takes place in a small studio room. Ebert sits on the floor with the crowd, encouraging the voices of the audience to join with those of the musicians. For a few moments, everyone, even those who might resist it, is a part of something greater than its apparent parts.
This experience clarifies Ebert’s earlier sentiments. “The goal, in a lot of ways, of meditation, is to be God,” he says. “To be it—to have no fear. There’s a huge power in that. The sensation is really wide. Honestly, that’s the best place to be in when you walk onto a stage. If you’re in a place of fear, the show is going to be torturous. Just on that level, it’s beneficial to try and expand it. I’d say it’s had a huge impact on the music, on everything, even the words, the willingness to express certain things.” Ebert says this in a way that lacks pretension or ego, and his words are at odds with the humble way he carries himself.
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
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Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
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