Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros: Magnetic Music Making

Nora Kirkpatrick, one-tenth of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, checked in with The Dwarf all the way from Indianapolis, Indiana, ahead of their australian tour this month with Mumford & Sons.

The Dwarf: You guys are quite hard to pin down, musically. With ten different members there must be an abundance of influences and ideas flying around all the time. How do you manage to organise ten individual, creative minds into one cohesive music-making unit?

Nora Kirkpatrick: We all have extremely varied musical affinities and backgrounds, ranging from Jazz to Afro-Cuban or Classical, but there is an overarching cohesion to everyone's musical tastes or rather the emotion behind the music we are all attracted to. So, we actually come together quite naturally when it comes to sculpting a new song, and find that the different influences lend themselves to varied instrumentation and musicality in many of the songs.

Is there a core interest or influence that brings you all together?

The love of the music and the positive charge we are exchanging with the audience is a major motivator. We have really become a family in every sense of the word, and touring is an immense amount of fun. Also, the music has become a kind of Petri dish of experimentation and an opportunity to explore any idea that comes to mind. That is an amazing opportunity.

You often receive comments from your fans thanking you and complimenting you on how pure and joyous your music is… as a band, do you have to consciously strive to evoke this type of energy, or does it just come naturally?

I would say it comes naturally in that there is an inherent optimism in many of the songs. Even the songs that deal with hurt, pain and hard times have a redeeming morale, or a way up and out at the end. Also, we are really having quite a good time on stage, and hopefully that translates to the audience.

In a country overridden by consumerism and pop culture, there seem to be a lot of negative connotations surrounding the notion of ‘American Music’ these days….but you guys seem to have recaptured a sense of adventure and pure Americana romance in what you do, somehow doing away with all the fake glossiness of other commercial bands and artists. It really is a beautiful, rare quality. How do you think you’ve achieved this?

Wow. Well, we don't particularly sit around and think about the consumerist part of music, or the commercial aspects of what we are doing all that often. Of course we have to think about it now and again, but we really are trying to stick to the music, and our relationship with each other and with the audience. Not being concerned with making a "hit" is a very freeing idea. We are concerned with making music we love and that means something to us, and hopefully to other people, but making a "hit" is not something we discuss or that I would say is on anyone's to do list. If it happens, great; if not, great.

Flying, driving, living and playing with nine other band members would have to be an intense experience at times. When you’re not doing band-related things, do you find that you need to take time out from each other?

When we are on tour, we hang out quite a lot. Bike riding, jamming, adventuring, etc. But when we are home I would say most of us need a break not necessarily from each other, but from being social. I myself find I need a lot of alone time to recharge and regroup my thoughts and artistic endeavours. It is also a good opportunity to catch up on all the art being made around you [that] you may be cut off from on tour. There are so many books to read and people to learn about.

Last time the band visited Australia was for the Big Day Out last year. How did you find it? Are there any must-do items on the itinerary this time around?

I am trying to learn to surf, so I am definitely going to attempt to fit that in.

You’re not just musicians, but artists and activists as well. With things like the Town of Songs website, SALVO, fan forums and the like, there’s a lot more to discover about Ed Sharpe and the Zeros than just the music. How important have these other facets been in terms of building the band’s personality?

We have such varied personalities, I think we will continue to find new outlets to express all the different ideas ten people can have. Many of us are artists in different mediums as well, be it painting, photography, theatre. So as time goes on, we hope to find ways to combine these other art forms with the music to lend for a larger experience.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are heading Down Under this month to support Mumford & Sons on their national tour, stopping off at:

- Belvoir Amphitheatre, Perth, October 13
- Entertainment Centre Theatre, Adelaide, October 15
- Riverstage, Brisbane, October 17
- Entertainment Centre, Sydney, October 18
- Derwent Entertainment Centre, Hobart, October 23
- Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, October 25
- Royal Theatre, Canberra, October 26
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