Technically, there is no Edward Sharpe.
Edward Sharpe is the Christic avatar that acts as a thematic conduit through which flows the music of singer Alex Ebert, in the grand tradition of Pink Floyd, Ziggy Stardust and Michael Scarn. The artistic output of those three figures is also a fairly close approximation of the sound Ebert creates with the tentet that comprises Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Their most noticeable hit to date is “Home,” a folky, country meditation on relations and relationships that, at its core, presents a group of close young friends finding their own music and making their own way in the world — together. You previously may have heard of Ebert from his work in Ima Robot, the Los Angeles electropop band that had a reasonably catchy hit with the Monkees-by-way-of-The-Normal stylings of “Black Jettas.” If you haven’t, don’t worry; Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are as different an animal from Ima Robot as a mule is from a unicorn. Their music represents a way of becoming, of following one’s own star and being rewarded handsomely on multiple levels for the wisdom and entertainment that that journey unveils. Alex Ebert is, understandably, swamped with the business at hand. Magnetic Zero Nora Kirkpatrick — she of the supporting vocals and the sporting accordion — speaks about the new album, Here, about making music cross-country on a 1,500-foot vintage 1948 California Zephyr train, and what the band is ultimately all about.
VCReporter: What’s one of the most comforting things you can think of when it comes to the experience of making the new album?
Nora Kirkpatrick: It’s that Ojai is a beautiful place — it’s just gorgeous. We’d go on hikes every morning and have a really serene environment, which obviously is great when you’re recording an album. It worked with the music we were making. It made me happy. I’m more of a country kind of person, so I liked being able to be outside. Some of our band members even lived up there for a while. One of them still does permanently, so we have a lot of relationships up in Ojai and we’re all pretty excited to do the benefit.
Did the Railroad Revival train trip last year bring out a different dynamic between you and everyone else in the group?
I think if it did, it was all positive. We were just so excited to be there the whole time. Everybody wanted to play music 24/7, which is a great feeling. We’ve never done anything like that before.
When you say “24/7,” what did that really break down to? 14/5?
24/7! At any given hour, if you weren’t playing, somebody was.
Do you have accordion heroes?
You know, I don’t! I don’t play the accordion like in a polka band. I play it more like [it’s played in the band] Beirut or Arcade Fire — more in the sense of an organ. I run it through a bunch of pedals, becoming more of an electric organ.
Not even Weird Al? Come on.
Sure, OK! He’s done a lot for the notoriety of the accordion.
What about John Linnell from They Might Be Giants? He plays a mean accordion!
Oh, yeah! I guess I forgot about them. I liked them a long time ago.
If you had to sum up what the band is about in one word, what would that word be?
The name of the record label that we created is Community. I think community is a really important thing to us, really becoming kind of a family, from outside of our blood families to really being supportive and experimental with each other. Community also has to do with communicating with the audience, about bringing them in. That’s really important to us.
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros will play a Benefit for Ojai Valley Community Nursery School on Thursday, Sept. 6, 7 p.m. at Libbey Bowl. Admission is $40.