Last night, the stage at The Riviera Theatre emitted hoots, claps, and sanskrit phrases as the eleven-member folk-pop troupe Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros played to a full house. From the moment bandleader Alex Ebert glided on stage in black TOMS shoes and a button-down white thermal shirt that had a habit of falling off of his shoulder, both the band and the audience did nothing but celebrate as one.
The musical family playfully twirled and jumped on stage throughout the show, and Ebert indulged his fans with many hand-touches—some girls almost ripped off his shirt.
The band performed material from their forthcoming album Here, which will be released on May 29, as well as old favorites from 2009’s Up From Below.
Before the sold-out performance, the Maroon chatted with Ebert about Here.
Chicago Maroon: Your new album Here comes out on May 29. Can you tell me about it?
Alex Ebert: It’s one half of a double album that we made. It took us a bit of time. We built our own studio up north of Los Angeles and recorded it there, mostly all together, and it was a really good time.
CM: When will the other half be released?
AE: Later on this year.
CM: Why did you name the album Here?
AE:Because of the record cover actually—sort of dividing the prospect of duality with the circle containing every color, every spectrum, and the idea that that, being here—that area that divides the duality—is just in between, or with all of it combined, is where creativity comes from, or where we want to exist. So, that being here
CM: Here seems more informal and spontaneous than 2009’s Up From Below. Do you think the band has evolved?
AE: Yeah, I think in some ways we’ve relaxed a little bit—at least this album [Here] is a bit more relaxed. The songs just kind of do their thing. To me, that means that it’s more confident in some ways—to just allow the songs to be.
CM: There are references to God on the album. Are you religious?
AE: No, I wouldn’t call myself religious. We’re just using the language that people are familiar with.
CM: So you use the word “God” to represent spirituality?
AE: Yeah, in a way. And I also use it to explore the meaning of God myself and to enter that conversation. On the first album, I have a lot of references to stuff like that too, but these [references] are repeated more and more out in the open. It’s an exploratory device in a way.
CM: What has your 2012 touring schedule been like?
AE: It’s been pretty cool, pretty relaxed. We’re on a tour right now, and we had a tour that lasted two weeks about two months ago. Next we’re going to Europe, and then we’re doing another tour in September. Then in October we’re going to Australia, and after that we have no real plans for the rest of the year.
CM: You have a lot of members in your band. How do you tour with so many people? Is it difficult?
AE: No, it’s fun, it’s just super fun. It’s like hanging out with a bunch of friends all the time.
CM: Big Easy Express, the film that documents your April 2011 railroad tour with Old Crow Medicine Show and Mumford & Sons, premiered at the 2012 South by Southwest Film Festival. What was that tour like?
AE: It was awesome. It was an amazing experience, one of the most paramount experiences of our lives for everyone that was there. Just music all the time; it was an amazing time. The film will be coming out soon.
CM: The New York Times has characterized your band as “communal” and “hippie-flavored.” What do you think of that description?
AE: I think a lot of descriptions are broad, but communal is right. Hippie doesn’t really conjure any sonorous qualities to my mind. But communal, yeah. Touring together, recording together, eating together; that sort of vibe permeates almost every aspect of what we do. We don’t take showers together, but maybe that’s next…I don’t know.