Alex Ebert on The Zeros and Going Solo

Annie | 1 March 2011

We spoke to Alex Ebert (aka Edward Sharpe) for issue 48. As is always the case, we didn’t get to run half the stuff we  would have liked to; especially given he was such an agreeable interviewee. The guy was so relaxed we could have asked him about the themes on the record or the secret to a full, lustrous beard and got an equally well-considered response. Given he makes his solo debut today we figured it was a good time to give you the full interview transcript. Here, he talks about the making of Alexander, touring with The Magnetic Zeros and why vengeance songs are ultimately futile.

If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the album you can stream it from the Alexander Facebook page. The album will be available March 1, 2011 and you can download ‘Truth’ and ‘Million Years’ for free. Be sure to check out the cover art too – an ace image of a kid in stripy pyjamas shooting rainbows out of his hands.

Hi Alex, How are you?

I’m Well thanks. How are you?

Good, what are you up to today?

I’m running some errands while I’m doing these interviews, but otherwise I’m recording and mixing and later on we have a rehearsal thing for Edward Sharpe because we’re going to do a new album.

There’s a fair few of you to coordinate. How did you all get together?

It was me and Jadey and Christian, who’s one of our two guitar players, and then our trumpet player would come by sometimes. Eventually we brought the songs to Nico and Aaron, who are the guitar and bass players and from there we just made the albums. We spent a year and a half making the album and different people were coming through and we were all sort of getting to know each other.

How does touring in such a massive group affect those friendships?

It can be strenuous. But the good bit I guess is that love conquers everything and so we just sort of rely on that to pull any situation through to the other side.

Has there ever been a moment where you thought that might not happen?

Oh yeah! Oh, yeah.

So how do you deal with that?

That’s when you really have to dig deep. Those are interesting times in a way. I don’t necessarily feel like I need another example of that time in my life, I’m fine with cruising along completely in love and not contemplating anything like that, but that’s when you have to dig deep and really fucking go to that extra resource of understanding. And very often, whenever you’re feeling like that in life in general, I’d say there’s probably something to be learned from that and often there’s a really big lesson in there regarding your own qualities and how you can improve. Especially if it’s anything to do with your ego, it’s probably really, really good for you.

You used to be in Ima Robot and you’ve said that you never want to go back to making negative music. Do you think there’s still a place for it?

Yeah, I think there’s a place for it. For me though, negative music ­– because that’s an interpretable word – but music dealing with painful issues is very important. Music that is negative, and by that I mean music that is simply designed to destroy can be useful too. Destruction of course is the ground for rebirth, but if the rebirth is not entwined either into that song or into the spirit of the band or the show as a whole I think a lot of unnecessary suffering can be generated. Because as an audience, you can see a negative show and have a positive experience if you choose. But as a band, if you have a negative show, and you’re on tour doing a negative show every single night, it can become seriously taxing in my experience.

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