Alex Ebert’s Colorado ties go about as far back as one could possibly go.
“I would head up to Telluride just about every summer and every winter and ski and hike and all that,” said Ebert, the frontman of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. “My first time there I was probably still in my mom’s belly.”
Today, Ebert’s father lives in the small town of Rico 40 miles south of Telluride. And when Ebert returns to Colorado these days he’s headlining festivals or Red Rocks Amphitheatre with his band.
After performing in Telluride for the Ride Festival in July, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros return to Colorado again to play the inaugural Chive Fest in City Park on Aug. 16. These Colorado shows are among the band’s first few after few after a major lineup change. In early June, Edward Sharpe abruptly parted ways with longtime vocalist Jade Castrinos.
Ahead of the headlining spot at Denver’s Chive Fest, Ebert talked to the Denver Post about the live show without Castrinos, the new process the band is using to write its next album, and more.
Q: What do you do as a frontman to create such a communal atmosphere on stage?
A: I just try to drop all of my baggage at the door and come in and get ready to sort of just be there and not be a rock star and to just be a child sharing music. It’s not the easiest thing for me to transition from normal to being a child on stage and allowing the honesty of the moment to come out. You end up feeling like a daredevil really because you’re going against all of the precautionary alarm bells in your head.
Q: What about musically? Is there any key ingredient to bringing people together like this in a live setting?
A: In some ways I think that the music is secondary to the philosophy I just described. The main thing musically is to create transcendent moments and to do what I call breaking the glass ceiling. What I mean is bursting through into an ecstatic state and you can do that when everyone in the band is in it together. It’s a pretty phenomenal experience.
Q: Where are you at with the writing process of your next album?
A: I’ve decided to try and not write songs without the band present. Up until now I’ve written the majority of our stuff. And I think it would be nice for us to graduate, or at least try, and attempt to write more together.
Q: Have you tried it yet?
A: We have tried. We got together once in New York. No one had really written anything and we started coming up with stuff on the spot, and it was great. It was really fun. That was the first time we really came in with nothing.
Q: How did what you came up with compare to what you normally write alone?
A: It was kind of similar in a sense. The process of inception of a song is still a personal process between yourself and wherever thoughts and ideas and inspiration comes from.
Q: You’ll be coming back to Denver, but without Jade this time. Tell me how the live show has changed without her in the lineup?
A: It’s been great. Not great because she’s not there. When things are sort of off and those things get handled, you know, things feel better. When there’s problems, there’s problems. And then when you fix the problems things sort of flow again. That’s not to say we don’t miss her and we’re not keeping it in mind that she’ll be back someday, but she’s probably happier, too.
Q: How have fans reacted to the change of the lineup?
A: Some are upset. Every other show someone will ask where’s Jade, but there’s nothing I can do about it. Fans have been upset that I’ve had a baby with my girlfriend and not with Jade. It’s just ridiculous. The intention of the band is greater than the personnel.
Q: I have to ask since you’re coming back to Denver, will you be going to any recreational dispensaries?
A: You know that’s not really my thing, so I’m not really sure if I will. We’ve been invited and whatnot, but maybe we’ll go and visit one. I don’t usually have time to do anything like that when I’m touring. It’s not that I’m against weed or anything, I actually quite like it. There’s something to me about the commercialization of anything that disturbs me. The legalization doesn’t, but the commercialization does. The other thing is the direction of pot has become about how strong it is and distilling the strain further and further. Imagine with alcohol if we were trying to get closer and closer to Everclear. Just to get a purer and purer high on alcohol. It doesn’t quite make sense.
Q: That’s a great comparison, because that’s the type of language they used while fighting to get it legalized.
A: Yeah, I mean some of the best alcohol have 8 percent alcohol. It’s about being able to sit and enjoy a few glasses, not just have half a glass and be wasted. I’d like to see people invent strains of marijuana that are actually intentionally weaker so you can sit there and write and smoke and not have to puff twice and crawl under a couch. That’d actually be a good little business. I bet there would be a market out there for weak weed.