Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (Interview): Electric Forest

by Good Sign on July 1, 2015

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By Kevin Alan Lamb

Inspiration is the trail of breadcrumbs left by Hansel and Gretel for us to find our way home: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros refer to “Home” in a manner that suggests it is not confound within space and time, rather it exists in all places, in all times, if we are able to maintain our connection with it: with the things, peoples, places, and notions such as happiness, care, hope, and love, that we find purpose in.

“Laugh until we think we’ll die,
Barefoot on a summer night
Never could be sweeter than with you.”

For that reason, home, is a derivative of purpose, and is realized once individuals discover it within ideas, people, songs, works of art, missions, and causes that activate them. Though long, elusive, and often lacking illumination, a ladder to the stars is imprinted upon their being: upon the very way they breathe, think, and feel.

“Home, let me come home,
home is wherever I’m with you
our home, yes, I am home,
home is when I’m alone with you.”

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Once activated, the longing for not greatness but purpose, and home in all things — never dissolves. For some it is a burden, but it is only a burden once we stop listening to the song that sings in our heart; the song that sings our story to the world not to be heard, but to be harmonized, covered, and truly felt on an innate level that reminds others of their home, and their purpose.

“Love is our shelter
love is our cause
love goes on forever
yeah love will lead us all.”

Home exists in those that give you hope; in those that the very thought of brings tears of joy to your eyes; in those that have seen your goodness shine and will always remind you of it when you need it most; in those that will never let you pick up the pieces alone; in those that care more about seeing the smile on your face than anything you could ever give them in return. Home are the shivers inspired by the excitement of reciting lyrics you love from the musicians that sacrificed, experienced, and gifted you the opportunity to bathe in their creation while in the company of those that lift your head and your heart when they weigh heaviest. Home is an allusion until you discover the souls that sing in a tune that your very own is drawn to, moved by, and made better in the company of!

“Home, high on love – it’s all they want to hear. This song means so much to them that they came here tonight just to hear it. That sure is heartwarming, encouraging, humbling,” said Chris “Crash” Richard, percussionist and vocalist in Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.

Nominated for a World Music Award for World’s Best Song, and World’s Best Video, the Los Angeles based indie folk band’s hit song “Home” penetrated the hearts and minds of the masses, evoking the true spirit of 1960s and 1970s hippie movement. After succumbing to addiction, disillusioned with the music business, lead vocalist Alex Ebert, 37, reinvented himself as a messianic figure called Edward Sharpe to use his gifts to inspire hope, community, and a second chance for all those who needed one.

“I’m a man on fire
Walking through your street
With one guitar
And two dancing feet
Only one desire
That’s left in me
I want the whole damn world
To come dance with me.”

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Our love for each other and the music we cherish is a result of our desire to physically attribute the immense comfort and care we share for another to a tangible substance in the world, so we can experience it together! When we sing, when we dance, and when we emit joy in its purest form we are able to do it because of one another!

“Come dance with me
Over murder and pain
Come and set you free
Over heartache and shame.”

The Zeros’ are at home in each city they perform because they are bold enough to offer their vulnerability to each and every person they sing to. Make the people a part of your story and they will raise you upon their shoulders, and love you forever. I entered the photo pit at the Ranch Stage in the Electric Forest, knowing it was going to be one of those moments that resonated in my veins, forging itself into a story I would tell forever. While some are content with just observing, my relationship with the music I love requires participation; and relationships require reciprocity.

“The energy we share with fans cuts us from night to night. It makes us reflect inward,” Crash said. Crash first met Alex in studio with his first band, The Deadly Syndrome, in 2007. “I would pop in for the first few years, and kept showing up for gigs, though I wasn’t really in the band. I hopped on a bus, went on a few tours, and played bass and would sing with Alex’s solo project while playing with my band full time as a vocalist. It didn’t last very long, because the truth is, I didn’t really like playing bass, and then Seth (Seth-Ford Young) came around and that worked itself out.”

My relationship with the Zeros began at Royal Oak Music Theatre in 2012. Like he so often does, Alex invited fans on stage for his encore performance, then proceeded to sit in the crowd, while we scurried to sit by his side. I was amongst the lucky few to feel the magic pouring from his righteous soul. He completed his set and I gave him my Good Sign. Grasping it firmly he looked at me and proclaimed, “This is a Good Sign!!”

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PC: Terry Shear

My friends and I connected with the Zeros outside of the venue, shared a smoke, and spent close to an hour by each other’s side. Some months later, when performing at Iroquois Amphitheater in Louisville, Alex Spotted another Good Sign in the crowd while singing “Home”. He related a Good Sign to home: a sense of belonging attributed by the people and places that offer us comfort, safety, and purpose when we need it most. Places like Rothbury, Michigan, and the Electric Forest. Three years ago I attended my first Forest, and first music festival. From Detroit I traveled Northwest with my best friend Super G, unable to grasp that I was on a course that would not simply change the rest of my days, but also those of hundreds of thousands across the globe.

“Royal Oak is a beautiful theatre. That was the year when things nearly got out of hand… We were in Philly, and Alex invited everybody to come on stage. There was no staff to protect us, our gear, or the fans on stage. They kept coming until there wasn’t any more space, and people started falling back… it was a stampede. I remember saying to myself that this doesn’t feel right,” Crash said, the night before the Zeros’ most recent performance at Royal Oak.

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PC: Terry Shear

While he didn’t know it at the time, when the Zeros took the stage in Royal Oak, they would be greeted by another Good Sign. I made arrangements for my partner in crime and photographer, Terry “PMT” Shear to cover the show while I was attending Electric Forest. Upon taking the stage PMT gave Alex a Good Sign and set the mood for a magical evening, and warm up for their Rothbury set the following day. Alex asked, “Is this from Kevin Lamb?”

PMT struggled to simultaneously snap photos while carrying conversation in an intimate exchange with Alex. I woke Saturday morning to discover the photo on Instagram and intuited that it was just the beginning, of one of the best days of my life.

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“A family vibe comes through a lot of our work. It’s a lot of work to be a community: life happens, great times, bad times, it’s not all good, but you work through it. We’ve become a full functioning family,” Crash said.

Moments before their set in Electric Forest, I left the very friends who were by my side when our story first began with the Zeros three years ago. Friends are the family you chose. We celebrate our love of music and each other while the moment is before us. Dreams lived while fools throw their wishes down a well. Song and dance is the perfect trance-like concoction. Our happiness and joy the cleanest intoxication. You will never take us from the music we love — we are addicts — to the perfect drug. It gives far more than it takes; unites us around the world and in a single place. The head and the heart: the best part of being so imperfectly human is no matter how far we stray from the smiles on our faces, like home – there are places within ourselves we must always return while some must learn more about the way we feel, the way we love, and the healing power of a hug.

“Love, it is our all
Love goes on forever
Yeah love it is our home.”

As difficult as it is to conceive, I was the only photographer carrying a Rage Stick in the photo pit. I carry my totem and Good Sign as a symbol to thread the fine line between the music and those dancing to it. It is a reminder that you are not alone; it is a reminder that despite the weight of struggle upon your shoulders, there are good people who will help you carry it. For the second time in as many nights in as many towns, the Zeros took the stage greeted by a Good Sign. With a perplexed gaze Alex and I made eye contact, and he asked “Was that you last night?”

I answered, “No, I am 6’7 Kevin.”

Alex repeated “6’7 Kevin” into an already ecstatic crowd who released a roar once his words reached their ears. I used my full 6’7-frame to hand him my scepter of positivity, and cherished each second that ensued. I had the best seat in the house as he began singing “40 Day Dream”, waiving my rage stick back and forth with a beloved silliness and style that is best understood by those fortunate enough to have experienced the quintessential essence of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros.

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“At the end of the day, Alex offers up words he can stand by, believe in, and connect with, so he does the writing, and I’m always impressed,” Crash said. “The experience depends on the night and the week. We’ve made overwhelming progress and it’s been a long journey, not just as a band, but as people. Reflecting back on the crowd turns us inside out.”

Alex shares that Edward Sharpe was sent down to earth to heal and save mankind, but often is distracted by girls. He is a man on fire, fueled by rebirth, righteousness, and redemption, who insists that you “Come celebrate, Life is hard.”

Music is my moral muse. It has been a rare constant in an inconsistent world. Life is hard; laced with struggle, dissonance, and doubt; but it is also precious, fleeting, and necessitates the prophetic paradigm provided by the love, dedication, and permission to believe everything is going to be alright. We must seek those who will provide a faint flicker of light when darkness lingers and illumination eludes. Darkness will endure if you let it chase you: light will awake your soul if you listen to its call.

“What’s closer to Bob Marley than what we’re doing? What we’re doing is borderline revolutionary. I think we’re really reaching people. Wouldn’t that be dope to be graced with Bob? The girls, singing ‘Three Little Birds’,” Crash offered as his dream collaboration.

Edward Sharpe and Bob Marley, now wouldn’t that be a treat? Their music isn’t just a reminder, rather a call to arms that we must “light up the darkness” and navigate the shadowed path or be devoured by despair. We must not fight for land and resources, but a quality of life eluded to in books, yet thieved by crooks.

“If I were free
I would run into battles with flowers and hugs
And bow at the boots of our well-oiled thugs
Yes, if I were free.”

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Freedom necessitates the choice of just what type of man or woman you want to be in this life. How do you spend your time? Remember, it is precious; it is fleeting. Do you serve others or simply yourself? Do you give more than you take? Do you offer courage, or prescribe fear?

“If it were me
I would yell out ‘I love you!’ to all I passed
I would disrobe and disco and rip off my mask.”

Some find the music we love with people we love and we laugh at the world and the trivial problems that we let bring us down. We scream lyrics that have carried us through the thick and the thin; the real shit of it all. We dance wild into sweat and exhaustion and we do it together because each other is all we really have in any of this.

“Man, oh, man, you’re my best friend
I scream it to the nothingness
there ain’t nothing that I need.”

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With flowers in her hair no timid man would dare to steal a kiss, on lips that remind that love will never be lost, only missed. Summer is the time for flowers — life is in the air; it is in our blood; in our eccentric celebrations — stare if you must. We run wild and playful as we dance from the streets to the grassy fields and the Electric Forest.

“I feel the love, I feel the love, I feel the power
It’s getting weirder by the hour
The world is fucked up but I want to stay
I feel the love, I feel the love, I feel the power
I’m tough enough to be a flower
The world is fucked up but I want to stay.”

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