Categories like “Album of the Year” and “Best New Artist” garner much attention at the Grammy Awards, but one section not to be overlooked is the music video nominations.
Rock-folk ensemble Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, along with Mumford & Sons and Old Crow Medicine Show, won a Grammy Award in the “Best Long Form Music Video” category. The docu-concert film, “Big Easy Express,” follows the three bands’ tour across the country.
The musicians ditched the luxuries of a tour bus, and instead, traveled in a vintage train. The film is out on Blu-Ray/DVD and digital download, and premiered Friday, Feb 8 on Showtime at 8PM EST. Check out the trailer for “Big Easy Express” here.
AudioFile met up with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros while they were on tour in 2012. Here’s a clip from that interview:
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros is a 12-member band that seems more like a very talented family. The members were still getting to know each other while recording the first album, “Up From Below” (2009). Frontman Alex Ebert says “the first album was based on almost all demos, that I had made,” whereas the 2012 follow-up album “Here” “was a much more collaborative effort.” There was a greater creative cohesion among the collective, lending the songs a different sense of “ease and confidence.”
The lyrics on “Here” are riddled with religious imagery and love-one-another sentiments, but the band members don’t consider themselves to be religious in a secular way. Ebert explains that the use of words “god” and “heaven” in songs like “I Don’t Wanna Pray” and “Dear Believer” are pulled from a religious lexicon and applied to personal experiences and interpretations.
Ebert: “In my mind, heaven is utopia. And that’s sort of a more earthbound concept — building a utopia here. I think it’s a powerful thing to use words people are familiar with…And then shifting the meaning, or presenting your own thoughts on them…It’s nice to re-frame conversations that are dogmatic and to open them up a bit.”
The “Big Easy Express” isn’t the first long format video “Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros” worked on. The band’s SALVO! project is a series of short films following the fictional tale of Edward Sharpe. The first three videos — Desert Song, Kisses Over Babylon, 40 Day Dream — are available to watch on YouTube. For now, fans are left guessing where Sharpe’s life will take him next. The planned 12-part video series stalled after those three were made. Ebert speculates steering SALVO! in a different direction, and continuing the story as a graphic novel. ”The thing is it takes a lot of time… We spent so much effort making those three and with so little money compared to what we pulled off…And to keep that up would require more than favors, and more than a month to complete.”
While these long music videos give fans a stylized glimpse into the band’s creative impulses, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are still best experienced live. The auditory fullness of a 12-piece ensemble is further animated by the playful glances exchanged between Alex Ebert and Jade Castrinos, and the communal energy of the crowd, who are known to join the band on stage, singing and dancing and transcending from the daily grind together for a few awe-inspiring hours.
Stewart Cole (Trumpet, Keyboards, Percussion) says of the live performances, “It feels a little less like an actual show to me… there’s a lot of sharing… It’s almost like a party that everybody’s invited to.”
Orpheo McCord (Percussion, Vocals) expands on the everybody-is-welcome-here atmosphere: “A part of the intention that we set with our show is to try and break down that barrier with the band. As you’re playing bigger venues, there’s a physical separation from people that are coming to see the shows. We’re still able to connect, and hopefully we’ll be able to keep doing that as things grow.”