Driving down the road in Texas, in a diesel truck, to a horse farm, my dad says to me, “I heard this band I really like, do you know them? The name is like… ‘Something and Something’…it’s kind of long…” Since this is the least helpful description in the history of ever, I told him I had no clue. In the back of my mind, I was thinking Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, but quickly dismissed this as being a possibility. My dad’s music collection leans more (and by more I mean completely) to the anything-country-slash-made-before-1990 side, so I didn’t exactly think he’d been jamming out to “40 Day Dream”. The next day though, my step mom had “Home” playing on her iPod dock in the kitchen, and my dad just casually starts whistling along. My father is a fan of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Mind=blown.
Looking at the success the band has had in the past few years, he obviously isn’t the only one. The multi-member troupe, headed by Alexander Ebert, has released two well-received albums since 2009, toured the world over, and their single “Home” has sold over 950,000 downloads. The movie Big Easy Express, in which the band joins Mumford & Sons as well as Old Crow Medicine Show in a tour from California to Louisiana by train, premiered at this year’s SXSW Festival. Beautifully shot, the film gives an inside glance of their journey, from the 24/7 collaborative jam sessions between all the bands on the train to the sea of fans at the actual shows.
Halfway through the trip, Marcus Mumford declares, “I think on this tour, they’ve [Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros] become my favorite live band to watch.” I’m totally on the same page – I saw Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros play at this year’s Wakarusa Festival, and it was one of the best performances I’ve seen all summer. Every single member of the band was dancing, encouraging the entire crowd to do the same. Alexander Ebert always goes down from the stage and engages with the crowd, dancing, hugging, singing while sitting cross-legged, and I believe that this nonexistent barrier between fan and artist is part of what has helped them reach such a wide range of listeners.
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros have also recently joined Community Music, saying, “Those who want to engage further can. Some of these opportunities involve being a part of developing and promoting special experiences with us as well as being included in charitable causes. Involving our community in all aspects of what we are creating is our goal.” So far they’ve held a contest where fans made videos of themselves hosting listening parties for the new album (Check out the winning video – it’s pretty awesome and involves a lot of paint), and are currently in the midst of another contest where fans can make and submit a music video for any one of the new songs off of the album. The top three videos will be chosen by the band, the creators will receive some serious cash prizes, and the videos will be used as the songs’ official music video, unless it is for one of the two songs which already have one. They also list the main charities they support, such as Water Wells For Africa, Hope Campaign, and Voice Project on their official website (which you should check out for the fun rainbow and musical interface on the main page).
What do you think? Are opportunities like this a great way to be engaged with bands on a more personal level, or would you rather leave it at simply listening to albums and seeing shows to keep the mystery and allure alive?