Alex Ebert is a singer/songwriter, film composer, writer, and social activist. He won the Golden Globe for Best Original Score for All Is Lost and is a Grammy winner. His band Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, a platinum-selling band, are going to begin recording their 4th studio album this year. He lives in New Orleans with his girlfriend, Roehm Hepler-Gonzalez, and their daughter. He is also currently completing a book "on the commodification of individualism" entitled Kingdom Cool.
Southern California rock band Bad Suns formed in 2012 and in the short time since inception, have managed to be musically beyond their years. Made up of Christo Bowman (vocals), Gavin Bennett (bass), Miles Morris (drums) and Ray Libby (guitar) the four piece ranges from ages 19-22 yet has a sound reminiscent of rock stalwarts from generations past. “I grew up with a lot of world music playing in the house. When I was 10, I started getting heavily interested in the guitar, and my dad began introducing me to his records from the 70's and the 80's. Initially Elvis Costello, then to The Clash, The Cure, and so on,” notes Christo. “All of these artists and bands had a big impact on me, at a young age, as far as song composition goes. “
The band’s debut EP (January 2014) Transpose was recorded in the studio with producer Eric Palmquist (The Mars Volta, Wavves, Trash Talk) and served as a prelude to the band’s debut full-length (also produced by Palmquist) which hit streets on June 24, 2014. “The writing and recording process is always exciting, because it's constantly changing and unique to each song. Inspiration comes and goes as it pleases, so a night when a song gets written is a very good night,” says Christo. Comprised of eleven tracks, Language & Perspective flows effortlessly from start to finish showcasing the band’s stadium ready anthems and undeniably catchy hooks. “Music has the ability to evoke certain feelings in people, a way that not much else can. The pairing of words and sounds can be an extremely powerful tool, when done right. I think the ultimate goal for this band is to make music that causes people to really feel something.”
2014 proved to be quite busy for Bad Suns, who in a very short time have performed the first single, ‘Cardiac Arrest,’ on Conan and the track hit #13 on Alt Radio Charts, and #11 on AAA charts. They’ve toured with likes of The 1975, Fitz and the Tantrums, Vaccines and Geographer to name a few. “It’s pretty incredible what you can accomplish with time, work, and patience. Playing our songs to receptive audiences, across the country, has been surreal for us; it’s what we’ve always dreamed of. We’re excited for people to hear the album that we’ve made, and then come experience it in a live setting,” says Bowman. “One day I just decided to be a musician, and I never strayed away from that goal. Being in a band is the only thing I could do."
Since quietly making his debut album, Break Mirrors, which critics hailed as one of the best albums of 2010, Mills has been consistently busy. He produced the highly acclaimed sophomore album Sound & Color for The Alabama Shakes, which reached #1 on Billboard charts and was nominated for six Grammy’s, winning Best Alternative Album, Best Engineered Album, Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song. He has worked as a producer with a wide variety of others as well, including ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, Sara Watkins, Conor Oberst, Sky Ferreira, and Fiona Apple, with whom he toured extensively in 2013 and 2014. Currently he is producing upcoming albums for John Legend, Dawes and Laura Marling.
As a session player and sideman he has worked with Beck, Cass McCombs, Jackson Brown, Lucinda Williams, Moses Sumney and Neil Diamond, among others. Rick Rubin and T Bone Burnett frequently call upon his services as a guitarist, and equally enamored is Eric Clapton who recently told Rolling Stone magazine “Blake Mills is the last guitarist I heard that I thought was phenomenal."
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros is a 10-piece musical ensemble founded in 2007 during the yearlong recording of their first album, Up From Below. Disillusionment with his major label experience with Ima Robot drove founding singer-songwriter Alex Ebert to maintain a DIY recording ethos. "Un-professionalizing professionalism is my profession,” he recently quipped at a show. Considered pioneers of the folk-pop revival, the band's self-produced albums have experienced some popular success (plus one platinum song, "Home").
It is the band's live shows, however, that have seen them celebrated by fans and critics alike. Often likened to "a religious experience," many of their live shows have taken place in unusual venues (cathedrals, circus tents, underground train depots – even off of trains themselves, as seen in their Grammy-winning documentary Big Easy Express). Their shows are performed without set lists and their songs usually undergo spontaneous improvisation, with Ebert spending a portion of the show singing amongst the crowd. "Our shows give us a chance to break the barriers between ourselves – to 'break the glass ceiling’ as we say."
Since its founding, the band has undergone several iterations. Most notably, singer Jade Castrinos left the band in 2014. According to lead singer Ebert, this marked a transformation in the band's music. "We had long been a social experiment first, musicians second. Over time, though, we were emerging, by virtue of hours spent, into a group of musicians who could really play together. When Jade left, that confirmed our new fate – music first."
The shift is tangible in the band's 4th studio album (set for release in the spring of 2016). Recording the music almost entirely in one room together in New Orleans, their approach was a far cry from their ramshackle, come-one-come-all production audible on recordings of their previous albums. "We seem to be done for now with distractions from the music itself, the bones of it," says Ebert. This album also marks the first time that the band has jointly collaborated on a majority of the songwriting.
The band's members are Mark Noseworthy, Orpheo McCord, Josh Collazo, Christian Letts, Nico Aglietti, Seth Ford-Young, Mitchell Yoshida, Christopher Richard, Stewart Cole, and Alex Ebert.
Every one of its members has their own "solo" projects outside of the group. Most recently, Letts and Richard (aka "Crash") released albums and Ebert won a Golden Globe for Best Original Score for All Is Lost.
The band also operates Big Sun, a non-profit focused on funding and developing co-ops and land trusts in urban areas around the world. Their first large-scale project, "Avalon Village," is in Highland Park (within Detroit), Michigan.
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - "No Love Like Yours"
Free Stuff - Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros
Alexander - "Truth" (from Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros, Big Top)
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - LIFE IS HARD (Live Music Video)
On a pecan farm half a mile from the Mexican border, ‘Post Tropical’ was born – a collection of sounds and ideas brought to life in rooms where the low frequencies of passing freight trains vibrated in the studio, briefly disturbing the birds in the rafters. And like most new ideas, ‘Post Tropical’ is hard to describe. It requires attention and engagement. It seduces you towards hidden depths.
McMorrow’s acclaimed debut album, ‘Early in the Morning’, reached number 1, went platinum and picked up a Choice Music Prize nomination upon its release in 2010. Along the way, there were shows everywhere from the Royal Festival Hall to Later…with Jools Holland, and a breakout hit in the charity cover of Steve Winwood’s ‘Higher Love’. McMorrow’s first record was the formative sounds of a songwriter who suddenly found people giving a damn. “I’m so proud of that album, but I never longed to be a guy with a guitar. You play these songs live as best you can, and suddenly you’re a Folk musician. But the texture of this record is completely different. This is the kind of stuff I actually listen to.”
Wiping the palate of ‘Early in the Morning’ clean, Post Tropical’ is a stunning piece of work. Its broadened horizons may come as a surprise to everyone but James and the people who know him best. “I found a zip drive recently, which dates back to before I made my first record, and I’d re-recorded every single part of the N.E.R.D album – apart from the vocals – just for the joy of it. I wanted to give this record the feel and movement of the hip-hop records that I love.”
It’s a step forward that is immediately apparent on album opener and first single ‘Cavalier’ – a brooding twist on the Slow-Jam, which builds quietly from hushed keys and hand-claps to soaring brass, drums and McMorrow’s idiosyncratic falsetto. Across the album, new sounds and textures are explored: 808s on the haunting ‘Red Dust’, looped piano on ‘Look Out’, and the waterfall-effect of 12 mandolins on ‘The Lakes’. McMorrow’s sometimes-surreal songwriting holds each element in place, an album on which he wrote, produced, and played virtually every instrument.
The framework of ‘Post Tropical’ was constructed over eight months. Coming home from tour, James had hundreds of sound files, none categorised. Pages and pages of lyrics were crossed out and edited. Nothing was written on guitar, and nothing was linear. Yet the recording itself took place on a pecan farm half a mile from the Mexican border – which the likes of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Beach House, Animal Collective and At The Drive In have all called home at one point. The constraints of three and a half weeks here offered McMorrow a surprising amount of freedom. Sounds were created and changed and painstakingly poured over. The process was up for grabs, right up to the mixing stage.
What emerged was ‘Post Tropical’ – complete with the paradoxical, ‘wish-you-were-here postcard’ artwork (juxtaposing a palm tree with a polar bear). “It’s so exhausting trying to keep up with styles of music that pop up one week, and disappear the next,” says James. “For me, ‘Post Tropical’ evokes a style of music without you having a clue what it sounds like. It’s warm and familiar, but there’s something there that’s maybe not quite what you think it is. I just wanted to make the most beautiful thing that I could imagine. And that was it.”
London-born Christian Letts returned to his native countryside to record his first LP, Hold Fast, with his friend and collaborator Marcus Mumford who produced the record. Hold Fast will be released on February 17, 2015, on Community Music/Vagrant Records. Other friends from their respective bands (Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Mumford and Sons) joined them at the farm, where, over the course of two consecutive Januaries, they crafted the ten tracks that comprise Hold Fast. The release will coincide with a series of art exhibits of Letts’ paintings and watercolors throughout the United States and Europe.
Letts is a songwriter, singer, painter and sculptor. Across all mediums there is a common theme of overcoming darkness. The sea, the sky, the countryside, the people within and their strengths, weaknesses, successes and failures. Spirits and guardian angels, recurring dreams, the unseen forces that silently sway. He explores himself alongside and within these elements on Hold Fast.
ICES is a celebration of flight, levity, and the conviction that you can leave earth. You take wing in an airplane, you go to real places when you dream, you have out-of-body experiences, you get high, you lose yourself in someone else.
When we started work on these songs, I was beginning a gradual move to California, constantly traveling back and forth from New York. I was experimenting. I was falling in love. Our studio in the Hudson Valley was full of electronics and computers and the sounds of future ships sailing through the vastness of space, and I sometimes forgot where I was. The first songs we wrote were called “flying 1,” then “flying 2,” and so on, which eventually evolved into songs on the album. Flight became a metaphor for the ignition of the imagination. The process created a lightness in me, a freedom and positive energy that I’d never before felt or explored.
This recording session became a two year music and spiritual retreat with my psychic twin brother, Eliot. A private journey during which we abandoned old habits and familiar sounds. We got really geeky and experimented in our studio. We obsessed over sympathetic magic, “Ancient Aliens,” and the NBA. We allowed everything we loved to find its way in: Persian percussion, hip-hop beats, lo-fi, hi-fi, Pakistani pop, Link Wray, Jason Pierce, gospel, dub. We developed new systems; we worked with synthesis, software, and samples; we became producers. The Hudson Valley was home base, but I wanted to keep flying. I wrote songs in California, recorded vocals in Atlanta, and worked with Clams Casino in Brooklyn.
Each song became a collage of times, places, and people. Most of them started in the Hudson Valley, where Eliot and I wrote and recorded vocals, guitars, synths, and beat ideas. We’d send those first incarnations to Clams Casino in New Jersey and then we’d meet up in Brooklyn to arrange the new parts together. We worked in the penthouse of the Wythe Hotel – a floating glass box , a blank slate. We’d set up our computer, mixing speakers, midi keyboards, and all our weird gear, plus thai food and red wine. We’d bring up one of our demos and we’d sit behind the midi keyboard and sift through sounds and ideas and beats and find new things together. After the Wythe Sessions we took different tracks to Woodstock and Los Angeles to layer in live drums and percussion, and I went to Atlanta to record final vocals. For the first time, Lia Ices felt like an inclusive project with its own identity, not just a name.
ICES as a whole is devoted to these certainties. While we have evolved, we are still animals. We respond to planets, patterns, and cycles. We require the sounds of our origins. We live in the future but stay bound to the primitive and primordial. We will always want tribe, we will always want rhythm, we will always need music to guide us into our deepest sense of what it means to be human. So we hear sounds from all over the planet in this album. We devour so much music, and with this album we allowed ourselves to claim bits from all of it.