Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros burst onto the scene in a big way with their 2009 hit single “Home.” Most people figured that frontman Alex Ebert was actually Edward Sharpe, but lately he’s been trying to get away from that identity. In preparation for the band’s May 25 show at Wolf Trap, Ebert spoke to On Tap about the new album, his “new” identity and his DC memories.
On Tap: Your new album, PersonA, was just released last month. What is different about it from your previous records?
Alex Ebert: It’s a much more distinctly personal album, I think. It’s also a lot heavier and I suppose somewhat darker.
OT: What’s up with the “Edward Sharpe” part being crossed out on the album cover? Does this represent a new chapter for the band?
AE: It does represent a new chapter. It also represents that the band as a whole participated much more in the music making and songwriting. But it also represents the fact that there was never an Edward Sharpe – and that the concept of carrying a persona around with me is only truthful if referring to my life away from the stage. I wear my mask with you all and your masks away from the stage – but not on it.
OT: How has your music been influenced by moving to New Orleans?
AE: I don’t think any musician can get away from being influenced by New Orleans. Something about the place just imbibes you with the very spirit of music.
OT: What inspired you to write and record your Bernie Sanders song, “Feel the Bern”?
AE: I just like the man. He is to politics what we are to pop music. Idealistic, unkempt and all about the people. He gets derided as unrealistic and pie in the sky, but the reality is that that’s what any revolution gets derided as in its infancy.
OT: I know you are very passionate about your non-profit, Big Sun. Can you explain what it does and what the goals are moving forward?
AE: Thanks for asking – it’s all about establishing co-ops and community land trusts across the country. The community land trust model is the most powerful tool we have to combat the effects of economic inequality. It empowers communities and curbs the dismantling of culture and displacement of people that comes with institutionalized gentrification.
OT: You wrote some critically-acclaimed scores for J.C. Chandor’s most recent films. Do you have plans to do more film scoring in the future?
AE: No plans at the moment, but I do love doing it. Especially with J.C.
OT: Since we are a DC area magazine, we were wondering if you had any memorable stories or shows from the DMV?
AE: When I think of DC, I think of Ethiopian food, bicycling around in giant packs going to see Inception and the drummer from my first band quitting in the dressing room of the 9:30 Club because someone ate his turkey burger.
Catch Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros on Wednesday, May 25 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25-$50.
Filene Center at Wolf Trap: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; 703-255-1900;www.wolftrap.org
Photo: Courtesy of Wolf Trap