B.O.B., Far East Movement, Wiz Khalifa…Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros? USG has certainly taken a bold step with this year’s selection for the Lawnparties headliner, breaking its steady tradition of hiring rising rap and/or electronic artists in favor of an established indie presence. This choice was sure to cause some sort of reaction – responses on my Facebook newsfeed ranged from elated to horrified, with many expressing confusion at the selection of a band whose catalog doesn’t quite fit the definition of “pump up music.” Nevertheless, I’m excited for a breath of fresh air—I believe it’s quite possible to have a great time listening to music that you don’t have to jump up and down to—but we’ll see how the set turns out. I interviewed Christian Letts, a guitarist and vocalist in the (decidedly large) group about how the group is preparing for Sunday, and what they feel their music is about. You can catch Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros at Quad at 2:30 on Sunday.
JM: Can you explain a little about “Edward Sharpe” and how the band decided on their name?
Christian Letts: Alex had been writing a script for a long time and the main character’s name was Edward Sharpe; we all thought that was pretty cool. We were kicking that idea around. He was also trying to come up with his own sort of mathematics, exploring string theory and all this weird sh*t, eventually he came up with this thing called Magnetic Zeros. So we just put those two together and came up with our band name.
One of the things about Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros is you guys have a very large group. What are the pros and cons of having so many people in the band?
CL: I don’t know if there are any cons really. There might have been before, in L.A., when there were only five of us. It was always a struggle trying to pull off all the sounds we wanted in the recording. With so many people it’s great because we can always achieve a live version of what we’re doing. And that means we don’t have to sacrifice anything else. Traveling around it’s just like living with a giant family, which is always fun. People are always wondering what it’s like to have so many people on the bus – it just feels like home.
JM: What would you say your songwriting inspirations are? Do you think any of the songs are autobiographical?
CL: Yeah, it’s each person’s story that comes out in what they’re writing about. For me, it’s very personal, but usually the inspiration comes out of nowhere. It could be on a train somewhere…It could come from anywhere, really. I think it’s better to write honestly though. If you write about bullsh*t, it’s hard to relate to, you know?
JM: What do you want people to hear in your music? What kind of impression do you want to leave on the people you play for?
CL: I’d like to leave people with some joy. Sometimes it’s easier to write sad songs. But writing happy songs that don’t come off as really cheesy is a really difficult thing. We want truthfulness too. Truthfulness, happiness and love, all of it.
JM: You guys have a new album coming out this year in May. Are you guys sticking to the sound from the first two albums or are you branching out at all?
CL: Nah it’s definitely different. It’s still us, but it’s way different.
JM: What are the inspirations for this new album?
CL: We went into the studio a couple years ago, so we have a lot. We recorded 45 songs or something, since we’ve been on the road so much… We’ve been writing a bunch more recently too. Sonically, it’s a huge album. It’s more like the first album, maybe even a bigger sound than the first album. I’m really excited for it to be out.
JM: Is your group preparing for this show any differently from past performances? Given that your crowd is college students whose past few acts have been B.O.B., Far East Movement, Wiz Khalifa, and other electronic or rap artists? How do you think this will be different?
CL: I guess you’ll find out really [laughs]. I don’t know man, I think it will be fun.
JM: So you’ll play like you always do?
CL: Oh yeah of course. It shouldn’t be any different. Every show will be different, but we’ll play like we always do.
JM: If somebody could only listen to two songs of yours to convince them to come see your show on Sunday, what would they be?
CL: “40 Day Dream” and “Home.”