With the release of their third album, a slew of side projects and a historic four-day Big Top circus, 2013 was a big year for Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros.
Fortunately for ESMZ fans, the band doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
“We’re excited about all of it, and we’re lucky enough now to be on a plane where are be able to do more creative projects and have creative projects brought to us,” said band manager Bryan Ling, of Community Music. “This band is not just a band that just writes a record, puts it out, tours, then goes back to the studio … Hopefully we’ll have more creative things to be involved in the future, and be able to create.”
Starting on March 22 at the McDowell Mountain Music Festival in Phoenix, the band embarked in an extensive U.S. tour, including performances at the three-day Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in June in Manchester, Tenn., the Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis, Firefly Festival in Dover, Del., and Loufest in St. Louis. The band played in 27 U.S. cities during the tour.
Brittnay Howard, lead singer for the Alabama Shakes, called ESMZ’s live performances “pretty otherworldly.”
“I think what makes them so unique is there are so many of them, so many musicians, and none of them step on each other,” Howard said. “It’s really easy to step on each other. Everybody wants to get fancy and stuff. But they all blend together really, really well … very tasteful musicians.”
In July, ESMZ became the first to sign on to Mumford and Son’s own record label, the Gentlemen Of The Road label. The two bands first met while touring on the Railroad Revival Tour in April 2011, when ESMZ joined Old Crow Medicine Show and Mumford and Sons and on a tour that stopped in six cities across the U.S.
“I don’t think people in the UK know Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros enough,” Marcus Mumford told BBC. “They are pretty much our favorite band.”
ESMZ joined Mumford & Songs during five GOTR Stopover events in 2013: in Lewes, U.K.; Simcoe, Ontario; Troy, Ohio.; and Guthrie, Okla.
In late July, Community Music released ESMZ’s third studio album, which included “Life is Hard,” “If I Were Free” and “Better Days.” The self-titled album peaked at No. 14 on the Billboard Top 200 chart.
“These songs mean everything to me,” said frontman Alex Ebert. “It’s the rawest, most liberated, most rambunctious stuff we’ve done.”
2013 also saw the band undertake many side projects, both individual projects and some involving the entire band.
- On Oct. 1, Community Music celebrated the 50th anniversary of the release of Beatles tracks from 1963 and 1964 with the release of Beatles Reimagined, which featured ESMZ performing “I Saw Her Standing There.” The project was released in an effort to introduce the younger generation to older Beatles music. “We told any band or artist that wanted to be a part of it that they had to reimagine it,” Ling said. “It couldn’t be just a straight cover.”
- Also on Oct. 1. Community Music released the original motion picture soundtrack to the Robert Redford film “All is Lost,” which featured 11 new compositions, all written, composed and produced by Ebert. Ebert was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Score. “This project was a dream — an open space to play in but also space to listen to the elements — wind, water, rain, sun, are the story’s other characters to me,” Ebert said. “I knew I had quite a task ahead of me: to at once allow the elements to sing and to give Redford a voice with which to, once in a while, respond.”
- Crash finished recording his first solo album, “Hardly Criminal,” which is scheduled for release in early 2014.
Among the highlights from ESMZ in 2013 — and perhaps the band’s proudest accomplishment — was their four-day Big Top circus and music festival in October at L.A. Historic Park. “This has been so special and so amazing,” Ebert told the audience during their final performance. “It’s just been a dream.”
The festival featured contortionists, acrobats, puppet masters, stilt walkers and swallowing swordsmen, as well as a beer garden, bazaar and lots of good live music.
“These days a band is a fast machine, cramming in dates, cutting fat, making the most money it can,” Ebert said. “Far gone are the ancient days of the traveling troubadours, lingering in towns, meeting the people, entertaining for days. If you tour, or you have been to a ‘professional’ show, you may have had the sense that something is missing from the experience… And so, here comes the idea of Big Top – a one-off experiment in reaching for a more colorful, soulful, way to tour.”
During Big Top, ESMZ bid a fond adieu to accordionist Nora Kirkpatrick, who is starring in a new TV Land show with Jaime Pressly called “Jennifer Falls.” After six years as a full-time member, she is stepping away to continue her acting career. However Kirkpatrick will continue to score films and will remain a board member with the band’s charity, the Big Sun Foundation
After a two-month break from touring, Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros will kick off their upcoming England and European tour on Jan. 27, 2014, in Brussels, Belgium.
“The future of Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros is always bright,” Community Music writes. “They are not so much a band, as a living breathing creature, a collective collection of tremendous talents. And they continue evolve…”