2014 was a monumental year for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, both collectively and individually — culminating this month in the recording of the band’s fourth studio album in Alex Ebert’s new recording studio in New Orleans.
“I’m always writing a bunch, and yet I’ve made a resolution to not write any more for Edward Sharpe when I’m alone, to only make it a group effort,” Ebert told Rolling Stone in June. “Usually it’s been a solo process and I’ve written most of everything, so it’ll be really nice to just go around in a circle and do it together.”
The recording wrapped up in mid December, with Ebert taking his excitement to Facebook:
“Guys and gals! this album is bananas. Best thing.” (Dec. 12)
“I love Songwriting as celestial archaeology – each song a starry animal to be uncovered, arranged, and reintroduced to the world, alive.” (Dec. 14)
Here’s a look back at some of the top ESMZ stories of 2014.
Ebert scores big
On Jan. 13, ESMZ frontman Alex Ebert shocked the world when he captured his first Golden Globe for his score in the J.C. Chandor film, “All is Lost.” Sean Combs and Usher presented the award to Ebert, who thanked Chandor for “having the faith to see into what I had done before and thought I could do this.” It was Ebert’s first film score. “Even the most deft pen is a clumsy tool, and yet we still try for magic,” Ebert said. “Thanks for letting me try — all over the movie.” (Read more about his award-winning score)
Chandor’s latest film, “A Most Violent Year,” premieres in select theatres on Dec. 31, and Ebert once again wrote and composed the score. The soundtrack was released through Community Music on Dec. 16, and features nine original tracks, including two different versions of the song “Garden Shadows,” as well as the movie’s closing song, America For Me.
When ESMZ kicked off their summer tour in June, it was their first without vocalist Jade Castrinos.“Jade has spoken out about not being on this tour. Her statement left a lot of things to the imagination,” Ebert wrote on Facebook. “Out of respect for Jade, I will keep it that way. …We must now explain that simply and sadly, we did not feel right doing this tour with Jade. That fact breaks my heart in ways I don’t want to describe. With hope with all of ourselves that we reunite with Jade again, free-spirited, and with that daring love that is our only foundation.”
(For the record, the forthcoming ESMZ album will be the first without Jade.)
Returning to his roots
Crash hit the road this summer and fall to promote the release of his debut solo album, “Hardly Criminal,” including a performance on CBS’ Late Show With David Letterman in late July and a return to his native New Orleans in November for the city’s “This is NOLA” event. “Hardly Criminal” also features fellow ESMZ bandmates Seth Ford-Young, Josh Collazo, Stewart Cole, Orpheo McCord and Nosewsorthy, as well as former ESMZ member Tay Strathairn. Noseworthy produced the album.
BestNewsBand.com described the solo album as “a tidal wave of emotion that appropriately crashes with a perfect balance of groove, shake, heartache, and soul.”
“I can’t help but draw from my own life experiences,” Crash told Janglin Souls, before a performance in Kansas City, Mo. “ A lot of the material is about something that I feel, or maybe only thought I had, or of something that someone else feels. In the case of “High Wall,” it’s a pretty brief explanation of how I ended up in L.A. What I don’t say in the song is that move was responsible for so many other things — me getting more involved in music and pursuing that, and me meeting the guys that would form Deadly Syndrome and me meeting all the Magnetic Zeros at the time of the “Up From Below” album coming together. It was one of those remarkably pivotal moments in my life.” (Read Janglin Souls’ full interview with Crash)
Crash wasn’t the only Magnetic Zero working on a solo project. London-born guitarist Christian Letts released two singles (Charles de Gaulle and Matches) from first LP. “Hold Fast” will be released on Feb. 17, via Community Music/Vagrant Records, and is produced by his friend Marcus Mumford.
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros performed a series of European gigs in January and February that culminated in an appearance at London’s Brixton Academy on Feb. 11. The tour also included stops in Brussels, Den Haag, Cologne, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Glasgow and Dublin.
ESMZ percussionist Orpheo McCord and Rachel Kolar (of the band He’s My Brother She’s My Sister) welcomed their first child, Mateus McCord, to the world on March 14. “He was born on Einstein’s birthday – that is a good sign,” said Joe McCord, Orpheo’s father. “Orpheo is a dodding and loving father. I am very proud.” (Read more about the McCord family)
In addition to being a new father, Orpheo joined forces with Mikael Jorgenson of Wilco in a new project called “Prism Break.” Their music is described as an “inspiration in early 70s German experimental music.”
On Tour with Jack Johnson
ESMZ opened for Jack Johnson for four summer shows in 2014 – in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; Toronto; Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio; and Chicago. The shows ended with both bands sharing the stage, covering the Beatles’ Rocky Raccoon and Bob Dylan’s I Shall Be Released. (Read more about ESMZ’s tour with Jack Johnson)
In July, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros announced that they were in “deep in the process of assembling a live record compiled from songs we’ve played all over the world these past few years.” It is the band’s first live album.
‘Butterfuly, The Harp & The Timepiece.’
Joe McCord, father of ESMZ percussionist Orpheo McCord, wrote a short film called “Butterfuly, The Harp & The Timepiece,” which stars Academy Award winner Melissa Leo and ESMZ members Alex Ebert, Stewart Cole and Orpheo McCord. The film was directed by Rodney Vance and scored by Grammy winner Alex Geringas. The film is described by IMDB as “three stories about treasured objects and their impact on the people who use them to connect to their inmost desires.” The film has been entered into the Palm Springs Short Festival, one of the most prestigious short festivals in the United States and a prerequisite to the Academy awards. (Read more about Joe McCord, also known as Joe Daddy.)
Catching up with Nora and Aaron
ESMZ accordionist Nora Kirkpatrick co-starred in the TV Land sitcom “Jennifer Falls,” which debuted in 2014 and stars Jaime Pressley and Ethan Suplee. Kirkpatrick played the role Stephanie Doyle, the passive aggressive, know-it-all sister-in-law of Jennifer Doyle (Pressley), a former high-powered executive who loses her job and hits rock bottom.
2014 was also a big year for former ESMZ pianist Aaron Embry, who released new music via SoundCloud. (Check out this video of one Embry’s Wannabe King). Embry’s Raven Song (off of the 2012 ablum “Tiny Prayers”) was featured at the end of Zach Braff’s 2014 comedy-drama, “Wish I Was Here.” Braff said to Entertainment Weekly: “I knew the second I heard that it was the song for the end of the movie. I actually, the second I heard it I almost started restructuring the end of the movie around it. I just though it was elegant and beautiful and it was short. In fact, too short. We had to elongate it …”