When asked how the writing process differed between "Up From Below," the 2009 debut from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and their upcoming album, "Here," singer Alex Ebert is quick to give credit to the 11 other members of his band.
"It was a little more all-togethery," he says. "We all sat around and worked on arrangements together."
Ebert may have just coined the phrase, "all-togethery" on-the-spot, but it's quite an accurate description. A few of the songs on "Here" don't even feature a lead vocal and are more like group sing-alongs.
"As we became a band, over the last three years, doing all these radio sessions, we would sing together in an acoustic environment, really hearing each other," says Ebert.
Like its predecessor, the album is full of fun, funky folk, but with more of a focus.
"I don't tend to put out stuff that has a major thematic through-line," says Ebert. "I tend to do what my detractor's would call unfocused albums."
The theme of "Here" seems to be a sort of reckoning with the evils of the world and finding goodness and spirituality within one's self, independent of any organized religion.
"I would say it's an immense amount of defiance in the face of what would otherwise create a dejected character," says Ebert. "Defiance in the will to perceive things as possible, and hopeful and to be able to dance through the murder and pain."
Detractors have also used terms like "hippies" and "cult" to describe the big band of Zeros. Ebert doesn't mind.
"A cult is a cult until it becomes popular and then it's a religion," he reasons. "We do have an ethos, I would say, so in that sense we share some ideas that we tend to agree on, but I don't think that's necessarily any different than a lot of groups of people."
Far from 'Home'
Because of such a long time touring between albums, Ebert and his crew have come up with so much new material that they have a second new album they hope to release later this year. The style of the as-of-yet untitled album is a departure for the group that became famous for their whistle-along single, "Home."
"It's much more aggressive," says Ebert, "not angsty aggressive but sonically aggressive. ... There is some distortion, which we rarely dabble in. If ever there was an album that I was slightly nervous about delivering, I would say it would be this album. It's a little bit outside the realm that we've played in, but that's always fun to do for yourself. ... We feel quite comfortable putting out anything that we love, knowing that we have these people to share it with, and a growing number of people to share it with, too."