Conversation With a Magnetic Zero

Published in print and online at City on a Hill Press February 25, 2010

If you’ve ever seen Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros perform, you might already have an idea of what it was like to interview singer Jade Castrinos. Her answers sound as if she’s thinking them for the first time, strung together to the point that they don’t really seem like sentences at all.

I welcomed a chance for Jade to open up about herself and the band beyond the songs they sing. I spoke to her over the phone as they geared up for their first major tour, on which Santa Cruz is the second stop. By the end of our conversation, the only thing Jade seemed sure about was that she was very excited about the trees. As for me, I knew that Jade’s eccentricity could definitely be described as magnetic.

City on a Hill Press: So I just read a review that described your group as more of a ‘traveling vagabond family’ than a typical band. Is that accurate?

Jade Castrinos: I mean, that’s a part of it, but that’s not the whole thing — we’re definitely a band and gather around the purpose of music. But the family idea, it’s kind of the lifeblood of the whole thing. Like the song ‘Home,’ that’s Alex [Ebert, the lead singer] and I just professing our love for each other as best buds. But we are like siblings, so there is definitely a ‘vagabond family’ thing, yeah.

CHP: So with the large family/band-style group — there are at least 10 of you at each show — there have to be a lot of different ideas and influences. Has it been difficult to incorporate everyone’s input? How do you make that work?

JC: You mean like with making music?

CHP: Yeah, with the songs you guys write and perform.

JC: Well, everybody is a really talented musician. For the record, Alex had some ideas for songs, but everyone came in and played it, and it’s like, you play how you feel about the music — like, ‘What do you feel here?’ There’s no ‘Play it this way!’ It’s very … everyone’s involved.

CHP: And how would you categorize that music? The term ‘folk’ has been thrown around — does that fit your music and your group?

JC: I don’t know. (Laughs.) I mean — yeah, we’re definitely folk, but I don’t know — I always say our band category is happiness.

CHP: Can you tell me a little about the band’s name?

JC: Yeah, Alex wrote this novel, and the main character was Edward Sharpe, and he came to save the world but kept falling in love with girls, so he wasn’t completing his mission — I’m not sure I’m the one to ask about this, I might get it wrong but — (loud noise, Jade yells) — Wait, I completely lost track — what are we talking about? Could you repeat the question?

CHP: We were talking about the band’s name, and you were explaining about Alex’s novel.

JC: Oh yeah, yeah, he might be the best person to ask about this, but [the novel] is definitely reflected in our songs and the videos we’re doing.

CHP: What about your debut album? Tell me about writing and recording ‘Up From Below.’

JC: When we started, the guitar player Nico — we recorded at his house, he and Airin had a studio in their basement and we would record there and it was so magical. Nico’s girlfriend Becky would make the most amazing food and we’d just have dinner and jam every night and come up with great songs. It was all magical, but definitely the beginning … and definitely Becky’s cooking was a huge part.

CHP: So last question, then I’ll let you go. Your hippie-throwback vibe definitely has an audience in the students of UC Santa Cruz. Are you guys excited to play here, and do you have any expectations about the show?

JC: We’re totally excited to play there. I don’t know if we’ve played there before, but I’ve definitely driven through that area, it’s beautiful. Are there redwoods there?

CHP: Yeah, tons.

JC: I love the forest! … We’re definitely excited to play there.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros will play on Monday, March 1 at the Rio Theatre. Show begins at 8 p.m. Advance tickets are available at Streetlight Records or online at www.ticketweb.com. Tickets are $18 in advance or $22 at the door.

 

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