the AU interview: Alex Ebert of Alexander (USA)

Somewhere in between the excessive touring that makes up a year in the life od Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, frontman Alexander Ebert made time to record a solo album under the moniker Alexander. The album of the same name was just released in Australia, and so we caught up with the man himself to talk about the new record, as well as Edward Sharpe’s recent tour in Australia and their future “Wu Tang” album.

So over the next few months, how is it all going to be working? I understand you’ll be playing shows both for the solo record and as Edward Sharpe.

Yeah, we’re going down to SXSW for a couple of shows, and then Edward Sharpe have a couple of shows. So we’re kind of jumbling it all together. The year’s definitely filling up, but we’re going to let the band decide the way we go. If we get offers for this and that we’ll try and make the room. But even as Edward Sharpe we’ll probably do some Alexander songs, as well as some of Christian’s songs, and Jade’s songs – the other people in Edward Sharpe who are working on solo projects.

Sounds like it’ll be a busy few months. It also sounds like the recording process was much the same: just squeezing in the new material wherever you could…

Absolutely. Looking back at the last year, I’m not actually sure how I pulled it off. It was definitely jam packed.

I understand you played quite a few instruments on the new album – were there any instruments that you played for the first time on the record?

*laughs* Yeah, the violin was particularly difficult. Other than that, I’d played around with everything else, it wasn’t me very first time. Although the clarinet was sort of my first time – I played the Saxophone in Junior High (School), which has a similar mouthpiece.

How have you found the reception to be to the material so far? Are you looking forward to getting the rest of it out there?

I’m sort of overwhelmed actually, with appreciation that it’s coming out. I’m really excited that people are interested in hearing it, and reacting and relating to the songs. It’s a big deal for me, it’s the first time I’ve put anything out there that I’ve recorded of myself. To have played all these instruments and been a “real musician” for the first time – where I haven’t passed along my demos to be recorded by other people – it feels really great. Feels like a bit of coming of age, or some sort of milestone for me, it’s really cool.

How will the album be translated live? Will you have a band with you?

Thankfully there are six of us, and even though I did most of the record by myself, there were quite a few instruments in there. When we played London there were six of us, but there might be some more (at SXSW), because we’ll have a lot of extra friends around and what not. But we tried basically to follow the roadmap of the album and play it the way it was recorded more or less. I’m playing guitar for the first time live – playing it standing up, with it strapped around my body, it’s a totally new experience for me. But it’s really fun. It makes it a bit more a gentler show, more focused on the music. But just as fun. We had such a fun time playing the songs in London.

From seeing you in Sydney a few weeks ago, I imagine it’s gentler for you too – less jumping into the crowd and what not.

Yeah. I mean I still got into the crowd and all that. Halfway through the first song I had to tell everyone to hold on so I could take off my shoes, because some things just won’t chance. I want to connect and feel comfortable and be having a good time up there. But it is different, I’ve got more things to think about. In some ways it’s really nice because it allows the songs to speak for themselves, rather than what I’m doing animating the songs to the degree it does when I’m not holding a guitar. It lets the songs shine on their own, which is really nice.

I briefly mentioned your show in Sydney – how was Edwarde Sharpe’s experience touring with the Big Day Out. Your first time down here!

Oh man, it was sort of like a dream, just because I don’t think it’s anything like anything any of us have ever done before – in terms of the way we toured. Plenty of time between shows, to explore and hang out. And then the shows were great and the people were awesome. I guess it’s just one of those times that’s just really fun. Ideally though I’d like to spend more time in Australia and check out the interior of the country. I’m really drawn to vast landscapes, so it would be nice to tour around a bit more. I’m looking forward to coming back soon hopefully.

In the midst of all this, I understand you’ve been recording new Edward Sharpe material, too?

Yeah, we’ve got 7 songs done. We’re really excited about it. It’s a fun album. That’s one of the reasons why it’s exciting to release this Alexander album. Because already on the new album, Christian has a song we’re backing him up on, and JD has a song we’re backing her up on, and same with some other members of the band. It’s a bit like our Wu-Tang album – different voices being heard, different songs coming from different people. We’ll spend another month on it in May and then hopefully have for you guys in the end of the year

Which member of the Wu Tang are you?

*laughs* That’s a good question, they’re all so great! Well who came out with a solo record first? Method Man? But Ghostface was the hottest one. But you know, we are who we are, JD and Christian’s stuff is sounding amazing. It’s an exciting time, and exciting for all of us to be able to support each other, too.

The amount you guys tour and the amount of time you spend together – it must be a special bond between all of you.

It really is, man. The adversity that is created just by hanging out with 10 people all the time, it’s a benefit in some ways, as you can overcome that stuff, which brings you even close. It’s really fucking awesome actually.

Alexander’s self-titled debut LP is in stores now.

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.