Getting 10 band members in synch on a rhythm is one thing; fitting 10 band members on a stage is another. Both are challenges the extended family of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros—led by vocalist Alex Ebert—embrace with enthusiasm. The traveling troupe exudes a 70s beach town vibe, which we saw at their Surf Lodge show earlier this summer, where they played all the hits like “Home.” Here, we chat with band members Christian Letts and Orpheo McCord, in between sets.
How many people are you with on tour right now?
Orpheo McCord: Ten in the band plus crew.
How did you guys first get involved with Edward Sharpe, and Alex?
Christian Letts: I met Alex when I was 3. We went to preschool together. I moved from London; he was the first guy I met when I was a kid. Then him and Jade met a while back and we met Orpheo in a teepee! The rest of us are just a collection of old friends getting together to make a bigger group.
How does your process work? Did you guys play and write music together growing up as well?
CL: We were always creating together. Messing around with music since we were kids. Now it varies. Alex is the most prolific dude in the world. He writes so many songs.
OM: Dude, so many songs.
Do you guys write while you’re on the road?
CL: A lot of that happens by yourself, first. Writing a song is a really vulnerable thing. The most naked you’ll feel sometimes when it goes wrong. But you grow from it.
OM: A lot of times, we’re in the back lounge, and ideas will start to come into play. Other times it’ll just kind of come out of nowhere, when we’re in the studio. The last record,Alex had a couple demos that weren’t even intended to be actual final recordings, and then we just built on top of those.
CL: They were so vibey, we were like, “Man!”
What’s it like being on the road with you?
OM: We’ve been doing this together for seven years, and pretty consistently. We spend a lot of time together. It’s pretty much a family. Like any family you get the different dynamics and people go through different things at different times. But for the most part, it’s just a really strong support system.
How do you create a home on the bus or a home on tour, when you guys are away a lot?
CL: It kind of feels like home being on the bus! I was tripping out of, like, moving out of my place, and I was like, man, I have nowhere to go after that. I don’t know where I’m going yet, you know? And then I got on the bus. It’s almost one of the most familiar places to me for the past seven years.
OM: A lot of us in the band have folding bicycles and that’s a huge element of being on the road for us. A lot of the time, you have the bus parked somewhere and you don’t have the freedom to move around much, so that gives you that freedom and to get the exercise.
Edward Sharpe started as a kind of messianic fictional character. How much has this persona changed as you’ve grown and morphed yourselves as a band?
OM: It’s never been a part of the band. It was just a character in a fictitious story that Alex came up with, and it was more like it had a good ring to it for a band name. But there was never any intention of this character we were going to personify in some way. Even though people have projected this messianic thing onto Alex, it’s just been a part of his process and growth.
This is your first time in Montauk—what’s your first impression?
CL: I just woke up. And I saw you guys. You guys are my first impression of Montauk.
OM: I’m not really used to East Coast beach towns. I grew up in California on the coast, so I’m used to that vibe. The landscape’s different. The style is different, everybody dresses a little more like, the New York vibe. A lot more brimmed hats, I guess.
Who has the better beach bums? New York or LA?
CL: LA, definitely. There’s not even a comparison. You can’t be a beach bum here in December! You’d freeze your balls off. In LA, it’s a year-round experience.