The Magnetic Zeros, led by Alex Ebert’s alter-ego, Edward Sharpe, are a bit of a travelling caravan at times. Percussionist Orpheo McCord, who has seen time with Ima Robot and Fool’s Gold, has been there for the entire ride. “There’re 12 in the band and whoever else we got coming in to help,” he explains as he begins to speak of the band’s upcoming touring schedule. “You’d think it would make it harder, but it actually makes it easier.”
The band is set to tour North America in September, with a stop in Calgary, followed by a month in Australia with Mumford & Sons. The two bands were also part of the Railroad Revival Tour, the subject of Big Easy Express, a documentary focused on capturing the “pure joy in music.”
Here, the sophomore effort from the band, displays a much more collective sound compared to their debut. “You know, it was a really natural progression,” reflects McCord as he explains the contrast of recording techniques. “The first record was out of house,” he clarifies. “On the next record, we recorded in our own space,” and, noting there were still deadlines to meet, “[we were] on our own terms, our own hours, so it just came really naturally.”
After an extensive tour for their celebrated debut, the band members were ready to get back into the studio. “We all love getting into that mindset,” says McCord, who is presently relaxing in Ojai, California before the tour, indicating that the difference this time around was that “they had all been together for a while.” Although the debut record introduced the band to the world, it also introduced a lot of them to each other, as the group had time to create a harmonious chemistry.
Their success can largely be distributed to the band members’ openness and awareness of each others’ values. “We all believe in oneness,” he says as he speaks about the inner workings of the band. “I think we all have different beliefs,” adding more clues of the stability of such a large band.
So, has a group with such an open mindset begun to develop a stereotypical hippie cult following? “We get a wide array of genders and ages,” answers McCord as he continues to happily describe the variety of cultures present at their shows. “We’re really lucky.”
As the interview continues, McCord begins to divulge his role in the project. “Josh [Collazo] and I do a double drum set,” he reveals. “Lately, I’ve been incorporating a marimba into my set,” before enumerating a lengthy list of instruments he has used as a part of the band, including a conga, dejembe and electric percussions, among others. “I’ve collected a lot of instruments over the years and tried to give each one the limelight.” The African influences McCord brings to the table are felt throughout Here, especially in standouts “Mayla” and “One Love to Another.”
As many may know, Calgary has the distinction of having the most bike path kilometres per capita. After revealing this fact to McCord he begins to open up about his love of cycling while on tour. He also has family in the area, mentioning that his half-brother lives in town.
As the conversation closes a quick dialogue about the Pussy Riot trial in Russia sidetracks us. McCord sympathizes and looks inward, realizing the event might “get people focused on some of the things in our own country.” He’ll soon find out as they gear up for tour. Whether it’s a squad of bicycles, or a remarkably large bus, make sure to look out for the Magnetic Zeros as they pass through Calgary.
Catch Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros at MacEwan Hall (Calgary) on September 17 and at the Edmonton Events Centre (Edmonton) on September 18.
By Cory Jones
Photos: Laure Vincent Borleau