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Edward Sharpe’s New 'PersonA'

Alex Ebert, frontman of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, reveals why he uprooted his life to make the group’s adventurous new album

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Back in 2012, Alex Ebert was visiting his favorite city, New Orleans, when he learned that a recording studio, where artists like John Fogerty and Tom Waits had recorded, was on the market. For years, Ebert had lived and worked in Los Angeles, as a member of the midaughts dance-rock band Ima Robot and, later, frontman of the hippie-rock collective Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. But after that trip, the 37-year-old singersongwriter decided to resettle in the Big Easy and bought the place. “It wasn’t a hard sell,” says Ebert of persuading his 10-piece band to follow. “It was like a paid vacation.”

Ebert’s life change may have sparked creativity — it’s where the band cut their new PersonA (out April 15), their most adventurous album yet—but it also helped redefine their mission. After forming in 2007 as part of a “social experiment,” with financial support from the late Heath Ledger, the group broke out thanks to 2009’s sleeper hit single “Home,” became a top-billed festival act, and found fans in celebrities like Olivia Wilde, who directed their new video, “No Love Like Yours.” Even with such success, Ebert is more ambitious than ever. ‘Before recording, we had a conversation about what our roles were—to focus on what everyone’s best at,” says Ebert, noting each member contributed to the songwriting process. “We had never done that before.”

Ebert has a good reason for wanting to reinvigorate his crew. In summer 2014, founding member Jade Castrinos, who dated Ebert for a few years until 2009, abruptly left the band. (“They voted me off of tour a week before they left, via email. Lol,” she wrote in a since-deleted Instagram caption.) These days, Ebert is hesitant to discuss the split. “It’s tough to speak on without putting my foot in my mouth,” he says. “But that was, as far as I’m concerned, a mutual thing.” While details of that rift may be murky, Ebert isn’t lingering on the past. “It’s been liberating,” he says of the band’s new tunes. “[Now] it’s purely about the mission to make good music.” They’ll showcase those good vibes on tour this summer. “None of the songs sound like each other,” says Ebert. “But that’s us. We laugh, we skip, we run, and, in the end, we tried.”