Alex Ebert has had a hell of a career, and he should know: he’s actually had two of them.
Ebert’s first career was in the early 2000s, when his electro-rock group Ima Robot released its eponymous debut album to decent success. Lead by the snappy single “Dynomite” (which had a delightfully outrageous video to go along with it), the group picked up a decent following, touring with the likes of Hot Hot Heat while getting promotional support from the likes of MTV2’s underground-exposure program Subterranean. The band’s 2006 follow-up album Monument to the Masses, however, received a much chillier reception than expected, and single “Creeps Me Out” stalled, with Ebert eventually releasing the gender-bending (and amazingly well done) promo clip for album-highlight “Lovers in Captivity” on his own, much to the chagrin of his label. Needless to say, things got cool between artist and label at that point, and Ebert disappeared.
When he re-emerged in 2009, he had broken up with his girlfriend and began working on a book about a messianic figure named Edward Sharpe, eventually using the character for inspiration of his next musical venture: a collective of musicians known as the Magnetic Zeros that began dutifully re-creating the AM radio pop sounds of late-‘60s/early-‘70s American folk-rock in a modern context. As much of a gamble as such a move was, it paid off grandly, and now Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros have a sizable following, a debut album (Up From Below) that snuck onto the upper half of the Billboard 200 Album Survey, and a hit song (”Home”) to boot.
Creatively re-energized, Ebert temporarily dropped his barefoot alter-ego to revitalize Ima Robot, and late last year, the band released Another Man’s Treasure, an album that generous expands the group’s sound out into spacey new realms while still retaining its knack for a killer pop melody. Taking a short break to answer PopMatters’ famed 20 Questions, Ebert tells us that there is no such thing as a greatest album, stolen strawberries taste better than purchased ones, and why his ideal hang-out location is 50,000 years in the past . . .
1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
Can’t remember at the moment.
2. The fictional character most like you?
3. The greatest album, ever?
No such thing.
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Wars. Seeek.
5. Your ideal brain food?
Montage. Disparate imagery, unlikely marriages, the gaps between, wherein lie the stories.
6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
Why be proud of anything . . . perhaps proud is the wrong word—but joyous over accomplishment. Why? I think because accomplishment often indicates growth, or is a reflection of the act of striving.
7. You want to be remembered for . . . ?
8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
So many. Soooo many. Any who are honest or strive towards honesty, towards truth, towards equality, against and away from things that do not sit well in the heart.
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
10. Your hidden talents . . . ?
. . . Still hiding, still coming out.
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
Stole strawberries once when I had no money on me and was hungry. Can still remember how good they tasted.
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or . . . ?
Something without a brand on ‘em.
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
Good Old Einstein. For a chat about “stuff”.
15. Time travel: where, when, and why?
50,000 years ago . . . to hang.
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation, or Prozac?
Shouting in the ocean . . . ‘til laughing and shivers and all that.
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or . . . ?
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
Both city and country—city on beach with mountains and forest behind it—with clean air—find it for me please?
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
Hey dude . . . what the hell are you doing?
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
Recording an album of songs.