Nora Kirkpatrick: The Accordion Goddess of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Categories: interview
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Nora Kirkpatrick
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With the collective passion of so many members spewing an endless fountain of hippie sunshine on stage, the magnetism generated by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros is undoubtedly a collective effort. But if there's one member that routinely pulls us in during their shows aside from Alex Ebert or Jade Castrinos it's the band's accordion player, Nora Kirkpatrick. Few champions of the squeeze box play with as much sweet, unconventional style as the young musician/actress/composer, who also lends her chirpy vocals to the bands behemoth choral swells in strikingly distinct fashion. In a recent phone interview, she readily admits to her lack of formal training on the instrument, though the idea of finding her own way to incorporate it into the band has been part of the fun, especially on the band's recent recording rampage, which produced not one, but two albums-worth of material (including their recently-released album Here) . We recently caught up with Kirkpatrick before she and her band take the stage on Sunday for as one of the final bands on the Doheny Days roster.

OC Weekly (Nate Jackson): What's been one of the biggest bonding moments you guys have had as a band over the summer?

Nora Kirkpatrick: Definitely finishing the new album in Ojai was a huge bonding moment because that was the first time we had built our own studio and we were living together in a house and recording every day and to finish that process really exciting and we recorded so many more songs than we thought we were going to and that led to our next album almost being done already.

You guys recorded about 40 songs. How did you manage that?

Yeah and so we were gonna do a double album but we decided to split it so the next one should be coming out early 2013. We did a lot more live recording so everyone was in a room with mics set up so that we didn't do a lot of overdubbing and also we hadn't recorded in such a long time so there was a lot of pent up energy and we had a great engineer up there with us.

How did you end up picking accordion as an instrument for this band?

 I always played the organ and piano but it wasn't very mobile so one day I got an accordion and just fell in love with the mobility and the options of being like a one man band and I like how many musical genres it can fit. It can be zydeco, it can be Mexican, French, Italian, so many different things. I also have to pick the songs where the accordion can go into because it doesn't fit everywhere, but when it does it's something people don't hear a lot.

You've appeared on various TV and film projects like the ABC Family TV series Greek over the years and you also do some composing on the side. Anything you're working on these days where you have to balance music and your acting career?

I try to make it so they're not happening at the same time. When we're on tour that's what I'm doing and when we're home, that's when I do the acting. I'm gonna go back on this show I was on last year [name?] and I just did a movie in New Orleans last week and I'm writing songs for this movie that will come out next year.

Which movie are you working on? Is that the film Never with Zelda Williams, Robin Williams' daughter?

Yeah so I'm just finishing that up right now.

How has that project challenged you?

 In that one, it's about a singer-songwriter so I'm writing the songs that the girl is going to sing in the movie. So I kind of got to get in her head and figure out what kind of lyrics she would write at that point in her life based on what was going in the script.

Do you have an influences as far as accordion players go?

 I don't really listen to a lot of accordion players because I definitely don't play it like a lot of traditional accordion players play it. I use it more as an organ. So I don't know that even if I didn't play it like a traditional accordion player, I don't know how much it would fit into what we're doing. I listen to a lot of synth bands and that's help me test the limits of what I can get out of this thing. At first I used a lot of different sound effect pedals on stage and then I stopped because it was creating feedback issues on stage with an acoustic accordion. But I just got an electric accordion so I've slowly started to use them again. But it's kind of a catch 22 because the electric accordion definitely doesn't sound as comforting as the acoustic accordion.

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