Friday, June 20, 2008

Catching Up With... The Avett Brothers

This, my friends, is the best assignment I've ever had.

As you all well know, The Avett Brothers are one of my very favorite bands, live, recorded and otherwise (what's "otherwise"??). When I was told there was an interview opportunity with Scott, all the questions swirling around in my head, that I'd been formulating for months like I do with any truly fascinating band, immediately lined up, numbered, ordered and regimented. They stood at the ready, and a week later, by phone, I was allowed to ask them. Though over the past year I've had the chance to talk to a couple of other people who probably enjoy equal levels of fame and success, of any of them The Avett Brothers' music affects me by far the most personally. I was, therefore, seriously nervous upon dialing the phone number I was given at the appointed time. Scott was sincere and disarming, though, and did his best to answer questions I can only assume he's been asked before. I did my best to make it interesting, to delve deeper than the surface logistical and "personality-revealing" questions ("What's your favorite TV show?", etc). He indicated that my queries about the songwriting process and honesty in music were the type he prefers to answer, that a lot of interviewers never get there. Which made me feel good, even if it's not totally the case. I wanted so badly to know about the autobiographical nature of their songs, about the contradictory truths they espouse with such passion, because of the people I've encountered in my own life that seem to behave the same way.

After some serious editing, we're left with this piece, which arrived on the Paste site today. I hope you enjoy!

Catching Up With... The Avett Brothers

They’re traveling troubadours of the inner workings of the heart and head, these men in their stage suits wielding banjos with the force of weapons. They communicate all the gray areas and intricacies thereof through simple sonic textures; bluegrass strings join keys, kick drums, sweet crooning and guttural screams. Multi-instrumentalists Seth and Scott Avett, bassist Bob Crawford and cellist Joe Kwon traverse the country, ministering to ever-growing audiences from their book of unabashed balladry, hollerin’ all the way. They are rough around the edges of a center so baldly honest that even their ample facial hair begins to seem unlikely.

If theirs is a formula not many have used before, The Avett Brothers are testing it well now, gradually accumulating legions of loyal fans and releasing five full-length studio records in as many years. As the band prepared to depart Ann Arbor, Mich. for Grand Rapids in May, Paste caught up with Scott to talk about creative consistency, time spent on the road and achieving the unexpected. They’re in the midst of yet another of their incessant tours, hopping from venue to venue, from one frantic crowd to the next.

This particular journey leads the group to a discographical destination as well as a physical one. On July 22, the Avetts will release The Second Gleam via longtime label Ramseur Records. It’s the aptly-named sequel to their only previous EP, 2006’s The Gleam, and it’s a pit stop on the road to their next full-length record, which they’ve slated to record later this year with a release in 2009.

Paste: The Second Gleam comes out in July. Can you tell me a little bit about the writing and recording process of it and what your listeners can expect?
Scott Avett: Well, the basis of the thing is in the beginning. The first Gleam that we made kind of sprung from the recording of “Famous Flower of Manhattan” from Four Thieves [Gone], where we were going to make the recording and we knew it had to be a one-take sort of thing. We knew it had to be Seth and I just sitting down, two chairs, two guitars, two microphones, and it had to be done all at once. We would just go in and every day we would just try it once or twice, or at least until we got warm, which might take two or three times. And if it didn’t happen, you’d say “Okay, let’s just try again tomorrow. It’s just got to be right.” And we did that for six or seven days until we got it, and we really enjoyed the process of the quiet and calm feeling of it. So we said, you pick three songs, I’ll pick three that I’ve been writing on my own, and let’s just make a record and we’ll base it on this theme of this song that was called “Sanguine.” It was speaking of “the gleam,” meaning the outer skirts of light of what we do as a primary operation. Not the leftovers, but the outer skirts of the light of it. So it had a good theme to it and it felt good to record. So we did the first one. And on the second one, we started recording it last April and sat on it, and thought it over and added songs, and then after we just completed a number of demos, into the 30 realm, we added two or three more songs to it, edited down some and added newer songs. It sticks somewhat to the theme and to the order of quietness and calmness and just Seth and I basically partnering in the recording and the writing. The songs aren’t quite as individually written as the first one was. There’s input from each other more so on this one than there was on the first. [Read more...]

[MP3] The Avett Brothers - "Paranoia In B-flat Major"


Devin D. said...

It IS quite the phenomenon, the only thing I worry about is the limited nature of the music.

Great article though, and thanks for checking out mine!

Jack said...

Your blog never ceases to amaze. Missed you at the Paste booth at Bonnaroo. I think I just badgered Steve about your whereabouts the entire time.

Amy said...