In 2001, banjoist Scott Avett and guitarist Seth Avett formed The Avett Brothers with standup bass player Bob Crawford. That said, the new songs paint a near perfect picture of the Avett Brothers musical approach. It’s the spirit of brotherly love that has helped unite the Avetts as bandmates. We operate like a family; we really do,” says Scott.
It took a couple of songs for the sound to level out and the vocals to come to the front and the set picks something from ten of their albums with heavy emphasis on the new album and I and love and you” and Emotionalism”.
The Avett Brothers’ Instagram announcement reveals that the songs on Closer Than Together will braid personal narrative and universal experience. While they didn’t intend to create a project full of political commentary, the Avett Brothers say, the album does deal with the personal experience of processing turbulent times.
The Avett Brothers formed in 2000 and have since become well-known for their acoustic, deeply personal songs such as I and Love and You.” In Closer Than Together,” the Avett Brothers begin a partial about-face away from their style of their past albums. Although they claim that the album is not a sociopolitical work , Closer Than Together” takes some long, hard looks in that direction. However, the Avett Brothers appear unmotivated to commit to a solely political album, much to their detriment. By chasing two rabbits at once, the Avett Brothers have failed to achieve much of anything.
Seth reflected on some of The Avett Brothers ‘ most beloved songs, plus new cuts from Closer Than Together, and the events, feelings, places and people that inspired them. Our conversation has been edited for length.
Going through tough times—if that means a breakup, if that means a loss of some sort, perhaps the sickness or the death of someone who you love, a family member—there are all these tragedies that we live.
Scott Avett: I think important to this conversation, is that we don’t get together (in advance) and talk about what we’re gonna write about…ever (laughs). We write about things instinctually, and instantly. And we realize what an album is, after the collection has been realized. In hindsight, we can say, Okay wait, these songs have some common themes and common threads.” And in hindsight looking at it, we realized it has those tones, over and under. I think it’s easy to look around, and see that we’re all affected by something in time and history in this country that we have a personal relationship with, whether it be ultra-active or not. Seth and I certainly have personal relationships with a lot of the conventional, mainstream topics, as well as intimate topics and personal topics that are very specific to us as well.
Brothers Scott (banjo, vocals) and Seth (guitar, vocals) from Concord, North Carolina, debuted their first album Country Was in 2002 with bassist Bob Crawford and guitarist John Twomey. Since then, the band has released seven other full-length albums, four EPs and three live albums. The band added cellist Joe Kwon for 2007’s Emotionalism.
It was with Rubin that the band really broke through into the mainstream, with their sixth effort, I Love You and Love You” reaching number 16 in the US charts. The album was well received by critics, who appreciated their more polished sound, and after touring for a few years the band moved on to capitalise on their newfound fame, releasing the even more successful The Carpenter” and Magpie and the Dandelion” in 2012 and 2013.
After almost 20 years of making records, playing shows and blending his voice with his brother Scott’s to produce high harmonies sweet as honeysuckle, Seth Avett reckons he’s finally figured it out.
2018 brought the HBO premiere of May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers,” a documentary co-directed by Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio. Days after this debut, True Sadness launched to #1 on the Rock Albums chart and #3 on the iTunes Album chart. In October of ‘18, The Avett Brothers debuted a new song, Roses and Sacrifice,” live on Late Night with Seth Meyers and then released the track officially in November ‘18. Also, in November of ‘18, the band headlined the Concert for Hurricane Florence Relief in Greenville, NC, raising $325,000 to help those affected by Hurricane Florence. The Avett Brothers continue to be revered as one of the top folk-rock acts in the country, selling out arenas and amphitheaters coast to coast.
The Avett Brothers are an American folk rock band. They sit down with the Armchair Expert to discuss the experience of being in a family band, the balance between touring and home life and the connection between artist and audience. The two talk about how they came to love music and Dax describes the magic of an Avett Brothers’ concert. They discuss the male right of passage, their relationship to religion and the feeling of universal unity.
When the Avett Brothers went into the studio in early 2011 to begin recording their sprawling song cycle of the following year,The Carpenter, they actually brought in enough material for two albums. It was a heady, exciting session, ideas bouncing everywhere, new experiments attempted, used, discarded. But not everything fit neatly into The Carpenter’s grand narrative about love and life, aging and mortality. So the Brothers put the extra songs on a shelf and hit the road to perform for their fans.
Avett: I listen to Louis Armstrong almost every day. There’s a compilation called Louis Armstrong Sings Back Through The Years and it’s a two compact disc sort of thing. It is just unbelievable, the band throughout is incredible. And like Louis Armstrong, I think a lot of people will look at him and put him in a box thinking since he’s of a certain time he didn’t bring a certain kind of soul or whatever that came about later. But I’m here to say that’s absolutely not true. If you listen to his playing and singing it’s gold all day long. Nothing can ever be taken away from it. And god is in it, god is in his playing. So I listen to him a lot. I listen to Mozart until basically it hurts my brain, but to inspire and to keep the horizon expanding.
For Scott, creating art like this is an act that exists across a continuum. The music can be fun, and it can be painfully serious. Some fans may not know he’s also a painter on the side – he’s been responsible for the creation of a few of the Avett Brothers’ album covers (including this newest one) and is also set to see some of his paintings exhibited for the first time this fall in a solo show at the North Carolina Museum of Art (I was in art school and would have continued on that path if we hadn’t gotten so busy as musicians and songwriters”).
I love everything about the Avett Brothers and this concert! First time at the Barclays center and was disappointed that there were no video screens. The Avett Brothers will be working some new songs into their set.
On a Monday afternoon, the band relaxes backstage at The Tonight Show. Dexter actress Jennifer Carpenter arrives in a brown mesh top and black heels, sharing a long embrace with Seth before they disappear down a hallway. In June, the Avetts were propelled into the world of TMZ and Perez Hilton when Seth announced he was separating from his wife, Susan. Gossip sites claimed that he’d been dating Carpenter since 2011. Fans viciously lashed out at the band (He left the family values of NC for the money and fame of L.A.,” wrote one commenter), perhaps due to the wholesomeness of some of their songs – their fan-favorite ballad January Wedding” is an ode to Seth’s former marriage.
Similarly, the song New Woman’s World” swings and misses at playing politics. The Avett Brothers celebrate the transfer of power from the hands of men to women, who are needed to clean up the mess made by men. However, the entire idea seems a bit premature, especially given that only 23.7% of Congress is composed of women. Furthermore, certain lines, such as, We couldn’t seem to reach the grace that’s born in every girl,” seem torn out of a Civil War-era handbook on morality. While the song certainly was born in good intention, it handles its subject matter with a heavy-handed clumsiness.
That has been the case since Scott and Seth began playing acoustic shows at night while working in a band called Nemo. When Nemo broke up in 2001, bassist Bob Crawford joined the duo and the Avett Brothers was born.
This has been a damn good year for traditionally American music, from Bruce Springsteen’s brilliant Western Stars and Gary Clark Jr’s stunning This Land to Joy Williams’ beautiful Front Porch, albums steeped in blues and folk have stood out for most of 2019.
That’s one of two songs that we actually recorded at my home in North Carolina , which I’m super excited about ‘cause that’s never happened. We always make the demos either at my house or wherever, work somewhere close by, and then we’d go record them again. But those two, the ones we made at my home, are the ones on the record, so I’m super excited about that. But Tell The Truth” is largely coming from Scott’s perspective. It’s one of these songs where one phrase is like the thesis statement. I think it’s a powerful concept that if you will just tell the truth to yourself, the rest will fall in place. And then aesthetically, we love the band Dr. Dog. While we were making it, Scott and I were talking about how great all their vocals are. We listened to Dr. Dog, listening to all these layers—they’re just so awesome. Like, We need to try to make layers like Dr. Dog’s.” That’s kinda why the song sounds like it does.
Avett: Absolutely. Both New Woman’s World,” Bang Bang,” and all of the songs on the record are really important to us…they’re our personal relationships with things. And we were raised with nothing but admiration and respect towards any of the women in our lives—moms, sisters, wives, girlfriends—that it was a human respect that was mutual. That’s important to us.
That said, the new songs paint a near perfect picture of the Avett Brothers musical approach. It’s the spirit of brotherly love that has helped unite the Avetts as bandmates. We operate like a family; we really do,” says Scott.