As the Avett Brothers release their 10th studio album, Closer Than Together,” on Friday, they’ve come a long way from the band that dropped its debut LP, Country Was,” in 2002. Three of the songs on “Closer Than Together” could easily be seen as editorials on America: “Bang Bang” pushes back against the normalization of excessive violence in American culture; “New Woman’s World” imagines women recovering a planet wrecked by men; “We Americans” confronts the nation’s ugliest moments in history through song-as-essay.
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.
Bon Iver’s appearance on ‘CBS This Morning’ featured an interview with the band as well as video of songs off their 2019 album ‘i,i’ and more from their recent show at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
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The groups beginnings can be traced back to the two brothers younger days, when they merged the separate bands they had formed at college and school to perform under the moniker Nemo”. Whilst playing in the rock influenced Nemo and releasing three albums with them, the brothers started a side project focusing on acoustic music, eventually writing their first folk EP, the eponymous Avett Bros.”, in 2000.
Scott was studying radio and art at East Carolina University (he’s owned a gallery in his hometown for a decade) when he bought a banjo. The brothers began performing songs by Old and in the Way and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott at parties – a lot of speed songs, just flying bluegrass songs,” says Scott. A friend introduced them to Bob Crawford, a Deadhead who had spent his twenties drifting through odd jobs. He’d just bought a stand-up bass and, after jamming with the Avetts on Going Down the Road Feeling Bad” in a parking lot, was invited to join the band. The Avett Brothers spent the next few years on the road, crashing everywhere from campgrounds to a drug dealer’s home, playing gigs at Dairy Queens, topless bars and trailer parks. They figured they’d peaked in 2004, when they each pulled in $6,000 for the entire year.
Although siblings Scott (vocals, banjo) and Seth (vocals, guitar) began making music together as children, their group’s genesis began when they were members of Nemo , a rock band that gigged regularly in Greenville, North Carolina. Looking for another outlet for their musical ideas, the Avetts began getting together with like-minded friends (most notably Nemo guitarist John Twomey ) on Tuesdays for acoustic guitar pulls, where they’d share a few drinks and swap songs. As time passed, the weekly get-together (which was called “the Back Door Project” or ” Nemo Downstairs”) became a semi-public event, with the pickers busking for the enjoyment of passers-by, and Seth and Scott decided the new acoustic music they were making was as fun and satisfying as their rock band.
Avett: Perhaps. I think music is a tool like anything else. I think that it can be very useful and we need to listen to and watch things that help us. I’m almost 40 years old, this is a more recent development in my mind, but to reference a song on the record, the “Bang Bang” song, it’s never been more clear to me it’s important to take good things in. There’s a reason Mr. Rogers is worthwhile. There’s a reason that when you watch something that gives you calm and hope and knowledge without playing to the darkness that we all have a sick attraction to, it’s good. I want to make music that helps. I don’t want to just make music that exemplifies my darkness or my sadness or shows that we exist. We got it, we all know that it exists. But I hope that we’re making music and I hope I am able to continue to make music for my whole life that at the bottom line is helpful rather than harmful.
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.
There is a documentary film called May It Last, which delves into the story of both the band and the respective families of the members, specifically the brothers themselves. It incorporates interviews and lots of music to give fans a comprehensive look into this folk rock American band.
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.
Scott, Seth, and Bob in Robbinsville while recording Four Thieves Gone in 2005. Music video by The Avett Brothers performing Bang Bang. © 2019 Republic Records, a division of UMG Recordings, Inc.
The sound of The Avett Brothers incorporates quite a mix of different styles, including indie, bluegrass, folk rock and what is commonly known as Americana. Its songs are sometimes classified as pop, folk, rock or even blues. The band’s music ranges from hauntingly soulful to highly upbeat. Concerts can last for as long as two hours with sometimes more than 20 songs in the setlist. Listeners also describe the lead vocals as incredible, partnered with stunningly loud and heartfelt accompaniment.
The Avett Brothers have a brand-new studio album in the works, and according to a mission statement penned by bandmate Seth Avett, the new project grapples with the group’s personal responses to a turbulent news cycle while avoiding outright social commentary.
The emotional core of True Sadness is undeniably fueled by Seth’s internal upheaval, though, and it’s what brought them back to this not-so-sweet spot where they seem to tap into a melancholy genius nestled between the prolific and the painful. They wouldn’t have gotten there had it not been for this familial tendency to rip shades of their most merciless, humiliating heartbreaks out of the ether of memory for the sake of their songwriting. The ballad has been the cornerstone of the Avett Brothers’ career, but it’s a foundation laid by the hands—and hearts, and answering machine tapes—of both brothers.
Joining the Avett Brothers in Bend this summer is Lake Street Dive. After forming in 2004, while all the band members were studying at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Lake Street Dive assiduously built a following through a series of independent album releases, countless club tours, and a few lucky breaks.
The evening’s set list was excellently paced, a delightful panoply of their catalog that drew heavily from True Sadness, Magpie and the Dandelion, and I and Love and You. Particularly memorable was Laundry Room” from 2009’s I and Love. The song translates well live — beginning as a contemplative ballad and then erupting into a spirited bluegrass coda before returning again to a delicate serenade.
The Avett Brothers shared the first taste of the new project, “High Steppin’,” on June 13. A free-wheeling, feel-good song with grim undertones, the track weighs all of life’s minor gambles – and the consequences they can bring.
Avett: It’s kind of an apocalyptic look, poking fun at the demise of our planet, with it being this man’s world.” James Brown had the song It’s a Man’s World,” and it’s a parody on all that. Just think—if it had been a woman’s world since the beginning of time, would that be better than a man’s world? Maybe we should give it a shot (laughs).
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.
It was just a moment of me being horrified by a movie preview and just being so aware of how casual murder is presented. I’ve enjoyed action movies and all that, but I was exhausted with it and nauseated by it. It just seemed very real to me that there’s a lot of ways to poison yourself. There’s a lot out there in the world that has been filmed that is just poison for the eyes. It’s just no good. At some point I saw the Mr. Rogers documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, and he supported a lot of what that song comments on. It reminded me how right of a sentiment it is. The reality is some people are more susceptible to this nonsense than other people. And we really don’t need video games where people are blowing each other’s heads off. We just don’t need it. It’s garbage. It’s not helpful. So I just had a moment of needing to say that.
The Avett Brothers return to Wolf Trap by popular demand for a multi-night Americana rock retreat filled with echoes of old-timey string bands, singalong folk revivalists, boozy Americana roots rockers and big-box singer – songwriter softies” (Rolling Stone).