Country bluegrass trio The Avett Brothers talk about their feelings
The Avett Brothers manage to express emotions through their music without being, well … emo.
The group does concentrate on the strings, with Scott and Seth Avett on banjo and guitar respectively, and Bob Crawford handling upright bass duties. But, the members of the North Carolina trio aren’t a bunch of softies. They balance melancholy bluegrass and country ballads with punk-rock attitude, while venturing into other American musical styles of yore—including ragtime, honky tonk, rock ‘n’ roll and even orchestral ballads.
The Avett Brothers are notorious for busting strings during live performances as they strum out intricate melodies with a vengeance. Piano is sparsely sprinkled into the mix; and the Avetts’ signature sound would not be complete without shameless Beatles-style harmonies at every turn.
And, unlike so many other bands, the Avett Brothers actually have a warm genuineness in their lyrics.
In the song “Paranoia in B Major” the brothers sing: “I keep having this dream; I’m at a party / There’s people throwing drinks and screaming telling me that I don’t belong / Lately life’s been the same I find this comfortable place / With all my friends and then my friends start telling me that I’ve always been wrong / And I’m so tired of being wrong.”
The honesty also extends to relationships. Odes to pretty girls are a recurrent theme with The Avett Brothers, at the rate of about two per album, with song titles like “Pretty Girl From San Diego,” “Pretty Girl at the Airport,” “Letter to a Pretty Girl"—you get the picture.
The title of the band’s latest record, Emotionalism, says it all. The album is crawling with songs about love and loss at the expense of both sexes. “I think infidelity and lack of commitment are celebrated in society,” Crawford said. “But it’s OK to have commitment; it’s OK to be true.”
Crawford admits the band members are just as flawed as any human being. He says their moral stands reflect goals rather than reality.
“We don’t do it because we are that,” he said. “We do it because we want to be that.”
Although the trio seems to constantly be on tour or writing new songs, there is life outside of being an Avett Brother—even for the Avett brothers. All three members are involved in different projects that fall in line with The Avetts’ proverbial honesty, while exploring different styles and mediums.
Brothers Seth and Scott make up half of Oh What a Nightmare, which has more of a raw punk rock vibe similar to their previous band Nemo (from which they split in 2001). Crawford has a side-project of his own called New Jersey Transient, which put out a self-titled album in 2006.
“I feel good about collaborations,” Crawford said. “Like with The Avett Brothers, the more people you have adds that much more texture.
Scott also paints and dabbles in sculpture and printmaking, and had an exhibit at the Envoy Gallery in New York earlier this year. And Seth goes it alone with his solo venture, Darling—a project Crawford says he has a lot of respect for.
“Seth’s solo albums are amazing,” Crawford said. “He really does everything all by himself. They’re really a tribute to what an artist can create on their own.”
Right now it’s all about The Avett Brothers. Since the release of Emotionalism, the band has been hard at work on 40 new songs that the members hope to record within the next couple of months. Crawford said for the new album they’ll experiment with different sounds and textures while sticking to the band’s signature folksy lyrical style.
“I think it’s a matter of being true to yourself,” he said. “You may not be happy but you’ll always be honest.”