Avett Brothers play Ann Arbor March 9Written by Chris Schwarzkopf | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Folk, bluegrass, rock, pop, punk. The Avett Brothers’ music is all these things, and none of these things. And that works just fine for them.
“The one question we hear, more than any other is, ‘how would you describe yourselves?’” said Bob Crawford, the band’s bassist, on the phone from a tour bus on its way to Minneapolis.
“What style of music do you play?” he said. “I don’t know if we have the answer.”
A desire to perform the roots music to which their fathers listened brought Crawford into contact with siblings Scott and Seth Avett in Charlotte, NC in 2001 through a mutual friend from college. Crawford was also impressed by the original music the brothers had already written.
The Brothers will play the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor on March 9. Before the show, the band will play an acoustic set at the Borders on Liberty Ave.
Soon after, a month-long, slap-dash tour of 21 East Coast cities, cobbled together by Crawford on the Internet, helped the new band build a fan base outside of Charlotte and its neighboring communities. The trio slept outside or in their vehicle when they couldn’t find suitable accommodations.
A full-length album, “Country Was,” followed in 2002. Seth Avett and Crawford booked shows and both brothers designed logos and album artwork.
The band’s next album, “Mignonette,” was released in 2004, followed by “Four Thieves Gone” in 2006 and “Emotionalism” in 2007.
By the end of 2007, the band had amassed a sizable amount of material it hoped to turn into a new album. Enter producer Rick Rubin, well-known for his work with such diverse talents as Johnny Cash, the Beastie Boys and Tom Petty, who signed the band to his label, American Recordings, in 2008.
The band entered the studio at the Document Room in Malibu, CA with more than 30 songs in various stages of completion, some already field-tested live at different venues. Under Rubin’s supervision, that number was whittled down to 17. 13 final tracks made the album.
The band was left with more than 20 unpublished songs for possible future projects.
“There’s no shortage of material,” Crawford said. “It’s a good problem to have.”
Released in September 2009, “I and Love and You” is the Avett Brothers’ first album on a major recording label.
The new music has been described as as a departure for the band.
Crawford said he doesn’t think this is the case.
“I understand how people could see it that way, but for us, on the ground playing shows, it all seems natural.”
Crawford said, in terms of style, there isn’t a big difference between “I and Love and You” and any of the albums that came before it. The major difference was in the amount of input from other sources, something the band had never seen a use for in the past.
“There was a time when we thought we didn’t need anyone else,” he said. “Then you get older and you realize that you don’t know everything.”
A larger production budget was another factor that allowed the band to take its time and work on improving the sound with the crew at the Document Room.
“Scott, Seth and I are not producers,” Crawford said. “We are not engineers. We’ve learned a lot about microphone selection and other ways to get a better sound, but we had a lot of help with that. None of us are really adept at that.”
The recording process, not counting post-production, took about 60 days. Most of the work was done at the Document Room, but some additional recording was done at Echo Mountain studio in Asheville, NC where the band had worked on some of its other albums.
The band still tries to avoid associating itself with any one description of its music.
“It’s not our job to define something,” Crawford said. “We’re doing what we want to do and others take it apart and dissect it.”
Crawford said he feels the band is part of a particular musical generation that includes other current acts such as Langhorne Slim, The Low Anthem and Jessica Lea Mayfield.
“It’s like classic rock,” he said. “Yes and The Who and Pink Floyd all play different music, but all fall under that same heading. Bands like ours have their own sound, yet something ties them all together. I think it’s a generational thing.”