Sure, traditionally, some blood relatives, even playing music, don’t endure, due to petty bickering—The Black Crowes—and fiery breakups—Oasis. By and large, though, there’s an unmistakable harmony that can be achieved when brothers join musically. Perhaps it’s derived from the adolescent years of playing together (and vying for attention from cute neighbors).
Add The Avett Brothers to the list of brother bands that work. Somehow they’ve managed to avoid the tired brother-band cliches while reaching semi-stardom with their major label debut, I and Love and You.
The Concord, N.C., country-punk/folk-rock trio is comprised of Avett siblings Scott (banjo) and Seth (guitar), along with nonbrother bassist Bob Crawford. Crawford doesn’t object to being adopted into the clan to join the band, though.
“It’s glorious,” says Crawford, who’s been holding down the Avetts’ one-man rhythm section for nearly a decade. “The brother relationship is so fair. Scott and Seth are so good to each other—there’s no jealousy or rivalry, no tension. Which creates the same vibe for me and everyone around them ... I don’t feel alienated at all. It’s not too unlike getting married. If everyone is well-intentioned, it can make for some nice chemistry.”
Crawford says he’s only seen the Avetts in minor disputes a handful of times. He attributes the Avetts’ smooth relationship to good parenting: “They instilled the feeling that in this world there are going to be people that don’t have your best interest at heart, and they needed to be each others’ best friend, care for each other, and they’ll be stronger for it. They bring that to what we do.”
Success has come slowly, and after five full-length albums and two EPs, their 2009 Columbia release hit No. 16 on Billboard’s album-sales chart. I and Love and You’s 13 tracks diverge from the gritty country-punk riffs and shouted vocals of their older material, instead ambling along for a softer, more refined listen. “The lyrics are getting better, deeper and more well-crafted,” Crawford says.
“The Perfect Space” and “Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise” are prime examples, while “I and Love and You,” “Kick Drum Heart” and “Slight Figure of Speech” have a tuneful, ready-for-radio playability.
However, with success comes disappointment, and some long-term die-hard fans of the raw, early Avetts think the band has “sold out.” Crawford disagrees. “I think of it as the next evolutionary, maturing step that we have taken. Then, the next step will be the next step,” he says.
Their newfound musical sensibilities paired nicely with producer/Zen master Rick Rubin, a veteran of projects with the Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Johnny Cash. “He was mostly a silent partner, there to preach patience and to help us realize if there’s an idea, it’s worth trying,” says Crawford. Rubin encouraged taking as much time as they needed for each song, letting each develop thoroughly.
With that mentality, Crawford says, each song dictated its own instrumentation and recording method, thus becoming more nuanced than on previous albums. “We were never much for being musicians, [but] we are getting good at what we do. With more time in the studio, you learn the possibilities of the studio. You treat that differently than you would live,” Crawford says.
Crawford’s come a long way since majoring in jazz guitar and auditioning for the band. Those fledgling days were filled with street-corner folk revivals and a spontaneity Crawford misses. And now they’re opening for the epic jam-band rockers Gov’t Mule. “To be a small part of a big rock show, to touch its cloak, it’s a dream come true,” Crawford says. “When you’re up there playing these sort of shows, you hold on to them. Everything is fleeting. It’s an honor.”
w/ Gov’t Mule
2250 Deer Valley Drive South, Park City
Friday, Sept. 3
Old Crow Medicine Show
Be Set Free
Tent Revival Family