As TV viewers gear up for yet another season of American Idol hopefuls—those karaoke-schooled crooners who somehow believe their big break lies in a 20-second audition in front of dream-crusher Simon Cowell—one made-from-scratch band braces for its big break as well. Only for North Carolina’s The Avett Brothers, success has little to do with the kind of fans who text their votes, and everything to do with the kind of fans who vote with their feet. Their dancing feet.
“Putting the time in is a real aspect of it,” bassist Bob Crawford tells Xpress. (While he’s not an Avett by blood, Crawford has been an integral part of the group since 2002 and is sharing interviewing duties with guitarist Seth Avett while banjo and harmonica player Scott Avett is busy with a newborn baby.) “You can sit at home and no matter how talented you are, rarely will that equal success across a wide part of the country.”
So the Avett Brothers—an acoustic band born from rock roots—pounds the pavement to the tune of nearly 200 shows each year, bringing its high-energy hard-core folk to an ever-increasing fan base. This year, that tireless tour schedule has paid off. Their three Asheville dates sold out in a virtual heartbeat.
Crawford feels the shift. Though he’s hard pressed to name that exact set of ingredients that spells success for the Avetts, he does point out, “We’ve seen other bands … we don’t sound alike but we feel akin to them. The road is populated with these bands.”
Crawford also isn’t about to dole out genre titles to this rising music movement. “I don’t think it’s for us to know,” he says. History, he says, will reveal the Avetts’ impact. Still, he adds: “I think it’s our time. We feel like we’re a part of something.”
Though “history” sounds loftily distant, the Avett Brothers’ future is fast arriving. “We played our last official show of the year’s tour,” Crawford says of the group’s Nov. 23 date in Holt, Mich. “We know when we get back to it in April or May it will be a whole different ballgame. I’ve never been able to imagine what the future is going to bring or what the future will feel like; we know something’s going to change.”
One change of which they are certain is manifest in the Avett Brother’s yet-to-be-titled, soon-to-be-released album, produced by Rick Rubin. Yes, the same Rubin who masterminded the 1986 Aerosmith/Run-D.M.C. collaboration “Walk This Way.” The same Rubin whose 2008 credits include Weezer’s self-titled CD, Neil Diamond’s Home Before Dark, Jakob Dylan’s Seeing Things, Metallica’s Death Magnetic and forthcoming releases by Slayer and ZZ Top.
If Metallica’s record coach seems an odd choice for a heart-on-sleeve folk-core band armed with lumberjack beards and old-time instruments, Crawford offers this: “I think The Avett Brothers is always different. I don’t think we’ve ever arrived anywhere.”
And of Rubin: “He’s got his finger on the pulse. He really loves music and is always out there, seeing what’s going on and who’s making a stir.”
Rubin approached The Avett Brothers about making an album, and after eight months of ironing out the details, they recorded the project in just 25 days. A week of that was spent at Asheville’s Echo Mountain Studios, the site of the band’s 2007 release, Emotionalism. Danny Kadar and Bill Reynolds, who worked on Emotionalism, both dropped in during the making of the new CD.
“It’s a great studio that’s relatively close to us,” Crawford says of Echo Mountain. “We think it’s capable of doing a lot of things.” While Seth and Scott both call the Piedmont home, Crawford actually lived in Asheville between 2003 and 2005 and now hangs his hat in the eastern part of the state.
“North Carolina is home,” says the New Jersey-born bassist. Even increased touring won’t change that. “Nothing beats North Carolina. I don’t plan on leaving unless I get kicked out.”
Those roots contributed greatly to the band’s decision to hold a special three-night run in Asheville. Crawford says The Avett Brothers picked The Orange Peel “firstly because they would have us” and though the group expected a good turnout, the lightning-fast sellout came as a sweet surprise. In kind, they have a few surprises up their own collective sleeve.
“We’ve never done [three shows in the same place],” Crawford reveals. “We’ll be more conscious of song selections. We’ll do some fun stuff we’ve been messing around with, like covers.”
who: The Avett Brothers
what: Acoustic folk-pop; three-night sold-out run
where: The Orange Peel
when: Friday, Dec. 26-Sunday, Dec. 28. 9 p.m. (All ticket are sold out at press time. www.theorangepeel.net or 225-5851.)