Originally begun as a side project, The Avett Brothers (Seth and Scott Avett, along with bassist Bob Crawford) have, in just a few years, gone from playing to crowds of -- well, let's just say the term "crowds" is stretching it -- to selling out venues like the Neighborhood Theatre on a regular basis. A road trip once meant driving from their home in Concord to Charlotte; now it means playing various spots east of the Mississippi River, including NYC's Bowery Ballroom.
Having recorded one self-titled EP and four full-length records (Country Was, A Carolina Jubilee, Mignonette and forthcoming Four Thieves Gone: The Robbinsville Sessions), as well as a number of solo projects and live concert recordings, the Avetts have gone from being a rock band (Nemo) to being a band that really rocks. Who knew that would mean getting rid of all their amps?
On the eve of their New Year's Eve appearance at the Neighborhood Theatre, we sat down with guitarist Seth Avett to discuss where the band's been, where it's going and just what the hell "Four Thieves Gone" means anyway.
Creative Loafing: I notice the new album's artwork was once again created and compiled by you and your brother. Is this something you insist on at this point in your career?
Seth Avett: The artwork for everything we do is very important to us. We feel that in order to visually complement the songs we are presenting, it's best for us to be completely involved in the work of doing so. Without building the album with our hands at every step, we run the risk of losing touch with the end we are attempting to come to. Also, Scott and I both went to school for the study of visual art -- Scott for painting, me for traditional printmaking -- so it is in our education and best interests to head up this part of the process.
CL: What led you to record the album in Robbinsville, NC?
SA: Robbinsville was attractive for a few reasons. The area is calming ... no traffic, no shopping malls, no civilization-based distractions. Also, the living room section could easily be transformed into a makeshift recording studio. It has a high, slanted ceiling and solid acoustic resonance. Plus, we were away from home, so no one could just run out to do errands or have somewhere to go to hang out or socialize. We went there to work on these new songs, and that house and its surroundings helped a good bit in making that possible.
CL: Were there any problems with cabin fever? Recording sessions can be notoriously tough on a band, even in a local environment ...
SA: There was certainly some cabin fever involved, and we had to take breaks from time to time just to escape each other's company for a little while. These types of situations are not altogether easy to make happen without a few communication breakdowns, but overall, I believe we did very well -- we got 31 songs recorded in 11 days. We were definitely ready to do it, ready to record, on fire to play these songs, to get them on tape.
CL: What's the genesis of the title of the new record?
SA: The title Four Thieves Gone has a few meanings. Initially, it is lifted from a lyric in the song of the same name. In that context, it refers to us personally -- [it's] a children's-rhyme-type song that describes the fate of four songwriters in the grips of the guilt caused by stealing a song. In a more concrete setting, it describes the touring aspect of this band's existence: The four being me, Scott, Bob and Dane (our keeper and road manager), thieving that wonderful feeling from the night and the stage and being gone before we even knew what hit us, off to the next glorious heist.
CL: Have you already started thinking about the next record, or is it too soon for that?
SA: We have plans for the next five records.
CL: How has the band changed with the rise in popularity and the resultant touring schedule, if at all? How has the music changed?
SA: All the touring and travel has clearly had an effect on our lives, how we live them and what goes on for us on a day-to-day basis. This being said, we could not deny its influence on our writing. The most obvious cause for this, of course, is that Scott and I try to write about the things we know about, or are trying to know about ... we write about our own experience and the lives that we live and the life that we see around us. The more you live, the more you see, perhaps the more you'll have to say. In any case, we all change as we grow older, and the touring is part of our band growing.
The Avett Brothers play the Neighborhood Theatre on New Year's Eve, Saturday, Dec. 31, with Truck Stop Preachers opening. The show is sold out, but you might get a season miracle.