Where else would they play? The Avett Brothers, after enjoying plenty of success this year, will return to Charlotte on New Year's Eve for a sold-out show at the Belk Theatre. They've come a long way since the days of Nemo (their first band). They won two Americana Music Awards and performed on Late Night with Conan O'Brien earlier this year and are consistently selling out venues around the country. I recently spoke with Scott Avett by phone from a recording studio in Winston-Salem where he was busy working on demos for their next album.
You're in Winston now?
"Yeah, we're trying to get demos for what's to come. Doug Williams over at this electromagnetic radio recorders -- we've been doing stuff with him since we were in Nemo. It's a real comfortable, safe place for us to lay down a lot of ideas."
So this is just getting stuff down for the next album?
"It is. Since we've been on the road so much. We used to just all meet whenever, wherever we could and we would write and we would push songs and that just doesn't happen when you're on the road. All of your playing time is on stage. We realized, to make up for it, we would just keep logging all the ideas. We've got a lot of ideas, but they needed to be followed through with, so that's what we're doing here."
Can you talk any about what you're thinking of for the next album, or are you still seeing what ideas you come up with?
"You mean as far as songs and whatnot?"
Yeah, I guess the whole feeling of it ...
"Sure, sure. Well, we're big ... we try to pick up what we can -- correct what we did wrong. Every time you look back on a record, you always think there are things you can do better. What we've learned so far is that you can't pretend and put out songs that aren't appropriate to the time and to your changing, which you always are. An example would be where somebody would say -- and this is a big mistake that I think a lot of artists will do -- if the people that are marketing the work say, 'This is the kind of song that you guys do well and a song people like.' If you're recording for those reasons, you're messin' up. So, we're big on 'Look, whatever's happenin' naturally, let it happen. If it's not as fast and as crazy as people want it to be, too bad.' It's gotta be what's natural. That's the only thing that will be honest -- the honesty will shine through in it. We're on our 17th completed song right now that will go toward this album, and I look at 'em -- there are a couple up-tempo tunes, but we've just changed so much. They're definitely unlike the things we've done before. We're not concerned with having certain types of instruments. It's whatever the song calls for. We've been using a lot of piano and we've been using a lot of whole drum kit. It's just been setting up and crafting the songs, but we're just getting some focus time in the studio and as soon as they're crafted, they're recorded and then they kind of become something different than they would if you played them live a lot. So, to answer your question, we're just trying to let happen naturally what will happen and, uh, the idea is to figure out how and where and what the record is going to be released as. Released music now has changed quite a bit, so we're flowing with that."
You guys always have a raw quality on your albums -- is it a conscious effort to do that?
"It wasn't. Growing into this, the rawness is because we couldn't afford or we didn't know any different. That's just an honesty about that. If we could have gone into a really great studio right when we started and had people that really knew what they were doing, instead of us trying to produce ourselves all the time... (laughs) People appreciate that and they like that because they get to see it develop and it is a beautiful thing. I watch other artists develop and learn as they go and that's just an awesome thing, but at the same time, they change and improve whether you like it or not. I think a big thing, Jeff, is people aren't very good at deciphering between good and bad in what they like and what they dislike. You and I, most of the time people who are involved in any kind of literature, visual arts or music -- if you are involved a lot and you are educated in it -- I mean if you are educated by experiencing it a lot, I don't mean formal necessarily -- just because I don't like it, doesn't mean it's not quality. I can still stomach it. If it's just not to my taste, but it's still great. A lot of people they just don't discern the two and think if they don't like it, it must be bad. That's something that we're changing. Some people just kind of lose touch. The whole sell-out thing or the whole movement of they changed and did this to the band or that to the band. It's a good thing, whether you like it or not."