Smile Politely

Avett Brothers To Brighten Your Sunday at Canopy Club

It takes a lot of effort to be cool all the time, or so I’m told. Keeping up with trends, making sure you name-check the right bands, looking scruffy but not too scruffy, it’s almost a full-time job in itself. But authenticity can be effortless, too. It’s easy to forget that it’s possible for bands like the Avett Brothers to save all the time and trouble associated with establishing credibility and reallocate it toward crafting songs. They’ve come a long way from their Concord, N.C., roots, building a cult national following around their unique blend of bluegrass vocal harmonies and punk ebullience.

The Avett Brothers will be at the Canopy Club on Sunday night. Justin Gordon opens the 9 p.m. show, and tickets are $16. Stick around after the jump and you’ll hear from Scott Avett, singer and guitarist for the Avett Brothers.

I reached Scott Avett while he was riding on a tour bus from Seattle, Wash., to Jacksonville, Ore., and he was in a mood to talk about the recording process for the band’s forthcoming full-length album, their first on a major label (Columbia) and produced by Rick Rubin, known for his work with Run-DMC, Johnny Cash, and many other musical heavyweights. Avett said of working with Rubin, “First and foremost, it was an education, which was our goal in the long term. I had a hunch we’d learn a lot from him as a producer. Each party would do what they do, and become friends. When you make a friend in that process, it trumps whether you make a quality album, because the quality of the experience overall will make up for it.”

The Avett Brothers had worked with the late producer Joel Dorn on their previous album, The Second Gleam EP, which was released in late July. Dorn was best known for producing Roberta Flack’s classic single, “Killing Me Softly,” and he had a different style. “He was very generous, put us through the rounds and put us to work,” Avett said. “We hadn’t realized that to get the song, really want to get it, sometimes you have to record it 20-30 times. That’s an exaggeration, but after playing a song 10 or 15 times intensely, it can drive you crazy.”

Rubin, on the other hand, took a more naturalistic approach to producing. “Rick showed us that you can get it on the first time, and you sometimes do. The work is sometimes not the point, but being there to capture it when it happens. You don’t know until you try, don’t know if something sounds bad until you listen. He was always having us try this and this, you can’t prove that something’s the best way until you try others.”

The band is well on their way to completing the as-yet-unnamed album. “We’re just over half done with the new album,” Avett commented. “Most of the songs have been recorded, we’re doing overdubbing in October and putting in layers we typically add.”

While recording in the studio has occupied a lot of the band’s time of late, they’ve also played several outdoor festivals over the summer. “Playing at festivals is kind of a release,” Avett noted. “You can throw yourself vocally and emotionally further than you can in a club, where it bounces around more and can be more claustrophobic. I like both, though.”

They’ve been through Urbana several times in the past, and Avett is familiar with the venue. He said, “We’re looking forward to playing there again. It’s a good working room, it’s very formable, somewhere you can go in and just lay it down.”

One thing that’s striking about Avett is his lack of vanity. When asked to name some of the artists that influenced him as a young kid, he didn’t hesitate. “Early, before I could tell I was being influenced, I was influenced by Hall and Oates, Lionel Richie, Van Halen. As a kid, I had older cousins that would play stuff. Michael Jackson was huge. I’d put on one glove, listen to ‘Billie Jean’ and dance around.”

Too bad he wasn’t in town for Who’s Bad last night.

Related Articles