Band of Brothers: N.C.’s Avett Brothers poised for a major breakout

The Guide (9/11)

North Carolina's The Avett Brothers

Bob Crawford feels bad for the warring siblings of rock ‘n’ roll. The Gallaghers, Robinsons and Davies of the world that turned Oasis, the Black Crowes and the Kinks into as much a public forum for family drama as a conduit for collaborative music.

The Avett Brothers, the North Carolina trio whose brotherly frontmen are helping elevate the band from small folk-ish mountain music hit to cross-genre popular sensation, have no such troubles.

“They get along amazingly well,” Crawford, the band’s bassist, said in a phone interview.

“I can remember one or two instance in eight years where they would go behind closed doors and work it out. They don’t fight any more than any of us will get into an argument or disagreement. The conflicts we have with each other are always mundane, never serious.”

That dynamic is one of the things that holds the band’s music together and reflects the harmony of eastern North Carolina where the brothers grew up — brothers who, by the way, first launched a neo-punk band before returning to the bluegrass roots of the region.

Now, after more than eight years together, and with five full-length albums and a handful of independent EPs under their banjo straps, the band is perched on the edge of a national explosion with the release of their first major-label album later this month. “I and Love and You” unites the band with legendary producer Rick Rubin, who has smoothed out their sound into an amalgam of catchy styles and smart, energetic piano with eclectic harmonies that could attract a broad swath of new fans.

Critical descriptions of the band’s sound run a creative gamut from grunge-folk to roots-punk, but the band has avoided self-categorization.

“We just do what we do, and that’s just because it’s us,” Crawford said. “It’s not, ‘Let’s play that rocking slam-grass music that we do.’ We’ve never set out to create a sound in a certain way. Now we’ve got access to more tools, so the song is written, and we decide what instrument will best represent the sound.”

That free-ranging sound already has helped the band draw a following from the indie rock world, earning them praise on indie music bible Pitchfork and making them feel equally welcome at festivals from the indie-heavy SXSW in Austin to the hippie-friendly fields of Bonnaroo. Their songs can be personal and probing, looking at the nature of lost loves and false friends on one song, but them jumping to a wild guitar rhythm or Beatles-like pop harmonies on another.

“It’s got to have something to do with what the music is. It truly is a hybrid of several things and, first and foremost, there is an honest American quality to it,” Crawford said. “For some reason, it touches people somewhere, and all kinds of different people.”

The new album (out Sept. 29) creates a mega-alliance of the innovative sounds of the Avetts’ pianos and kick drums with the studio prowess of Rubin and the distribution arm of Sony Music, something Crawford said could help bring the band in front of new audiences.

And even though the title track of the new album is a love letter to Brooklyn and the big city life that Crawford said these country boys once were so afraid of, shows in the South, like the upcoming appearance at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center, are where the band feels most at home, Crawford said.

“I think it’s fever pitch,” he said of the crowds. “It seems like the South really is home. There are places that treat us like home around the country, but it can be really, really intense to play a show in North Carolina or South Carolina.”

The Avett Brothers

When: 8 p.m. Sept. 17

Where: North Charleston Performing Arts Center, 5001 Coliseum Drive, North Charleston.

Tickets: $26

Information: 843-529-5050; www.coliseumpac.com

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One response to “Band of Brothers: N.C.’s Avett Brothers poised for a major breakout

  1. Judy Massengill

    Bob, I am Bruce Thompson’s sister. Saw you guys perform at Claddaghs Pub in Indianapolis. Bruce would lke to get in touch with you. His Email is bat@thompsonedition.com

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