New (old) songs, new meaning for The Avett Brothers
It is becoming harder and harder to find a band that spans multiple genres and garners attention from several sects of the music industry, but that is exactly what The Avett Brothers manage to do with their brand of Americana music, that infuses elements of country, rock, folk and blues music.
The band, which features brothers Scott (vocals, banjo, kick drum) and Seth Avett (vocals, guitar, high-hat), Bob Crawford (vocals, bass) and Joe Kwon (cello), released their seventh studio album, “Magpie and the Dandelion,” Oct. 15. The album debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard Top 200 chart.
“What’s great about the title that we ultimately came up with,” Crawford said by phone while on the road in New York, “is that magpie are very brilliant and they’re strong creatures. Dandelions are very fragile and also very beautiful, but very fragile and very fleeting, very temporary.”
The 11-track album was overseen by none other than legendary producer Rick Rubin, who is responsible for helping craft albums from artists like Metallica, Jay-Z, Adele and Black Sabbath.
Listeners may be interested to learn that “Magpie and the Dandelion” was written and recorded nearly two years ago. Crawford said the songs you hear on the record were recorded during the sessions for their previous album, “The Carpenter.”
“We knew that at some point [the songs] were going to see the light of day, we just had to decide on how that was going to happen.”
Crawford said the band was not interested in releasing an album of outtakes or b-sides, and knew what they had worked out had the potential to be much more.
“I think it was Rick [Rubin] who kind of started to sequence these songs together and show us the strengths at what we had already in our fingertips.”
The Avett Brothers are known for their strong storytelling and the symbolism they carve out in their songs, which was prominently on display on “The Carpenter” album.
“We had hesitated on releasing these songs up until now because we were worried about that — we knew how strong these songs are,” Crawford said.
“The reason why ‘The Carpenters’ is ‘The Carpenters’ and ‘Magpie’ is ‘Magpie’ is because the sequencing in ‘The Carpenters’ tells a story. It’s of a time. The strength of every song on the record, was based upon the song that came before and the song that came after it,” Crawford added.
“Rick [Rubin] kind of showed us that we had something similar, meaning equally individual — equally valid with the idea of what became ‘Magpie.’”
Crawford said the time between recording and mixing the new songs gave the band a different perspective on the material they created. Sometimes, like a fine wine, music ages well.
“I think what added to strength to that was that there’s so much distance. We had not listened to these songs or been spending a lot of time with them and weren’t playing a lot of them…when we listened to them and they were sequenced, it was all new to us,” Crawford said.
A lot can happen in that time, which will give you a different perspective on things. Various life events — good and bad — can change and morph how you interpret something, which is the point Crawford drives home.
“If you’re looking at a painting when you’re 17 years old, when you’re 22 years old, when you’re 25 years old, 28, 30, 35, 40 and every time you look at that painting as time passes, it’s going to look different to you. Not because the painting has changed in it’s physical form, but you have changed in your physical form and your mental form and you’re at a different point in your life.”
“I think that’s probably an appropriately analogy for what these songs kind of mean to us now, as opposed to what they meant to us when we wrote them and recorded them.”
Anyone doubting this group and their batch of resonating material will not have to look far to find evidence that their material is fresh, meaningful and insightful.
The band has made multiple appearances on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” including a special performance of “Vanity” performed with the help of Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell. Scott and Seth made an appearance during Fallon’s special “Pearl Jam” week, again with the help of Cornell, to cover a Pearl Jam deep-cut.
The band made a splash on “Late Night with David Letterman” Oct. 30, performing the usual one in-studio song and then kicked off a 45-minute set, which was broadcast exclusively online from Letterman’s theater.
Kwon is set to participate in a Reddit “AMA,” or ask-me-anything session, Nov. 9. The message board-style event allows celebrities, musicians and other public figures to interact with fans one-on-one and in real-time.
Crawford and the rest of the guys in The Avett Brothers will be kicking off a three-week arena tour Nov. 8, beginning at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock. This will be The Avett Brothers first show in Arkansas since their October 2012 appearance at Fayetteville’s Arkansas Music Pavilion.