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Interview:
The Avett Brothers at the Fillmore, 5 Things To Know
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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The Avett Brothers' latest album is called "True Sadness," but the North Carolina group's demeanor is anything but as the four key members gather in a room at the JW Marriott Hotel in Austin, Texas, before a show at this year's South By Southwest Music Conference + Festival.

The mood is ebullient as they talk about the group's ninth studio album. Its fourth collaboration with producer Rick Rubin is also the Avetts' fourth consecutive Top 5 debut on the Billboard 200 and its first No. 1 on the Rock Albums chart. it represents a slightly different approach than some of its predecessors, and therefore a slightly different sound, but given that it's also the Avetts' third No. 1 on the Folk Albums survey, it's clear that the group has found a way to change without alienating its core audience.

So "Sadness" has made the Avetts and their fans happy indeed -- and emboldened to keep pushing their musical parameters even further next time...

The Avetts took a different route to making "True Sadness." They would record versions of the songs, then have them remixed and then return to the songs, recreating and rebuilding them based on the remixes."That was very different than we've ever done before," Scott Avett notes. "These were literally electronic, basically dance remixes of every song, and then we'd go back and re-record them with instruments based on that remix. So you had sort of three categories for each song, and that gave us a better opportunity to find, 'Well, what is this song calling for?' It was really exciting."

Nevertheless, the Avetts are circumspect about how different "True Sadness" really is. "I don't want to say, 'Oh, we've turned it upside down and this and that, 'cause when a lot of bands say that -- and we've been know to say that, too -- then you hear the record and it doesn't feel like that," Scott Avett explains. "We don't really have a good perspective on what people will hear or how they'll hear us. For us it was just a really great new way to approach it, but the end process just sounds like songs we've done a better job of writing. It's just another dynamic record from the Avett Brothers, for the most part."

Even though that process took the group in new sonic and stylistic directions, the Avetts were confident it would still play to the audience it snared with the rootsy, Americana of its earlier albums. "We've had no evidence that the audience is NOT with us," Seth Avett says. "We've had the good fortune to gain some momentum in terms of popularity that's sort of the opposite of what you think might happen. We're aware that when we put a record out there will be a good number of people that will hear it. I think anyone that may have a negative thing to say about us or has departed from our music anywhere along the way, we've been blessfully ignorant of that departure. So far all we've got is support, so we feel like we've only got strength behind us in our communication with our audience and we only focus on the support, really. Or try to focus on the positive."

"True Sadness" is the Avetts' first album with the expanded, seven-piece lineup it developed while touring to support 2013's "Magpie and the Dandelion." "It was very much like I imagine what it was like when Bing Crosby was recording or something," bassist Bob Crawford notes. "We'd do a take and Rick would come in and give everybody notes, almost like coaching." Seth Avett recalls that "when it was really poppin', like when the spirit was really there, you could feel it, and with seven of us it's so big and full. It was a real blast to make."

The Avetts have worked with producer Rick Rubin having different degrees of involvement since "I and Love and You" in 2009. Time time out, they say, Rubin had more of a direct, hands-on presence than on other albums during the interim. "He was present the whole time," says Scott Avett. "The last two were basically done remotely, minus a couple of days. This time Rick was like, "you guys do what you need to do, but it would be super fun if we could do it together again." Seth Avett adds that "it was more or less a return to the 'I and Love and You' setup, but with us more developed in some way. It was a return to that setup where we're all in the studio all day, really hashing it out together."

The Avett Brothers

Thursday and Friday, Nov. 10-11. Doors open at 7 p.m.

The Fillmore Detroit, 2115 Woodward Ave.

Tickets are $25-$75.

Call 313-961-5451 or visit thefillmoredetroit.com.

Web Site: www.thefillmoredetroit.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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