AVETT BROTHERS: LET YOUR COLORS SHOW

 
A fella at the Washington Post once wrote we were Robert E. Lee singing for The Ramones.

-Bob Crawford

 

Travelin' Around

The initial vision for The Avett Brothers didn't include heavy touring but over the past couple years they've become regulars at folk and rock clubs nationwide and a festival mainstay. Live, they have the energy one encounters on scratchy 78s - unbridled joy in making music with the gruff rightness of Blind Willie Johnson or the aforementioned Charlie Poole, with whom Crawford says they share "a kinship with his plainspoken rawness."


The Avett Brothers
"It always needs to be new. It always needs to be interesting. We don't have a lot in common with jam bands but we've never had a setlist from day one. Sometimes our shows can be real informal, where we're discussing what to do next onstage. Everything is an audible," says Crawford.

Crawford discusses joining The Avett Brothers, "In Spring of 2001, I was in college studying jazz guitar and had just started playing upright bass. A buddy of mine knew Scott and said they had an electric bass player but were looking for an upright bassist. It was a long process. Scott took off that summer, panhandling and trying to follow the footsteps of Woody Guthrie as best you could in 2001. When he came back it was real slow – a gig or two, then time off, then another gig or two – until the Saturday after September 11th. After that weekend it all gelled."

"Initially, we mostly played covers around Charlotte, NC but there wasn't much talk of taking it on the road or even a future. We were doing Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Woody Guthrie, Hank Williams, traditional stuff like The Dillards and tunes like 'Boil The Cabbage Down,' 'Old Joe Clark,' 'Going Down The Road (Feeling Bad),' old chestnuts like that. There are many great careers built on those songs."


The Avett Brothers
"A lot of bands lumped into the jam category aren't writing original material, they're interpreting music, which is a skill in itself. If you're talking about 'jam' as a genre of music, the great thing is it's not a genre. After Branford Marsalis played with the Dead he started getting all these hippy kids showing up at his concerts because he can really play. These kids would go to these stuffy $40 a ticket jazz concerts because they thought it rocked."

The band usually has an album's worth of backlogged material that makes it into their sets, just one element in their quest to keep things interesting for themselves and any friendly ears out there.

"You're in a situation where you need to move as a team at all times but everybody needs their alone time, their down time, and some people wanna zig when others want to zag. We've been doing this for six years and we've always done well with it. There's never problems that don't fade away in an hour," comments Crawford.

"For me, three has always been the magic number. We've been able to make a big sound for just three people," he continues. "Lately, we've been adding elements like cellist Joe Kwon [who appears on Emotionalism and tours frequently with the band these days], switching it up for our sake. A lot of people are just starting to hear about us. What they'll see isn't what brought us to the table in the first place but hopefully that'll still shine through. It'll be fuller, which is good for the music and good for us, but we did build this thing with three of us. I guess when you build a strong foundation then everything you put on top of it is going to be real nice."


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