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With the album The Carpenter, trio hammers out a niche in folk-rock arena

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When the Avett Brothers wrote their masterful seventh studio album, 2012's Rick Rubin-produced, Grammy-nominated The Carpenter, they struck a wellspring of creativity.

As it turns out, the North Carolina indie-folk trio, led by biological brothers Scott and Seth Avett and rounded out by nominal brother Bob Crawford, already have a followup on their hands.

"Apparently we do," Scott says with a laugh, on the line from Boulder, Colo., just before making the trip to Winnipeg for their mainstage appearance tonight at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. "It's been gratifying to see it come to life. When we recorded The Carpenter, we had our sights set on something bigger."

Although he's tight-lipped about other details, the new record, which is due out as soon as this fall, is something like a Part 2. "It's definitely a continuation of The Carpenter I would say," Scott says. "If (Bob Dylan's) Desire and Blood on the Tracks are partners, these (albums) certainly are."

And if the new record is anything like its pair of predecessors, it'll do more great things for the Avett Brothers. After slowly and steadily building a following over the better part of a decade, the trio finally got its big break in 2009 with its debut for American Recordings, I and Love and You (also produced by Rubin) -- but it was really The Carpenter that announced the arrival of another major player in the folk-rock scene, on par with peers Mumford and Sons and the Lumineers. Like those acts, the Avetts' brand of bluegrass-tinged folk rock goes down as easy as ice-cold lemonade from a mason jar.

But The Carpenter's success isn't just owed to its shiny hooks, of which there are plenty -- such as the earworm single Live and Die, a song so catchy it netted the guys a Gap commercial.

In addition to being highly accessible, Scott and Seth have a knack for writing about big ideas -- mortality, growing old, parenthood, challenged love -- in a way that truthfully speaks to people. It's easy to recognize yourself in their songs.

"We wrote smaller songs with younger angles before," Scott says. "I don't think we could honestly write about sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, because that's not what's happening. We try to write in the now. Fatherhood and love -- those are constant sources of inspiration. We work hard to find simple identities or truths, although I don't like to use that word because it undercuts us all the time. It's about cutting through the fog and confusion and finding that simplicity. Complexity becomes wool over our eyes."

That's not to say the Avett Brothers have got this whole life thing figured out, however. "We're just battling through," Scott says with a laugh. "I'd love to say we had it all figured out, but the truth is, we're all lost."

When it comes to success, the band seems to have it all figured out. Not ones to lean on accolades, the Avetts know hard work and consistently demanding better of themselves is what's required to keep growing as players and performers.

"We're guys who want to make work," Scott says simply. "We know we're capable of great things. We've got a good number of guys who are interested in making great things. There's no room for mediocre songs."

To that end, he's grateful for the band's slow, but sure, rise to fame.

"I'm very thankful for that," he says. "It could be no other way than the way it is. If the early work had been more visible, I'd have to live with that on a bigger level. I'm happy we made a lot of embarrassing mistakes in front of fewer people.

"At 24, I wouldn't have known how to be on a bigger stage. I would have abused the opportunity. I'm very fortunate that I went through what other people would consider a failure of a situation.

"You know how people stand on the stage at the Grammys and ask, 'How did I get here?' We never wonder how we got here. We know how we got here."

 

The Avett Brothers play the mainstage tonight at Birds Hill Park at 8:05 p.m.

DAVE LANDRY / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

FORTY YEARS OF FOLK FEST — Performers on stage at the Winnipeg Folk Festival on July 6, 1983.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 10, 2013 D1

History

Updated on Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 6:17 AM CDT: adds photo, changes headline

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