When Scott Avett picks up on a Wednesday afternoon at his Concord home, he's in the garden in one of the hottest days of an early summer, planting tomatoes and sweating. Avett doesn't need a garden this year: He'll spend most of his summer touring as one-third of The Avett Brothers behind their fifth studio album, Emotionalism.
But he thinks it keeps him honest: "If I don't, I feel like I'm taking advantage and taking for granted what's out there." At this point, The Avetts—now meeting national popularity at every turn for their frenetic, soulful mix of rock structure and bluegrass instrumentation—are clinging fast to that honesty, even if it paradoxically means Emotionalism is their most refined album yet.
Independent: You've done the big festivals now: Wakarusa, Bonnaroo, Coachella. Which do you prefer?
Scott Avett: Well, there are so many variables in each one of them. Wakarusa ... we had an awkward time slot, so I don't have the same perspective on it. I would give it to Bonnaroo for the down and dirty, the grit, sweat, time to sort of roll. We went in there and did our thing. In that way, Coachella couldn't touch it. However, Coachella, the stage was massive, and the crew was more extensive.
With Emotionalism, you guys continue to move to bigger stages, and I know you're fond of the "down and dirty" you mentioned. You told me Kings was your favorite place to play. Do you miss those dive bars?
Kings was my favorite. Looking back as far as rock rooms on the East Coast, what a great rock room. The bigger they get, the trick is being careful with the concrete and steel. If you move to bigger, Seth and I are really enjoying the "performing arts theatres" because you can get the same kind of intimate vibe, and there's a lot of focus. And I know sometimes it's lacking for people to be able to get rowdy and involved. But as a show becomes more and more involved and with more variety and dynamics, there probably needs to be more energy paid attention to what's going on and it turns into more of a show. I think that's the proper way to let it change. If you push how rowdy can anything be, the only direction can be self-destruction eventually.
Emotionalism realizes the same thing. It's more refined, and it pulls back on the energy, especially from a disc like Mignonette. Is that part of the same urge to avoid self-destruction?
Yeah, I think so. We realized that's what we were writing. I remember having a little conflict thinking, "Man, there's no 'Talk on Indolence' on this record." But what are you going to do? Write that kind of song so you have it on there? You can't do that because it'll be forced and they're going to recognize that. You've got to be careful with that. It's got to be natural, and it's got to take time.
The Avett Brothers play Schoolkids Records Tuesday, May 15, at noon.