If you do a Google search for "the avett brothers new album," many hits are popular music and entertainment websites discussing their album released in September of last year, The Carpenter, will pop up. Except for one. The brothers did an interview (read it here in full) with radio.com where they discuss, among other things, Kanye West, Rage Against The Machine, the festival scene, boredom, and a new album--a new album to be released this Fall. I am a little surprised no (or not many) other websites have picked up on this seemingly large tidbit of information. (And I know some of you folks frequent--and I mean frequent--Abundant Ramblings for the truly hard hitting and breaking news in the world of music.) Maybe the fact that Scott mentions that it will indeed include a few songs from the Carpenter sessions doesn't quite fit the "big new release only a year after previous album coming from popular americana act" headline that many may have been hoping for. But it seems this isn't exactly a collection of b-sides and rarities. I don't know exactly what kind of album it's going to be. Perhaps neither does Scott Avett:
We should be releasing an album in September, maybe October. The Carpenter was the first installment and this is the other part. We initially thought of this as part two…but we realize it’s its own thing. It’s a very interesting occurrence we didn’t intend. It’s a nice surprise.
So originally the album was thought of as The Carpenter Part II, but it turned into something a little different. There are still unanswered questions: Was a Carpenter Part II always in the plans and, amazingly and with excellent tact, kept on the down low? What in the heck does "it's its own thing" and "interesting occurrence" mean? Were all of these songs written during the Carpenter sessions? Wait. Nevermind. He answers that:
Some of them are in the works for years — seven, eight years. Others, a year ago. It was all very different. We have a lot of places where songs are hiding within our homes, in our bus, in our bags, in our pockets they just end up here [points to his head]. They’re everywhere and we never know when they’ll come out of the shadows.
Folks familiar with the ingenuity that is The Avett Brothers Songwriting Process On Some Of Their Songs Which They Take Forever To Record But Have Been Playing Live Slash Tweaking For Ages will be unsurprised that some songs have been festering for years. So we know that, we know that some songs were recorded (written?) during the Carpenter sessions, and we know that some songs were written a year ago, which would be June of 2012, at which time I would have to assume most if not all of the songs included on The Carpenter had been chosen (they released lead single "Live and Die" to stream on NPR almost exactly one year ago), and it was in the twilight stages of mastering, mixing, engineering, and finalizing. Therefore, I will assume that a few of the songs for the new album were recorded after the Carpenter sessions. ("He sure is assuming a lot. I want nothing but the cold hard facts. This dude SUCKS.")
By now it should be obvious that the band has been working with Rick Rubin again, producer (some would say destroyer of bands; just ask a small legion of original Avett fans or The Band Perry) of The Carpenter and its predecessor I and Love and You. They obviously enjoy working with him and appreciate what he has brought out of them and their music. Take it away again, Mr. Avett (Scott that is. He wouldn't let Seth talk):
After we worked with him we were inventorying our songs much differently, much quicker. When we brought them to him this time, there was a lot less to go through. A lot less. The songs weren’t distracted. They weren’t as jumbled up, if that makes sense. So the editing process was different. But we recorded more songs and took a lot longer to record because we decided to take them to the end with the mixing and mastering. Hopefully it will be different when we work with him again.
Is the "this time" while they were recording The Carpenter but still bringing in songs for The Carpenter Part II, which may or may not have been the plan at the time? Or is the "this time" some time between when The Carpenter came out and the present moment? "More songs" and "took a lot longer" is always a good thing in a fan's mind. But does "we decided to take them to the end" mean that they were Carpenter demos that didn't fit on the album proper or other new songs that they decided to go ahead and "take to the end" because The Carpenter Part II was becoming its own little animal? Does "when we work with him again" mean when they work with him again on finishing up this album, or are they already set on having him record the follow-up to The Carpenter's follow-up as well? I know that I haven't made it obvious, but I do indeed have a few unanswered questions about this new album.
To me, the last part of radio.com's interview is the most interesting (read: leaves me with ALL of the questions). Take it away, Seth. Just kidding. Scott again:
I think when we were first at this, we thought of changes as atomic bombs. Like we needed to change everything from song to song, from set to set, show to show, day to day. I think we look at changes now — real changes, honest changes — as something subtle. So I think that the changes will be understood and natural from what we’ve done or how we’ve changed in the past two or three recordings that we put out. We’re trying to make plans to record again soon, within the next year, so there’s no telling what it will be like. I think we all know, and we haven’t actually said this, but I think that we may be bored in some ways. And I think it may be of interest to us to shake that boredom off because as creators and as musicians we need that. The fans need what they need and sometimes that’s different. But we need that. We’re all inspired by many things, but we don’t get the opportunity to let that be reflected in what we make. But we can’t stay bored for long. (emphasis mine)
Well crap, Avett. Thanks for the clarification! Sooo...this album will be subtly different. Is that your way of saying it is pretty much going to be in the exact same vein as The Carpenter, or are you purposely trying to throw us off track and this will actually be an album full of angrily sweet emotional rage a la "Paul Newman vs. The Demons"? Are you truly hoping to get into the studio again within the next year to work on the super hush-hushed Carpenter Part III? (I'm only even thinking of The Carpenter follow-up's follow-up because you bring it up in the interview. I think.) If so, that would be fantastic. Are you going to work with Rubin again, as you maybe also kind of hinted at earlier in the interview? That's cool too. But wait, you're bored? Bored with Rubin? Or merely bored artistically? If the latter is the case, a change in producer might not hurt. Producers kind of have a fairly large influence on the music an artist makes. I'm not saying that because I disliked your last two albums; I like them both and appreciate how Rubin has helped you all grow as a band, both artistically and in popularity. Changes can be good without necessarily being "atomic bombs." But after the follow-up to The Carpenter even I, one of your biggest fans, am going to become bored with another Avett/Rubin collaboration. Sure, "the fans need what they need" and it's wonderful and possible to give it to them and maintain being true to yourself. But don't be afraid to venture off the beaten path. Change it up if you have to. Don't be bored. Don't bore your fans. Make music that inspires you because it's based off music that has inspired you. I'm not saying you don't already do this. I'm just saying don't be afraid to really change it up. Atomic bomb that shit if you need to. Your legions of new fans will follow. And if not all of them do? Well, then I guess they love you for the band that you were not the band you're becoming.
Thanks for reading, folks. I'm not, like, an Avett Brothers fan or anything (read: I most definitely am).
And my one and only piece of layman's advice to assist in boredom prevention (well, other than what I've already written above, I guess): more banjo.
(Note: I wrote this a few days ago but only just now got around to editing and publishing it. Since then I've seen another interview or two where the Avetts discuss their new album, and a few major publications like American Songwriter have picked up on it. I didn't incorporate any of that into this piece, however, as I simply thought it was fun to comment on the confusing vagueness and the veering into "musician-speak", regarding how and when the new album was recorded, in the radio.com interview. Plus, I think the fact that they admit [or at least Scott admits on behalf of the band] that they're bored is significant, and also raises more questions than it answers. Surely that means changes in some form or fashion are to come; I guess we'll just have to wait and see what they are. [Seriously though, more banjo.])
*image via coverlaydown.com