As the Avett Brothers release their 10th studio album, “Closer Than Together,” on Friday, they’ve come a long way from the band that dropped its debut LP, “Country Was,” in 2002.
“Well, we started tuning our instruments at some point,” says Seth Avett, 39, with a laugh. “We started accepting the reality that we didn’t know what we were doing in certain capacities.”
And they started thinking bigger as they grew to play arenas such as Barclays Center, where they’ll showcase their folk-rock sounds on Saturday. “The songs aren’t as small anymore,” says Scott Avett, 43, who shares lead-singer duties with Seth. “They cover a lot more ground from people that have also covered more ground in their lives emotionally, physically and mentally.”
That journey led to the Avetts — whose quartet is rounded out by two non-brothers, Bob Crawford (bass and violin) and Joe Kwon (cello) — taking more of a sociopolitical stance on “Closer Than Together.” “We’ve gotten a reputation for being nonpolitical, where in our personal lives we are naturally as political as we should be,” says Scott. “We were a little more willing to open the door to that on this record.”
“The fact is,” says Seth, “all of these [issues] that are talked about all the time among all of our peers, they make their way into the thought process; they make their way into our hearts. We do take it personally.”
For instance, “Bang Bang” deals with excessive images of gun violence. “There’s so much going on in the world today relating to irresponsible gun use,” Scott says. “It’s important to note that I’m a gun owner, and I believe in responsible gun ownership. I grew up around extremely responsible gun ownership.”
Meanwhile, “New Woman’s World” puts a twist on “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” the 1966 James Brown classic. “I look at it like sort of a sci-fi, post-apocalyptic film where men have just shot themselves in the foot so many times that there’s finally no other option than to get out of the way [for women to take over],” says Seth.
The North Carolina natives consider “We Americans” to be as much an essay as a song. “It talks about some hard realities as far as prejudices that we have to face,” says Scott. “But in the end, we believe that the direction is pointed toward love and hope.”
It’s the spirit of brotherly love that has helped unite the Avetts as bandmates. “We operate like a family; we really do,” says Scott.
Adds Seth: “We’ve learned a lot about how to get out of each other’s way . . . How to build [up] the other one, maybe make the other one shine.”
They’ve also learned not to take themselves too seriously: When asked who would win a battle of the bands between the Avett Brothers and the Jonas Brothers, Scott picks the JoBros. “Those guys are professional musicians, right?” he says. “We’re just songwriters that had to become musicians.”
Seth concurs: “In the pingpong arena, I feel pretty confident [we’d beat them]. But if it comes down to singing songs, I think the Jonas Brothers got us all day long.”
By Chuck Arnold