The Avett Brothers
8 p.m. Wednesday
Rose State College
Performing Arts Theatre
6420 S.E. 15th, Midwest City
Purity has long been absent from the music industry. Purchased publicity, digital piracy and crumbling labels have, in recent years, shaken up the way most of us consume music and the way even successful bands make a living.
The established trajectory is downward, but out of North Carolina, a beacon of hope shines for the way things should be. For The Avett Brothers" Seth and Scott Avett, and bassist Bob Crawford " things are happening the right way, including playing tonight at Rose State College.
The band's major-label debut, "I and Love and You," was released in September 2009. The album is a lilting, harmonious, Americana folk record featuring the unmistakably brotherly vocals of both Avetts, accompanied by relatively sparse instrumentation.
It is the latest in a long line of Avett records, although the first from a major label. Previously, the group was signed to independent Ramseur Records, also home to Oklahoma's Samantha Crain, who recently toured with the Avetts.
"Ramseur is located literally right down the street from where Scott and Seth grew up," said Crawford, who joined the band in 2001. "We had three to four different opportunities at the time; I guess we went with our gut, and it paid off."
The next few years yielded multiple successful tours and several records that defined the Avetts' former signature sound: folk composition and instrumentation highlighted by punk-style vocals and a genuine raw edge.
Seth and Scott previously were in the rock band Nemo, which disbanded shortly after the creation of the folksy side project that would become The Avett Brothers. Although they worked diligently and saw early indicators of success, Crawford said they had few expectations at the start.
"We thought we were going to grad school, but I booked the first tour on the Internet, and it was a tremendous success. For the first couple of years, we were just playing shows, writing songs and recording records," he said. "Scott said, a long time ago, 'Let's keep doing this until it plateaus,' and it hasn't yet. We still see a long career of being on the road, playing a lot of shows, writing a lot of songs and of being thankful to be able to do that."
That future seems likely for The Avett Brothers, even without the latest in their string of progressive successes.
It is quite something for a folk act out of Concord, N.C., to be plucked out of relative obscurity by the hand of producer Rick Rubin " a tastemaker, to say the least. With Rubin, of course, came an influx of corporate "people" and a situation to which the guys needed time to adjust.
"We've always kept it small. Then, we added a booking agent, and we started working with some distribution arms," Crawford said. "At the beginning, you try to feel everybody out, especially when it's a major corporation like Columbia. There is an inherent level of mistrust built into working with an organization like that. That having been said, it couldn't have gone better."
Crawford attributes their lack of "bumps in the road" to Ramseur Records owner Dolph Ramseur, who still serves as their manager. Along with Rubin came the arrival of previously unseen resources, things like money, studio time and outside engineers with whom the band may otherwise have never had the opportunity to work.
As with the case of many indie acts who sign to major labels, critics of "I and Love and You" have underlined the record's glossiness as an apparent fault, as it strays from previous efforts.
"We didn't have to relinquish anything. We just went into it as flexible as possible. If someone had an idea, that was the time to try it, and we were willing to try it," Crawford said.
It's critical to note that The Avett Brothers do not admit to any fault in its newfound appreciation of clean lines. Their career has been a learning process for all involved, and while the folk simplicity of the music may suggest otherwise, the trio isn't at all opposed to progress.
"We don't think we're shortchanging anybody by making a good record. For everyone else, they loved the rough edges. For us? We've just been trying to get it right," Crawford said. "We got it good, but here, we had the opportunity to get it right. We've learned as we've gone. When we all got together, we didn't know much about the business. We have learned together." "Becky Carman