Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Features and More

Avett Brothers bring a natural buzz to Clearwater Jazz Holiday

The Avett Brothers are a bear to categorize: folk, pop, ragtime, rock — the sibs dig it all, sometimes in the same song. But this much is true about the bestselling North Carolina trio: "We'll get sad with the best of 'em, buddy," says Seth Avett. Indeed, the Avetts, who headline Sunday's final night of the four-day Clearwater Jazz Holiday, specialize in mood: pensive, lonely and, in the case of the pretty, and pretty bleak, ballad Winter in My Heart, downright depressing.

That song is on new album The Carpenter, their highest-charting LP (top five on the U.S. charts, a smash on iTunes), a gaze-out-the-window beauty inspired by getting older and, in the Avetts' case, getting more popular, too.

"There are a lot of ways to feel lonely," says Seth Avett, 32, during a long, chummy phone call. The band — which includes older brother Scott and "official brother" bassist Bob Crawford — has been on the road for a while. It's all starting to take a toll on the family men. "These days, it has less to do with loneliness and more to do with lack of balance. Putting so much into one thing and then feeling like something else is falling apart. Being more popular but still feeling so isolated."

Music history is rife with sibling bands engaging in fisticuffs — the Gallagher goons in Oasis, the Davies blokes in the Kinks — but Seth says his relationship with Scott is actually one of the reasons he can endure life in a constantly traveling trio.

"Our dynamic is very boring as far as journalism goes," he says. "Scott is a lot of things to me and someone I look up to. We got the fighting out of the way when we were adolescents. We go on a lot of journeys together. We kind of rely on each other too much to be at odds with each other. When you're playing in restaurants and bars, it's more about keeping each other safe. Once you start relying on someone like that, there's not a lot of room for bickering."

Together, the Avett Brothers — along with hot groups like Mumford & Sons and a resurgent Dave Matthews Band — have spearheaded a "natural" movement in popular music, roots-driven bands as far from Rihanna and Chris Brown as you can get.

"It has rendered itself as a growing trend," says Seth, who notes that the Avetts, despite their newfound popularity, have been making records since 2000. "The planets were aligned for Mumford & Sons to blow up. The ebb and flow of pop is an interesting thing to watch. People are growing tired of the party and songs that are all about 'me' and how much fun I'm having. We get bored of hearing one thing, so then you strip down — and then eventually you go back to albums that sound like a robot made it."

Seth and Scott write "99 percent" of their material, working separately and then coming together to blend, to see what works. The Avetts called in superproducer Rick Rubin, a name synonymous with hip cred and a sparse sound, to work on The Carpenter. Rubin's late-career highlights include Johnny Cash's bleak but gorgeous American Recordings series.

"Rick adds no anxiety to the artistic process," Seth says. "If you're anxious and you're working with Rick, it's on you. He doesn't specialize in musicalities; he specializes in feelings. It really has a calming effect."

Fans have become protective of the bros and their signature sound, to such a rapturous degree that a new track — a feedback-drenched acid rocker called Paul Newman vs. the Demons, which couldn't be more of a departure — has caused a major uproar. So which free-thinking brother penned that oddity?

"Um, that would be me," Seth sighs. "Fortunately and unfortunately. We're getting varied responses for sure, from 'worst thing that ever happened to the Avett Brothers' to 'best song on the album.' I'm a little sheepish talking about it. But we don't like the idea of making the same album over and over again."

Seth says the criticism of the Paul Newman vs. the Demons has beaten him up pretty good. "That's a common thing among humans, right? We will take hold of the negative and hold it close to our heart. But the positive comment we take and think, 'Oh, they just don't know me.' "

That said, the Avetts intend to jam out to Paul Newman vs. the Demons while playing at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday, which is already a rather curious gig for a bunch of alt-folkies. Seth isn't worried about hard-core jazz fans not feeling their vibe, though: "We see a lot of festivals pushing the boundaries, and I think that's really healthy. The elitist festival is really a dying art. Genres are getting bent and getting stretched."

Avett pauses, then laughs: "But maybe we should work up a Tony Bennett cover anyway."

Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected] Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter.

Comments
Golden Globe-nominated movies and when to see them in Tampa Bay

Golden Globe-nominated movies and when to see them in Tampa Bay

Guillermo Del Toro’s romantic creature feature The Shape of Water soaked up seven Golden Globes nominations Monday, kicking off another marathon awards season. The Shape of Water is nominated for best dramatic motion picture alongside Christop...
Published: 12/11/17
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Dec. 12

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Dec. 12

Petula Clark: The two-time Grammy Award-winning artist is known for hits like Downtown, I Know a Place, My Love and I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love. 2 and 7:30 p.m., Central Park Performing Arts Center, 105 Central Park Drive, Largo. $34.50-$49.50....
Published: 12/11/17
Is Gilbert Gottfried really that annoying in real life?

Is Gilbert Gottfried really that annoying in real life?

A new documentary about comedian Gilbert Gottfried reveals someone more mild-mannered than his stage persona, married with children, verging on dull. His voice doesn’t grate, dropping half its nasal quality and all of its foul-mouthed bluster....
Published: 12/11/17
Mario Batali on leave from ‘The Chew’ and restaurant empire after sexual harassment allegations

Mario Batali on leave from ‘The Chew’ and restaurant empire after sexual harassment allegations

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein story, chef and television personality Mario Batali offered up his views on how to combat sexual harassment in the workplace for an Oct. 30 video for Fast Company."You need a workplace free of fear, that harbors an...
Published: 12/11/17
Restaurant review: Let the food and outstanding cocktails at CW’s Gin Joint transport you back to the 1920s

Restaurant review: Let the food and outstanding cocktails at CW’s Gin Joint transport you back to the 1920s

TAMPAMaybe it’s the twinkling chandeliers. All skajillion of them. Or maybe it is the rhythmic syncopation of ice cubes in shiny shakers. It could be the old-timey metal dessert cart with its silver cloches and chafing dishes, or else the chummy-but-...
Published: 12/11/17
Restaurant review: 1895 Kitchen Bar Market needs to do a lot more to stand out in downtown Tampa

Restaurant review: 1895 Kitchen Bar Market needs to do a lot more to stand out in downtown Tampa

TAMPA Just a block away from CW’s Gin Joint, the folks at Urban Juice Co. have retooled, taking the historic Franklin building, one of the city’s oldest, erected in 1895, and re-envisioning it in September as 1895 Kitchen-Bar-Market, a "...
Published: 12/11/17
Sting rocks the house with old and new hits in Florida Orchestra gala

Sting rocks the house with old and new hits in Florida Orchestra gala

ST. PETERSBURG — In some ways, the Florida Orchestra’s gala with Sting looked like other concerts of a mega-star. Most of the fans who packed the Mahaffey Theater bought their tickets the day they went on sale. They cheered and sang along at the open...
Published: 12/10/17
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of Dec. 11-17

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of Dec. 11-17

Katy Perry: The Teenage Dream songstress roars into Tampa’s Amalie Arena on Friday ($45.75-$195.75). amaliearena.com. Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights begins Tuesday, bringing fun celebrations including Hanukkah in the City at the Sundial St. Petersb...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/10/17
Top holiday events, parades, parties this weekend

Top holiday events, parades, parties this weekend

ParadesApollo Beach Lighted Boat ParadeThe Tampa Sailing Squadron hosts this event and the party afterward with a chili cook off. Good viewing available from the clubhouse and docks. Free. Tampa Sailing Squadron, 1250 Apollo Beach Blvd., Ruskin. (813...
Published: 12/08/17
Fun and profound Hanukkah celebrations around the Tampa Bay area

Fun and profound Hanukkah celebrations around the Tampa Bay area

It’s time to observe the Festival of Lights, starting at sunset Tuesday and ending Dec. 20. Many congregations seem to be having a great time, because Hanukkah celebrations this year are hilarious. There’s a menorah made of fidget spinne...
Published: 12/08/17