You can try to comfortably fit The Avett Brothers into a genre or two, but good luck. There’s a banjo in there, but there’s also a guy playing cello standing up, and he’s pogo-ing. The high harmony-singing brother swaps his acoustic guitar for an electric and shreds like a metalist as the band moves from folk to folk rock to rock to “music hall” to gospel to bluegrass and stops in between.
The Grammy-nominated North Carolina-based septet, built around Scott and Seth Avett, will play the Green Music Center on the Sonoma State University campus on Thursday, Sept. 15.
On the phone from his Carolina home last month, Seth Avett talked about the arc of his musical influences. “As a little kid it was Led Zeppelin and Jimmy Page,” he said. “As an early adolescent, it was Nirvana in a big way. Kurt Cobain was pretty much the sun and everything sort of orbited around him.
“At about 14 or 15, another solar system opened up with Doc Watson at the center of it. When I became aware of him, this virtuoso folk legend who lived an hour and a half from where I lived and grew up, he musically felt so related to what felt natural to me. That led me to the world of Blind Willie McTell and Blind Boy Fuller and really kicked the door down as far as opening my eyes to the history of American roots music.”
Avett believes that being eclectic is fundamental to being a music lover. “As a kid Louie Armstrong was like a cartoon character,” he said. “But when I grew into my teens and started to get into my 20s, he led me into the great and fruitful history of jazz music.
“If you’re someone who loves music, it’s preposterous to cut yourself off from any genre. At this point in my life I find such great value and great work and great inspiration in hip-hop and in classical music and in jazz and in country music and rock n’ roll and death metal.
“The reality is that there are genuine sentiments and genuine efforts being put into all the genres. To say that you don’t like whatever, say rap music, just means you haven’t heard quality rap music.”
Avett particulary expressed his admiration for The Band (Levon Helm et. al.). “Over the years we have looked to them in a lot of ways,” he said, “and are in some ways students of theirs, roots music with a driving rhythm that’s a little rough around the edges for sure. We recorded our new record (“True Sadness,” the Avett’s ninth studio album) at The Band’s old house, at their old studio in Malibu.”
He said that he and his brother Scott lean heavily on their own experiences for the lyrical content of their music. “What became pretty clear early on in this band was that our strongest lyrics come from real life. We have yet to have any great moment of clarity in fictional writing or in writing that’s highly abstract. We tend to do well when we are driven to share something that is happening with us in our own lives. That helps it along, but it doesn’t create a song for you.
“You still have to put the work in. It comes down to spending time in your little space, your little office area, or your little room where you have your guitar and your notebooks. It takes listening to a lot of great music and staying in touch with what the masters who have come before have achieved.”
“If you like our band you might hear us play once a year, or once every few months if you’re a great supporter of our music,” Avett added. “But we’re the ones night after night who are presenting these songs. We take great care to make sure that they are something that we can get behind and be behind for decades.”
The band members are Scott Avett on vocals, banjo and piano, Seth Avett on vocals, guitar and piano, Bob Crawford on vocals and bass, Joe Kwon on cello, Tania Elizabeth on violin, Paul DeFiglia on keyboards and Mike Marsh on drums.
Thursday, September 15, 7:30 p.m. $45-$65. Weill Hall at Green Music Center, Sonoma State University. 1801 East Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park. 866-955-6040. gmc.sonoma.edu.
Tuck & Patti – two outdoor shows Sunday at Silo’s
Popular Bay Area jazz perennials Tuck Andress and Patti Cathcart bring their vocal/guitar duo to Silo’s. These are special outdoor performances at the venue’s Riverbend Plaza. Sunday, Sept. 4, at 4 and 7 p.m. $39 ($45 at the door). SilosNapa.com.