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The Avett Brothers on their latest album, which has been in the works since 2019


Brothers Scott and Seth Avett have been making music together as part of the band The Avett Brothers for almost 25 years. Early in their career, they say they worked at a relentless pace, constantly writing or recording and touring, then moving on to the next thing. Scott Avett remembers one time when a producer warned the band.

SCOTT AVETT: They said, you boys don't know when to hold back. You have no idea when to hold back.

SUMMERS: Scott says their latest album, called simply "The Avett Brothers" is evidence not of holding back, but of spending time with. That is because the album, which has been in the making since 2019, was given a forced pause due to COVID.


THE AVETT BROTHERS: (Singing) Whether we speak up or we are silent.

SUMMERS: The brothers even had studio time booked when the pandemic hit, but the pause, a break they say they probably needed anyway, gave them the space to record very, very slowly.

SETH AVETT: We have listened to this record much, much more than we've recorded it - much, much more.

SUMMERS: Is there an example of a song on this album that you would point us to where that time spent really just paid off?

SETH AVETT: The first one that comes to mind for me would be "Forever Now."


THE AVETT BROTHERS: (Singing) How long is now? How gone is yesteryear?

SETH AVETT: So Scott had the initial idea for the song. I don't know when that happened. I don't know how developed it was. All I know is that at some point, either he sent me a voice memo or I found it on a idea tape of his in some capacity. And then, you know, some more time passed. And then it took another step. And then some more time passed. And then just the other day, we played it live for the first time on stage. And I don't know how many years, you know, it took for, like, you know, that level of fruition.

SCOTT AVETT: Maybe 10?

SETH AVETT: Yeah, maybe 10. Maybe 10 years. But, like, it seems to me now at this point that losing track is a good sign.


THE AVETT BROTHERS: (Singing) How far am I away from you?

SUMMERS: What can you tell us about the story of the ideas behind that song?

SETH AVETT: You know, it's an aspiration to experience what the people that have gone before us that tell us of God to share in that and to say it in a practical way, to say I want of what he's having or I want some of what she just said. I guess the subject of the song is also, you know, this idea that every moment is possibly eternity and every distance is possibly infinite. You hear about it and you experience it, you get -catch glimpses of it, and then you - you know, there's a longing for that.

SUMMERS: The first single on your new album is called "Love Of A Girl," and it is this really fast, fun, rock 'n' roll sort of jam song.


THE AVETT BROTHERS: (Singing) I got regret, soul debt, got to get one hit, sunlit, unfit...

SETH AVETT: The way that I envision Scott writing songs - and, you know, like, Scott and I being so close - it's often less a musical idea and more of an energy idea. And that's not, like, really the case with me very often, but with "Love Of A Girl," that was the case.


THE AVETT BROTHERS: (Singing) Never find me waiting kindly for someone to come remind me.

SETH AVETT: But as I was writing it, I was hearing, like, this is going to be awesome because Scott and I - like, we'll go back and forth like the Beastie Boys. You know, it'll be like mid-phrase, you know, you'll jump ship, and it'll be a different vocal.


THE AVETT BROTHERS: (Singing) Got to get woken up, opened up all the way. Lawyer on the phone saying, hey, I just called to say, still two...

SUMMERS: Speaking of the Beastie Boys, their original producer, Rick Rubin, he also produced this record. Scott says the band has a long-standing relationship with Rubin.

SCOTT AVETT: Rick has had our back in many ways, more than just creatively, also business wise. And that's been - it's been a real gift and a real blessing to have his friendship.

SUMMERS: Is there any one song where you really feel like your creative partnership with him is most evident?

SCOTT AVETT: One that comes to mind is "Cheap Coffee."


THE AVETT BROTHERS: (Singing) Little hands building things, climbing mountains, tracing stars, chasing dreams.

SCOTT AVETT: We really went on a journey together with that one. It's kind of sonically set apart from the other songs on the record and from really any song we've recorded. And that's the product of a kind of a magical day, magical time in the studio with Rick. I'm singing it in real time, playing all the instruments in real time. Eventually, Rick turning all the lights off, you know. Like the version you hear on the record, we recorded in the dark, you know, like we couldn't even see the instruments.

SUMMERS: Why in the dark?

SCOTT AVETT: I don't know. But it definitely had some effect.

SETH AVETT: Yeah, I mean, I don't know why in the dark necessarily, but it was - it's like a sonic meditation is what it...


SETH AVETT: We spent - we committed to the time. It was a long process.

SCOTT AVETT: And it's a perfect example of a way and a path creatively that would never have happened without that partnership.



SUMMERS: OK. You all have been creating music together for so long. What do you think the secret is to that longevity? What keeps you coming back to it and to working with each other?

SETH AVETT: It's trust. It's a trust that's built in. Like, it's - I was presented to me as reality before I could speak or before I could walk, you know. My trust in that Scott has my best interests in mind is something that - it would never occur to me to question that and that's because we grew up together. I always think it's kind of a funny thing like - like, sometimes, you know, my wife will ask me, like, you know, what a certain line is about or something, and I'll realize, well, oh - and in my mind, I'm like, oh, Scott wrote that line. And I'll just say to her, like, I have no idea what that line is about, you know, like, we've never even talked about that. Like, that - the level of trust is so high that we will make things together and we don't even need to discuss it sometimes, you know.

SUMMERS: What about you, Scott?

SCOTT AVETT: I think that my trust directs towards the reality that this is happening to us. We're not turning the dials. It's happening to us, and our trust allows us to surrender to that. We've been lucky and blessed to transform with each other, to change with each other and watch this happening to us.


THE AVETT BROTHERS: (Singing) Life cannot be written. It only can be lived. An endless sea of vision. For each is born within.

SUMMERS: We've been speaking with Scott and Seth Avett of The Avett Brothers. The Avett Brothers' new self-titled album is out now. Thank you both so much.

SCOTT AVETT: Thank you, Juana.

SETH AVETT: Thank you - appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.