Growing up in North Carolina, the brothers were definitely into rock, though they were exposed to equal doses of classic country like Tom T. Hall, Willie Nelson, and John Conlee around their home as well. They met upright bass player Bob Crawford while he was in college 20 miles south of Charlotte in South Carolina getting his music degree, and soon the three were tearing it up onstage and sharing their love for hardcore metal music.
While Nemo commanded most of their attention, their love for old time country and roots music began to make its way to the forefront as well, and the Avetts were soon doing an informal thing on the side called the Nemo Backporch Project, playing bluegrass tunes for fun. Scott recalls how the side project began to creep more and more into the band’s collective consciousness.
“We did it informally at first, but when Nemo began to wind down and finally broke up, we kept on with the Backporch Project, and we noticed we still had the same fans as the other band – punk rock kids, hardcore kids, rock kids, country people, older folk, younger folk – and we noticed there were more people who would listen to it because it wasn’t quite as abrasive and intrusive as the loud rock we were playing, but we were approaching it the same way with banjo, acoustic, and bass. And writing about the same things, really.”
Their unique brand of what some might call “thrashgrass” was enhanced onstage by the trio’s wild movements, which they instilled during their metal days and adapted for their backporch style. Influenced by bands like Faith No More, the Avetts felt their onstage antics and wild thrashing and their bluegrass-tinged music didn’t have to be mutually exclusive – and apparently their fans agreed.
“If you feel like letting loose, it’s good to let that happen,” explains Seth. “We like to watch bands like Faith No More - they move and climb onto things and let the music take them wherever it’s going to take them. That’s another influence coming from heavy metal music because you’re not gonna see old time country bands or bluegrass bands letting their bodies go crazy, but if you feel like it you should just let it go.”
“In the beginning we were imitating guys like Mike Patton of Faith No More…we would watch…there were mosh pits; you would interact with the crowd a lot, and the last year and a half it has worked its way more and more into our shows as we settled into what we are and what we do,” adds Scott. “Our shows get really rocking, and they’re just like those hardcore shows where there’s a lot of sweat, a lot of kids moving, and you can interact with the crowd. A lot of times the music will surprise you and it will lift you off the ground.”
About the only time the three have their feet planted firmly on the ground, in fact, is when they return home from touring, which is when they manage to do all of their real work writing songs, recording solo side projects, and pushing themselves to become better and better. “We’re workaholics I’m afraid - on the road is kind of our vacation sort of, but when we’re home we’re working,” admits Scott, who is also pursuing a career in drawing and painting…when he has time. “We could stop writing today and comfortably have two or three records ready to work on without writing anything else.”
But they’re not taking anything for granted about this unique career they’ve carved out for themselves, and try not to look so far ahead into the future that they miss what’s happening in the moment.