The Avett Brothers keep an unusual tour schedule. Instead of spending months on the road, playing a different city every night, the North Carolina-based band heads out for a handful of dates at a time, often returning home in less than a week. "We do it piecemeal, so that we'll have time to be with our families and record," says bass player Bob Crawford. "It's taken us several years to get this far, but we want to have vibrant family lives."
That strategy is typical for comedians but less so for a band like the Avett Brothers. They are not a typical band. In the last decade, the group — which consists of two Avett siblings, Seth and Scott, plus Crawford and a few touring musicians — has developed its own homegrown DIY approach to accompany its distinctive sound, which updates Appalachian folk traditions to the 21st century and delivers dynamic pop melodies with a near-punk fervor.
The brothers began playing together in the early 2000s, developing a reputation for rambunctious live shows. Originally appearing as a duo before adding Crawford in 2003, they played guitar, banjo, kick drum, and tambourine simultaneously — two one-man bands pounding out wild and wooly songs. They toured persistently if not consistently and signed with indie label Ramseur Records. A string of critically praised and increasingly popular albums followed, and the Avetts eventually signed with Columbia Records and recorded their major-label debut, 2010's I And Love And You, with Rick Rubin.
Theirs was a slow rise to stardom — eventually leading to a triumphal performance backing Bob Dylan at the Grammys — but Crawford insists there was no grand plan. "Our strategy in the beginning was: write songs, play songs, make a record. Our schedule was never planned out much further than a week or two ahead."
In recent years, their plans have solidified somewhat, although the band is reluctant to embrace any notion of professional security. "In the music business, we've all seen what a false concept security can be," Crawford explains.
More than their business approach, the Avetts' most impressive feat has been musical. Their revival of old-time music and string-band arrangements has proved influential, with an explosion of like-minded artists exploring the same decades-old sounds and style. Mumford & Sons, with whom the Avetts shared a stage at the Grammys, may have a smash debut, but they wouldn't exist without the Avetts' template.
Crawford is hesitant to comment on this trend or the Avett Brothers' place within it. "I can't speak to what other bands are doing or what's inspiring them to do it," he demurs. "I do think that similar things are popping up in different places, almost as if there's some kind of cultural movement."
Until history gives us an answer, the Avetts will go on writing songs, playing songs, and making records. With several summer festivals and short tours planned, they're currently working on a follow-up to I And Love And You. "I'd say 40 percent of it is written," Crawford says.
For a band that once planned only a week or two ahead, the Avett Brothers are finally looking into the future. "We're probably good through 2012 at this point, which to us is an eternity," Crawford says.
The Avett Brothers
Sunday, May 1st
Horseshoe Casino Stage, 6:55 p.m.