The Avett Brothers have been releasing music since 2000, but with their ninth LP they decided to do things a little differently. “We agreed to meet at a studio in Asheville, North Carolina called Echo Mountain Studios,” vocalist and banjoist Scott Avett tells EW. “We don’t usually do much organized writing, this was the first time where it was like, ‘Okay, we’ve got these five or 10 days to make demos.'”
The move toward structured sessions was a long time coming says vocalist and guitarist Seth Avett, “It’s probably not the first time that it was a reality, but it’s the first time that we’ve accepted that reality,” he says of scheduling time together. There, they hatched out the shell of what would become True Sadness, the most exciting and adventurous folk-rock album of the year (so far). Super-producer Rick Rubin, who began working with the band for 2009’s I and Love and You, helped the quartet mix EDM beats and power pop constructs into their stunning meditations on highs like new love, and lows like divorce and postpartum depression.
The band sat down before their recent headlining set at New York City’s Madison Square Garden to discuss working with Rubin, the gift of writing together, and why Sadness isn’t necessarily sad. Highlights from that conversation are below.
Tell me about the title, True Sadness.
SCOTT: Well the song was sort of a specific thing, but with the title of the record, it had several meanings. The one that’s most important to me is the pitiful attempt at keeping up—two astronauts going into outer space with a horse. We know what’s going to happen. It’s pitiful.
SETH: And then thematically, like talking about how we talk about death a lot and its not in a morose tone, we maybe look on sadness in the same way. I think the phrase is speaking along the lines of viewing the life experience with some evenness. There’s obviously some sadness, but it outlines something that had to happen. We’re not depressed people but sadness is always there, and it’s alright.
CRAWFORD: The human heart is capable of feeling intense joy and intense sorrow at the same time, and we talk about that all the time. I learned that in therapy. [Laughs]