Avett Brothers say new album isn’t political, but they tackle differences of opinion

When The Avett Brothers announced the release date for their new album, “Closer Than Together” in June, it was accompanied by what was described as a “mission statement.”

“The last thing the world needs is another piece of sociopolitical commentary,” Seth Avett began, continuing to describe the album’s inspiration over 618 words.

“We did, however, make an album that is obviously informed by what is happening now on a grander scale all around us … because we are a part of it and it is a part of us,” he wrote. “The Avett Brothers will probably never make a sociopolitical record. But if we did, it might sound something like this.”

“Closer Than Together” is out Oct. 4 on Universal Music Group imprint Republic Records. The band’s 10th studio album comes three years after 2016’s “True Sadness,” whose creation was chronicled in the documentary, “May it Last.”

In an interview, Scott Avett, Seth’s older brother and co-founder of the band, seems cautious about taking a stand one way or another.

“We speak about [issues] in an inclusive and unifying way, not in a way that points fingers and is judgmental and divisive,” Avett said in an interview last month. “If it is divisive, then I don’t trust it at this point. My personal mission is to be involved in a unifying current.”

The album from the Concord-based band comes amidst a flurry of appearances, including Oct. 7 on NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and the “Armchair Expert Podcast” with actor Dax Shepard.

It also arrives days before Scott Avett opens his first solo exhibition, “INVISIBLE,” at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. The exhibit will be on display Oct. 12 through Feb. 2.

Scott Avett of The Avett Brothers will have an exhibit titled “Scott Avett : INVISIBLE” opening Oct. 12 at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. Avett has many personal pieces, including these two pieces featuring he and his wife with two of their children. Juli Leonard jleonard@newsobserver.com

“Closer Than Together” diverges from its predecessors, Scott Avett says, by speaking directly to what he sees as differences of opinion on songs like “We Americans” and “A Long Story Short.”

“New Woman’s World” is an “apocalyptic” view of a man’s world becoming a woman’s world, he says, capped with a rhetorical, “Is that better?”

In “Bang Bang,” Seth Avett sings: “Have you ever had a gun / pointed directly at you? … well I have twice, and I don’t recall / any heroes on the scene / just adrenaline and fear / and a few souls who have unfortunately seen / a lot of bang bang shoot ‘em up movies.” In the chorus, he insists on turning off such a movie.

Both Avett brothers have had loaded guns pointed at them multiple times, Avett says. His own worst instance happened in 1991, when he was in high school in Concord. He and some friends were stealing a stop sign when someone shot into their Honda CR-X. The bullet passed between Scott Avett, who was hunched up in the back seat, and the others in the car, piercing nothing but a Converse Chuck Taylor sneaker.

“There’s no doubt that you get shot at like that, there’s some PTSD that, whether you know it or not, you’re going to live with it,” says Avett. “There’s a different relationship with a firearm that you have.”

Avett Brothers Closer Than Together.jpg
The Avett Brothers have a new album, “Closer Than Together” out Oct. 4. Republic Records

The message of the song, he says, isn’t to blame gun violence on movies, suggesting instead a more literal read.

“The statement of the song is saying that the individual would like to turn the TV off and that there’s a lot of racket on the screen,” Avett says. “That’s all the song says in the chorus. It actually doesn’t say, ‘Gun violence is because of this,’ but it can say, ‘This might be something that is part of this.’”

For details on the exhibit, go to ncartmuseum.org.

Tickets go on sale Oct. 5 for the Avett Brothers’ April 4 concert at the North Carolina Azalea Festival in Wilmington. Tickets go on sale 10 a.m. on the festival website. A $10 discount will be applied to all tickets purchased before Oct. 19.

Corbie Hill is a contributor to The News & Observer. Follow him on Twitter at @afraidofthebear.
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