“I love standing before the ocean, being reminded of the vastness and the way that the land dissolves into the ocean. It’s very compelling and magnetic for me”
Martha’s Vineyard will be bumping with an abundance of live music over the next few days. Beach Road Weekend will happen once again at Veterans Memorial Park in Vineyard Haven from August 26-28, and the lineup is full of talent. Beck, Wilco, Billy Strings, Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris, Bully, Khruangbin, Lettuce, Guster, Jason Isbell, the 400 Unit are just a few of the acts performing.
The Avett Brothers from Concord, North Carolina will headline the first night on the Lighthouse Stage at 6:30pm. The quartet of multi-instrumentalists Seth and Scott Avett, bassist and violinist Bob Crawford, and cellist Joe Kwon—along with touring members Mike Marsh on drums, Tania Elizabeth on fiddle, and their sister Bonnie Avett-Rini on piano—is one of the best live acts on the planet through their emphatic blend of folk, bluegrass, country, punk, and indie rock.
Scott and I spoke ahead of the festival about a musical based on one of their albums, having posters made for a few shows earlier this summer, his thoughts on Martha’s Vineyard, and new music coming in the near future.
Earlier this year, a stage musical based on the Avett Brothers’ music titled Swept Away debuted at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in California with the actual setting of the musical taking place off the coast of New Bedford, Massachusetts during the late 1800s. Who first approached you and Seth about this and what made you interested in it?
I guess Matthew Masten, the producer who is from Charlotte originally and works with the theater community in New York, was really interested in our album Mignonette which Seth and I appropriated conceptually around a book called Custom Of The Sea. We had done that around 2004 while being both loosely and directly related to that record conceptually and he was interested in that. He thought it would make a good show with the pairing of the concept, the story and the songs that we had written. Matthew is responsible for approaching us first and really sticking with it for years to see it through with several prospects changing along the way.
Did you, Seth and the rest of the band have any role in the musical when it came to how the music was presented or how everything was structured?
We were very much involved and really able to approve everything. We sat in on some readings, some casting as well as wrote, added material for it and overall just approved everything.
Earlier this summer, you guys were having special posters made for a few shows while on tour with various artists and illustrators making them. What inspired the idea to have this kind of collaboration going on and how did you go about reaching out to each artist? Was this some sort of contest or did you seek people out?
When it comes to poster making, we’ve always been into that since the beginning of the band. A visual aspect to our expression as artists is to us hand in hand, we come from an art school band heritage in that you made the songs, you made the albums, you made the posters and you presented it all as some kind of a package of expression. I think as we’ve gotten busier throughout the years, not just with music but our own other creative endeavors as well as our families and our lives, the best way to do that is to build a community of artists that are illustrators. Brilliant illustrators that we can share in that expression together, so it’s really just a family sort of group. We’re very much interested in that and hope to continue that tradition, for sure.
What are your thoughts going into Beach Road Weekend? Is this going to be your first time playing Martha’s Vineyard? Have you played the island before?
We have played the island before. It was in a club, I don’t remember what it was called but I remember the night very well. I have a vision in my mind of what it’s going to be like, which actually might be completely different than that. Martha’s Vineyard is such a famous place and you hear the name way more than you understand what it’s like, that’s my experience. Growing up it seemed like this far off place and a very historical place so I take that and bring it in with me with my own perspective of what I think it’s going to be like but knowing very well it could be all kinds of things.
You’re right about it being historic and famous. Being from North Carolina, you have your own coastal community there so do you find any similarities or contrasts between that atmosphere and what the New England coastline has?
From what I’ve experienced, let’s say that the similarities are probably way more than the differences. Geographically and architecturally you get differences, I think people are interested in the same things and doing a lot of the same things. The Carolina coast, and we can include the Outer Banks in that and the other islands all the way down to the north Georgia coast, it’s vast. Even though it can be very highly visited, it still filters the population in a way that feels vast and uninhabited sometimes when it’s even busy. I feel like that’s a little different but I can’t speak too much on the New England coast, it’s kind of a mammoth conversation, right?
There’s a lot to it. … I’ll tell you one similarity that I love and we all get the same, it’s different on the East Coast than it is on the West Coast, they both have it on their own level but there’s a mystique to all of it that’s just undeniable. I love it, I love standing before the ocean, being reminded of the vastness and the way that the land dissolves into the ocean. It’s very compelling and magnetic for me.
It’s been a bit since the Avett Brothers released their last full-length album, Closer Than Together back in 2019. Can we expect any new music either in the form of a new album, an EP or even some singles in the near future or do you just plan on touring for the coming months?
Touring is life for us, however we have new music in the can as they sometimes say so yes, folks can expect new music. We have been very patient with what we’re working on now while establishing a space between listening and working. It’s been long, good and healthy and part of it obviously was the pandemic, it was a big aspect to our pace and we’re still in the wake of that. I don’t want to harp on it because life moves on somehow every time through all these different adversities we get but that’s the long answer. The short answer is that we do have new music very close to being engaged and ready to go.
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Providence Journal, The Connecticut Examiner, The Newport Daily News, Worcester Magazine, New Noise Magazine, Northern Transmissions and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.