First of all, I’m pretty impressed by how you’ve gone about promoting the band in the UK. A few months ago, few people round these parts of the world had ever heard of you, and now you’ve managed to stir up a lot of buzz. You don’t see too many people doing that these days, so please tell me about these DIY ethics of the band?
Chris: With more and more record labels keeping lean rosters we have to be motivated to promote ourselves. Under the right circumstances we’d be happy to be a part of a label. Many “labels” these days are looking for money upfront, and that’s ridiculous. We’ve had offers like that. It’s always wise to become familiar with the business end of a band in the beginning in order not to be taken advantage of down the road. I like to think that we are bypassing headaches and red tape by not being affiliated with a label. Being self-sufficient has made me appreciate our accomplishments much more.
Jake: We're all pretty motivated to get our music out there and just recently started making some contacts in the UK. I enjoy the DIY aspect to an extent but it is like a second job.
I definitely see your point, but doesn’t a label – the right label – provide you with a sense of security. While they may not be writing out the big cheques like the old days, they could spare you the hassles of this buisness-side of being in a band, something few musicians seem to enjoy?
Chris: Of course, and kudos to the privileged few who have stumbled upon the right label for them. Although, I don't know how much security there is in the music industry these days. Many people have the misconstrued belief that a label will make all their dreams come true, and if they can only get signed all their problems will be solved. It still takes hard work on the band's part.
Jake: Yeah for sure... we are definitely looking for support from a label and/or booking agent but it all takes time and work. The band, as it is, is fairly new... the four of us mesh really well together though and we love what we're doing.
The history of The Avery Set in no more than ten words, please!
Chris: High school friends relocated to Nashville continue to play.
Jake: Chris nailed it.
You’re based in Nashville. Is this the classic tale of “Boy goes to Nashville to become the next big hat-act only to discover that Music Row ain’t what it used to be, and then decides to start credible alt.country band instead”? Sorry…but seriously, why the decision to move to Nashville?
Chris: Jake Bartlett (drummer) moved here to attend college. I was up in Michigan and had just graduated from school. He had been in Nashville a year before I had decided to move. I knew that after school I wanted to pursue music more exclusively but nothing in Michigan was exciting or inspiring. Nashville as the “dream” didn’t inspire me as much as just starting over. Most of the people that move here to “become the next star” play modern country music. These people are looking to be safely packaged, and made by a label. I can’t imagine being told to create a certain type of music in order to sell records.
Jake: I moved to Nashville to finish school and pursue music. Nashville has a lot of crap music with good marketing behind it... I had no interest in that. Chris and I grew up in a small German tourist town that offers nothing to further a career in music unless you want to dance around with an accordian. Nashville has a great independent music scene, it's a fairly large city that feels like a small town... I like it here and I'm glad Chris decided to come down and continue with The Avery Set.
How do you interact with this independent side of (East) Nashville? Is it like this community of friends and likeminded people?
Chris: East Nashville is very cliquey. That area consists of a handful of decent indie bands, but they are very critical of outside music. They have their own little thing going on up there, which is cool.
Jake: We actually aren't too active in the East Nashville scene but it's a pretty hip area and community... a lot of young songwriters and artists and some small venues to play.
There’s definitely a lot of country in your music, but I also hear a lot of indie rock, a lot of that West Coast / Seattle laid back’ness. You know, like The Shins eating Thanksgiving dinner at Merle Haggard’s house. Where do you think this Avery Set sound comes from?
Chris: Nirvana made me fall in love with music. In high school I listened to a lot of Indie rock bands like Modest Mouse, Bright Eyes, M Ward, etc. I’ve always been into Rock n Rolll. The Rolling Stones have had my heart for the past year or so. Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and Dwight Yoakam turned me on to country. I just love sincere music. Brandon is really into Bakersfield country. He is the brains behind all of the honky tonk riffs. Our new bassist, Shawn, used to play upright bass with the Tennessee Three. We all love true country music and share the same definition of it.
Jake: Between the four of us, we cover a lot of ground with the different styles of music we listen to and draw from... the country twang comes from Brandon and compliments Chris' songwriting really well I think.
The South and especially the Mid West have always had a fine tradition when it comes to young bands trying to break new ground within the genre they move in. You had Jason & The Scorchers, Rank &
File and certainly Uncle Tupelo going at punk rock from a country music angle, and on the other side, you have bands such as The Drive-By Truckers and Lucero playing country from a punk perspective. How would you describe the “inner musical forces” and the creative battle between them in The Avery Set?
Chris: Listening to music was (and is) such a peaceful and euphoric experience for me. It’s a feeling that’s impossible to duplicate in other situations. And that feeling is amplified when I play live. It’s hard to explain. The fact that there was nothing to do in the town I grew up in probably contributed to my experimentation with music. I tried to surround myself with friends who played music in high school. I’ve been in a band of some sort since 9th grade. We’d go to Detroit to see shows and just be amazed. I always knew that that’s what I wanted to do.
Jake: I think in the end we ultimately do what feels best for us... we don't really have a set plan or strategy on what our songs should sound like. We're creating music that we love and have a good time doing it.
Tell me about Returning To Steam. With it being your second album, what had to change between this and your first record?
Chris: Nothing really “had” to change per se, but I knew things would be different. We had two new members, whose musical abilities made me blush. They (Brandon and Jacob) really put their stamp on this record. Personally, I was just in a completely different musical headspace. I had a good idea of how I wanted everything to sound production wise. We went into the studio with much more production knowledge than in the past.
Jake: I think our song structure has improved greatly since our first record and I think that's what needed to happen. Brandon and Jacob played a large role in this throughout the writing process. Brandon also brought more of a country twang into the music which I think balances well with the other styles.
You call come from different music backgrounds, having played in jazz- and marching bands among other. How much work did it take for you to find this common musical ground between you?
Chris: It’s not an easy feat because we all love music for different reasons. We do argue over song structure and feel. You have to learn to compromise when there are four different opinions battling it out. But when it comes down to the flesh and bones of the song we are usually in agreement. Everybody will write their own parts so the song is fun for them and is apart of them in some way.
Jake: For the most part, it happens pretty naturally. I think that's why we love doing what we do.
How do you prevent the band from ending up like The Eagles (bad example, I know!), where you had different egos pulling in different directions? Is there a deep sense of friendship that comes before the band?
Chris: I've learned not to take things personally while discussing band-related issues. Aside from our "professional" relationships as band-members, we are all close friends. Egos do get in the way, but we share a pretty open line of communication. We're always bickering and arguing actually, but it never comes between us. I'm just waiting for that girl to come along who will ruin the band for stealing the hearts of two (or three) members.
Jake: Yea, we have all become really great friends, egos get in the way here and there but we just tell each other to shut up and move on. As in any relationship, trust is important and we all have that and the best interest for the band.
The press release says that you go from “shaking hands with Johnny Cash” […] to “talking politics with Conor Oberst”. That could easily get you mistaken for a political outspoken band, especially since Conor Oberst turned very political during the final days of the Bush administration. What are your thoughts on this?
Chris: Music is a tool to convey feelings, political and otherwise. Songwriters will say what they feel, as any other person would in casual conversation. While my lyrics aren’t as overtly political as some, I touch on certain issues that are important to me. Politics don’t inspire me to write songs as much as personal situations do, but if they did in the future, I wouldn’t feel the need to censor my thoughts by not writing about them
Jake: Hmm... this is a good question for Chris.
You’re off to a great start, there’s a lot of people saying very good things about you and Returning To Steam. Were you prepared for this early succes and what do you think you need to do as a band to become even better? And I’m not just talking about writing better songs and improving your skills here.
Chris: I think our stage presence could use a little work. Maybe we need to throw back a few more beers before stage? I tend to get a little nervous when I’m on stage and It can be crippling sometimes. I don’t think we need a choreographer, just some more movement onstage.
Jake: I think success is making a living doing something you love...we're not there yet but ultimately, that is the goal. Making our live show a memorable one is key.
Where would you like to see the band go from here? Do you have a plan for your future written out, a step-by-step to world domination?
Chris: Eventually, it would be nice to make a living off of music. We all have fairly mundane day jobs that we don’t wish to keep. Our plan is to tour as much as possible. We’re really proud of the new record and want as many people to hear it as possible. I want to keep doing exactly what we are doing on a much larger scale. We’re all really committed to make it happen, and that is really important.
Jake: I would like to see us touring and sharing our music with more people.
The Avery Set’s fine album Returning To Steam is out now. Hurry on over to Theaveryset.com for more on these very talented kids!