The Avett Brothers

Sep 1, 2012 9:00 AM, Mix, By Blair Jackson



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Ryan Hewitt in his Lock, Stock Studio, Venice, Calif.

Ryan Hewitt in his Lock, Stock Studio, Venice, Calif.

“You go back to their early records, and while the songs are really fantastic, there’s very little song structure to some of them, and that’s part of what Rick really worked on,” continues Hewitt, who previously worked with Rubin on the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Stadium Arcadium. “If you listen to the live record we did [2010’s Live, Vol. 3] or how they play songs today, what they do now has clearly been informed by Rick’s method of breaking songs down and making sure that every part is necessary, that every part is complementary. They’ve changed a lot of arrangements of their old songs. Now, some of their fans loved the lack of song form, but from an accessibility standpoint, they’ve definitely improved. They’re able to bring their songs across more succinctly and more memorably, I think.”

The lessons they learned working with Rubin evidently stuck, too: When the Avetts started writing songs for their September release, The Carpenter—also produced by Rubin and engineered and mixed by Hewitt—the thought put into crafting and arrangement were evident from the start. As Rubin puts it, “The songwriting and preproduction on I and Love and You was arduous. On this album, the brothers owned all of the new ways of looking at song structure, and started way ahead.”

Adds Hewitt: “The difference between the last record and this one in the demos was this time they had the benefit of having worked with Rick, so the songs were a lot tighter. They came to Rick a few times out in Malibu [where he has a studio] and played him the songs and he’d say, ‘Wow that sounds great!’ They made a few changes here and there, but they really had tightened up their songs a lot before they got to Rick and they didn’t need as much rewriting and editing. They were pretty much ready to go.”

This time around, for various family-related reasons, the Avetts elected to stay in North Carolina to record the album, booking time at Echo Mountain in Asheville, a wonderful studio built inside what once was a Methodist church. The main recording room has a vaulted 20-foot ceiling with great acoustics, and the control room is based around a vintage Neve 8068 console. Scheduling issues prevented the album from being recorded in a single stretch of a few weeks this time; instead, sessions for The Carpenter were spread over nearly a year.

“I was flying back and forth to Asheville every five or six weeks to do a session of between five and 10 days at Echo Mountain,” Hewitt recalls. “In this case, the band decided they wanted to stay close to home. They didn’t want to go to Malibu [where Rubin has his facility, in the former Shangri-La Studios], and Rick gave them free rein because the demos were so good. So, I’d go to Asheville, record a bunch of stuff, come home, tighten things up in whatever regard I needed to, then do some rough mixes, take them to Rick and he and I would listen together and discuss what needed to happen.”

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