The Avett Brothers are conventional folk musicians like Jackson Pollack was a conventional painter. The band, like Pollack, turns tradition on its head, choosing bits and pieces for themselves before moving forward into the wild unknown.

The Avett Brothers

Today at 7:30
At the Michigan
$26, $50

The Avetts’ brand of folk music — a genre-defying hodgepodge of punk, bluegrass and rock‘n’roll influences — is the kind that breaks 32 strings in a night and leaves blood on the banjo. They attack their songs with a passion and fury more akin to a punk show at CBGB circa 1978 than a hippie-dippy gathering of picnic blanketers.

In light of the band’s stop at the Michigan Theater, the Daily recently spoke with the Avetts’ cellist, Joe Kwon, about the band’s tour, its growing fanbase and the role of college students within the music industry. Having just soundchecked for its set at Ohio University’s Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium, the first stop on their spring and summer tour, the band was admittedly shaking off some rust.

“We were working on some songs and just making sure we remembered them,” Kwon said, speaking from the Athens, Ohio auditorium. Kwon joined brothers Seth and Scott Avett to record 2007’s Emotionalism, and has been with the group ever since.

The band’s acclaimed 2009 release I And Love And You topped many year-end music lists, winning over fans and critics with its organic yet contemporary take on Southern bluegrass and folk. The band now counts among its many accolades Album of the Year (2009) from Paste Magazine, a Best New Artist tag from Rolling Stone and a feature on the famed music institution “Austin City Limits.”

After a well deserved break, the band was all too eager to get back on the road and greet the hype by performing — a return to how the Avetts secured their loyal following throughout the U.S. over the past few years.

“It’s all exciting right now, because this is our first day of the tour,” Kwon said. “But I’m sure you could ask me in a couple weeks and I’ll be like, ‘Get me off of this road!’ ”

Despite its glorification in rock‘n’roll lore, the road, as any touring musician will tell you, isn’t without its share of gaffes and grease stains. Driving through Appalachian Ohio through the night, before their first show, the Avetts had a pretty close call themselves.

“As soon as we pulled out of the mountainous area we got onto a straightaway and blew one of our tires,” Kwon explained. Having just missed being stranded in the mountains — avoiding what might have been one of the worst possible omens to start a tour — Kwon was ready to see the bright side. Chalk it up to beginning-of-the-tour optimism, he said.

“It’s like a total blessing because if we had blown the tire in the middle of the mountains it would have been deadly,” Kwon said, referencing the hairpin turns and carved-out roads skirting the Appalachian mountainside.

Befitting the band’s image as a no-guts-no-glory gang of Southern folk rebels, Kwon didn’t dwell on the mishap, instead looking forward to the rest of the tour.

“I’m really excited about these Europe dates, because I’ve never been there before,” Kwon said. “I’m also really excited about going to Australia, because I’ve never been there before either!”

With international dates lined up as far as Oslo, Norway and Sydney, Australia, it’s easy to see why Kwon is so enthusiastic. In just a few years, The Avett Brothers went from whispered-about critics’ darlings to a full-fledged international touring machine.

But even with all the newfound hype, Kwon and the band are ever conscious of the role college students play in developing momentum for newer acts — the Avetts’ upcoming tour includes stops in Minneapolis, Minn. and Boulder, Col. in addition to Athens, Ga. and Ann Arbor. The band will also be playing Coachella and Bonnaroo, summer festivals known for attracting large crowds of younger listeners.

“I remember what it was like in college, trying to find the next new band — you seek it out,” Kwon said. “That’s the age kids really seek out different music, new music.”

With help from the Internet hype machine and endless praise from critics worldwide, Kwon contends college-aged students are crucial in bringing attention to artists that fall left of the dial.

“And they’re gonna know about small bands from North Carolina like us,” he added, laughing.

Presented by The Ark, The Avett Brothers will be performing at the Michigan Theater tonight at 7:30 p.m., with The Low Anthem supporting.

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