Call it mountain music played with metal muscle or bluegrass licks augmented by punk rock kicks, but Scott Avett, of the fast-rising Avett Brothers, said he credits the group's sound to just one thing.
Mr. Avett, who with brother Seth and bass player Bob Crawford make up the trio, said crafting the group's unique sound comes a distant second to writing smart, artful and truthful tunes.
"It's all about truth and honesty and purity," he said in a recent telephone interview. "The gimmick has got to come second. The art, that's always first, and it's something you have to put the time in."
The Avetts perform Friday at the Imperial Theatre.
The band rose from the ashes of the more traditional electric rock outfit Nemo. Mr. Avett, who plays banjo and sings, said the reason the Avett Brothers seem to be succeeding where Nemo didn't is they have managed to find a new way to tap into and deliver the energy most often associated with rock acts.
"I don't remember the day it happened, but I do remember going from a five-piece rock band to just Seth and I and realizing that we were getting much more attention," he said. "The fact was that, as good as that band was, it was a dime-a-dozen, one of many."
Mr. Avett said part of the pleasure of the Avett Brothers' all-inclusive approach to songwriting is that anything is possible as long as it accentuates and amplifies the song. Recent shows have featured Joe Kwon on cello, adding depth and texture between the rattling highs of the banjo and guitar and the low thrum of the bass. Working in a style that might incorporate a Beatle-style hook into Hank Williams-inspired whiskey bottle blues means there are never any wrong answers, just experiments that might prove more or less successful than others.
"It makes you think about beer or coffee or barbecue," Mr. Avett said. "The more you digest, the more you experience, your tastes will become wider and, in a funny way, more specific. I mean, as we grow older, it does become harder to accept that initial reaction to a basic pop song."
The trick, Mr. Avett said, is to make the carefully crafted songs seem effortless. That's been easier during the band's famously raucous live sets, but he said that as the trio returns to the studio, it is finding ways to make records that accomplish similar goals.
"In a lot of ways, the live setting is about work ethic," Mr. Avett said. "In the studio, that can work against you. You can put in too many hours, try too hard. I mean, we've learned over the years how to do the live thing. The studio has been slower. But I think it's something we're finally becoming comfortable with."
Rather than dismiss early efforts, Mr. Avett said he considers them essential pieces in a puzzle that will never be complete. He said he views each performance, each record, every aspect of the band's image and output as part of an ever-evolving art project that, when viewed as a whole, becomes something grand.
"I want people to see the polish and the faults and that together, they make this great package," he said. "It's a long journey and you never find the end.
"I hope not, anyway."
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHAT: The Avett Brothers, with the Shaun Piazza Band
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday
WHERE: The Imperial Theatre, 745 Broad Street
COST: $14 advance, $20 day of show; 706-722-8341.
Click here to listen to a clip from 'My Last Song to Jenny' by the Avett Brothers