Scott Avett picked up a banjo as a joke, really. He and brother Seth were playing in local rock outfit Nemo in the late '90s around Greenville, N.C., close to their hometown Concord, N.C. Seth had pic

Scott Avett picked up a banjo as a joke, really. He and brother Seth were playing in local rock outfit Nemo in the late '90s around Greenville, N.C., close to their hometown Concord, N.C. Seth had picked up with a group of guys who boozed and played acoustic music – folk, bluegrass, blues -- on Tuesday nights and as Scott started showing up, he just "fell into" picking up the instrument.

"It was out of irony. I couldn't have chosen a more opposite instrument to who I am or what I was into at that time," Scott tells Billboard.com. "It was strange going into bluegrass. I didn't grow up listening to that stuff. I was into rock music and metal, and stuff like Prince."

When the weight of the joke lifted, Seth (guitar, vocals) and Scott (banjo, vocals) found themselves on the other side of Nemo breaking up and a new era of their music careers beginning. In 2000, they officially formed the Avett Brothers, eventually recruiting friend Bob Crawford on bass and vocals, and started writing acoustic-based pop tunes. Since, the trio has released "around" nine albums, including two live efforts, an EP, their original 6-song demo and the most recent "Emotionalism."

It's the latter album that has brought the band its biggest sales success thus far, having scored ink on a trio of Billboard charts: the Ramseur effort bowed at the summit of Heatseekers, No. 134 on The Billboard 200 and No. 13 on Top Independent Albums.

Transcending their "local band" status was important to the threesome and the best course of action was sharpening their skills to play loud, fast and action-packed live. They set out to conquer stages across the country, from rural Kansas to Coachella, though Scott enthuses that their much of their growing, loyal fanbase comprises of "punk kids" who grow up in small towns and are hungry for new music. The crowd at an Avett Brothers show is as diverse as their records, with "frat guys, black t-shirts, hippies, indie kids."

The group already has dozens of dates lined up for the summer, including stints at Bumbershoot in Seattle on Sept. 1 and a sold-out event at the North Carolina Museum of Art on June 16.

"We play pop music, maybe just simply pop-rock music. It just happens to have elements of bluegrass in it. And punk…" And country and even metal (not surprisingly, the group is sometimes hoarse after their performances). "This is a good time for music like ours. Country isn't a dirty word. Neither is pop."

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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