Physical systems characterized by stick-slip dynamics often display avalanches. Regardless of the diversity of their microscopic structure, these systems are governed by a power-law distribution of avalanche size and duration. Here we focus on the interevent times between avalanches and show that, unlike their distributions of size and duration, the interevent time distributions are able to distinguish different mechanical states of the system. We use experiments on granular systems and numerical simulations of emulsions to show that systems having the same probability distribution for avalanche size and duration can have different interevent time distributions. Remarkably, these interevent time distributions look similar to those for earthquakes and, if different from an exponential, are indirect evidence of non trivial space-time correlations among avalanches. Our results therefore indicate that interevent time statistics are essential to characterise the dynamics of avalanches.