Dawes is one of those bands that you may have heard of on alternative radio, your college radio station, or even Sirius radio, but you might not be able to name one of their songs. That’s about to change with the release of the fifth studio album that’s climbing the charts, We’re All Gonna Die. As they head out on the road for their first headline tour around the U.S., Dawes might just be one the best American bands to come along in the last ten years, and now it’s time for the world to take notice.
Whether you call them folk-rock, indie-alt rock, or California rock, this Los Angeles based band has been writing some of the most poignant and melodic songs on each of their albums over the past eight years, led by the soulful and celestial voice of Dawes frontman Taylor Goldsmith. Dawes is somewhat of a family affair, with brother Griffin Goldsmith (drums, vocals, percussion) Wylie Gelber (bass), and Lee Pardini (keyboards, vocals). Childhood friend and once Simon Dawes bandmate Blake Mills even got in on the action, as he produced the new album, which is a bold departure for Dawes, bringing glowing kudos to the sonic venture.
For the new album Dawes reached out to a few of their musical friends, with Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Brittany Howard (Alabama Shakes) and Mandy Moore (Actress/Singer), who happens to be dating singer Goldsmith, and others all chimed in with some vocals for several of the tracks.
Besides being one of the best singer/songwriters, Taylor Goldsmith happens to be one of the nicest dudes in music today. Goldsmith recently sat down with AXS for a chat about the new music direction the band is taking, the artistry of songwriting, and the soul-power of his Dad’s singing voice.
AXS: Growing up with your Dad, Lenny Goldsmith who was a singer in notable bands like Tower of Power, did that influence you getting into music or was it just another extension of the family business?
Taylor Goldsmith: When you're a kid, and you're filling out that piece of paper of what you want to be when you grow up. For me, I never really wondered about that. For me I was singing songs that's what I do. As a kid, though, I didn't know what that meant. I didn't know if I was going to be in a band or in a play or something else, you know? Knowing that music was going to be my life was a full gone conclusion. I just didn't know what that looked like; it was not clear for me.
Even the idea of songwriting. It wasn’t even until Dawes started as a band that I started to realize almost…the sanctity of songs, and what it could actually mean. It took me discovering records by Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan that made me realize that this goes way beyond getting up on stage and acting like an idiot.
AXS: I read that your Dad was not the biggest Dylan fan. What was he listening to when you were growing up that made you want to tell stories through music?
TG: Part of that is because I didn’t have the pipes that my Dad has. He grew up listening to guys like Otis Redding and James Brown. He’s 70 years old now, and to this day he can still play a 4-hour set and singing higher notes than I could ever dream of; he just has that in his blood.
AXS: On this new album I'm hearing more sounds than I have heard on a Dawes album before and it took me about three times listening to it on repeat that when before I was really blown away by what a departure this is for you guys and just how good it is. Do you see Dawes as always evolving, and crafting your sound and not staying in one indie-rock box?
TG: I think evolving is the operative word. A lot of bands take an intentional step away from what they were, whether they were embarrassed what they were, or ashamed, and like of you come to one of their shows they will only play new material. It’s like that kind of negative energy. That’s definitely not the case with Dawes. I’m such, (pauses, then laughs) I’m so in love with all of our records we have made.
Rather than move away from what other music we’ve made before, we want to evolve, as you say. Just like a simple human being does, these bands are living organisms; it doesn’t feel that much different in that sense. It’s more about adding to that identity of what this band is, let’s embellish or elaborate on what we already are as a band. As an artist, you have to be committed to going to where your intuitive and whims take you, and trust that and follow it as means to be more true to yourself than the artist that just tries to sound like the record that garnered them the most success.
AXS: When you looked at the blank page of the new album We’re All Gonna to Die or even trying to come up with the concept of the album. Did you already have ideas in your head what it would look like and sound like, or did that develop more organically?
TG: With this record, I wanted to create something that wasn’t about one thing, where each song left you with a completely different feeling than the last. With songs on the record like “When the Tequila Runs Out, Less Than Five Miles Away, Quitter, As If by Design, Picture of a Man.” It was important to me to make it feel more like a collection of short stories, rather than being a part of the same conceptual piece.
AXS: You had your old Malibu friend Blake Mills from Simon Dawes produce the album. What did he bring to the album?
TG: We grew up together, we met at 10 or 11 years old, and we have the same sensibilities, and that felt really good. To be able to communicate as a musician to producer in a way that was really understood. With Blake, I just trust him so much. There’s no music that he’s been a part of that I don’t like, I dig everything that he has his name on, and that’s a rare thing.
AXS: Did you set out to have guests on the new album like Brittney Howard, Jim James or even Mandy Moore?
TG: It was really a matter of who was around and what the song calls for. Like when we did "When the Tequila Runs Out," we needed something bigger on the for the chorus, in terms of
vocals. We tried something, and it didn't work. Blake had just produced this duet version of "I Want It That Way," with Jim and Brittney. He asked if they'd try something for us, and they were like, "Hell yea," because we're all pals. A lot of it was these kinds of serendipitous interactions.
AXS: "When the Tequila Runs Out" is probably a Dawes song with the biggest hooks and a song that just gets stuck in your brain and has the appearance of a "party" song. I think the song is more than just a party song and could be one of your most prolific songs when you give it a deeper listen. Was that the intention?
TG: We definitely wanted to create a juxtaposition, a sort of duality where you don’t know exactly where the narrator stands with this experience. You don’t know whether when the tequila runs out is a call for celebration or a cry for desperation. We hadn’t really explored this in our other records, figuring out a way to have the music manipulate the mood of what the lyric was conveying. And, to sort of fuck with the mood like to really help the lyric to have a fully formed life to it.
AXS: Has songwriting changed for you from your 20s to now in your early 30s? Your songwriting seems to be getting more mature and layered.
TG: I like to think so. Some of my favorite songwriters, there does seem to be this work of refinement as time goes one. It seems like those early Bruce Springsteen records he just seemed to spill out whatever was on his mind, and his later music he was a lot more aware of what he said and how he presented it. With some of these songs you just get to a point where you pay attention to the perspective and the subject matter that you really didn't before. Adding some elements to the words that give another impression to someone listening to it for the first time.
AXS: You guys have a new tour that kicks off in January. Are you guys excited about bringing these new songs on the road?
TG: Absolutely! We’re doing our first tour where it’s an evening with Dawes, no opening act, just us. We're going to play two sets and play all night. Now that we have five albums under our belts, we can explore the catalog a little deeper than we could before.
You may just want to stick Dawes in your Spotify rotation or just buy up their entire catalog of stellar albums.
Known to their swelling fanbase as one the best and tightest live bands in the business, which can be displayed with their recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Dawes hits the road in January with a 50 city tour, crisscrossing the U.S. through May and beyond, playing in many AXS.com venues including a hometown show at the Ace Hotel Theatre in Los Angeles in April.
“AN EVENING WITH DAWES” LIVE TOUR DATES – Tickets available here.
Jan. 11—Phoenix, Ariz. @ Crescent Ballroom
Jan. 13—San Luis Obispo, Calif. @ Fremont Theater
Jan. 14—Santa Barbara, Calif. @ Lobero
Jan. 20—Lake Tahoe, Nev. @ Montbleu Resort
Jan. 26—Dallas, Texas @ Bomb Factory
Jan. 28— Austin, Texas @ Stubb's
Jan. 29—Oklahoma City, Okla. @ ACM@UCO
Jan. 31—Little Rock, Ark. @ Rev Room
Feb. 1—St. Louis , Mo. @ The Pageant
Feb. 3—Minneapolis, Minn. @ State Theatre
Feb. 4—Iowa City, Iowa @ Englert Theatre
Feb. 6—Madison, Wisc. @ Barrymore Theatre
Feb. 7—Omaha, Neb. @ The Waiting Room
Feb. 8—Sioux Falls, SD @ The Orpheum
Feb. 10—Boulder, Colo. @ Fox Theatre
Feb. 11—Aspen, Colo. @ Belly Up
Feb. 12—Salt Lake City, Utah @ The Depot
Feb. 21—San Francisco, Calif. @ Fillmore
Feb. 22—Portland, Ore. @ Wonder Ballroom
Feb. 24—Seattle, Wash. @ Showbox
Feb. 25—Missoula, Mont. @ Wilma Theatre
Feb. 26—Billings, Mont. @ Pub Station Ballroom
Feb. 28—Des Moines, Iowa @ Wooly's
March 3—Birmingham, Ala. @ Iron City
March 4—Atlanta, Ga. @ Variety Playhouse
March 5—Durham, NC @ DPAC
March 7—Wilmington, Del. @ The Grand Opera House
March 8—Washington, DC @ Lincoln Theatre
March 10—New York, NY @ Beacon Theatre
March 11—Boston, Mass. @ Orpheum
March 12—Hartford, Ct. @ Infinity Hall
March 14—Northampton, Mass. @ Academy of Music Theatre
March 15—Ithaca, NY @ State Theater
March 17—Toronto, Ont. @ The Opera House
March 18—Kalamazoo, Mich. @ State Theatre
March 19—Indianapolis, Ind. @ The Vogue
March 21—Tulsa, Okla. @ Cain's Ballroom
March 22—Santa Fe, NM @ Lensic Performing Arts Center
March 23—Flagstaff, Ariz. @ Orpheum Theater
April 1—Los Angeles, Cailf. @ The Theatre at Ace Hotel
April 21—Louisville, Ky. @ The Brown Theatre
April 23—Charleston, SC @ High Water Festival*
April 25—Asheville, NC @ Orange Peel
April 26—Knoxville, Tenn. @ Bijou Theatre
April 28—Nashville, Tenn. @ Ryman Auditorium
April 29—Nashville, Tenn. @ Ryman Auditorium
April 30—Chattanooga, Tenn. @ Revelry Room
May 2—Wilmington, NC @ Greenfield Lake Amphitheatre
May 3—Charlotte, NC @ Fillmore
(More dates to be announced)