Dawes are (left to right): Lead singer/guitarist Taylor Goldsmith, drummer/vocalist Griffin Goldsmith, bassist Wylie Gelber, and keyboardist/vocalist Alex Casnoff
Hometown: Los Angeles
Latest project: A headlining U.S. tour in support of their debut album, “North Hills”
Sounds like: Heartfelt, harmony-rich folk-rock with classic-rock influences
Biggest claim to fame: Rolling Stone called them 2009’s “roots-rock rookies of the year”
Official website: http://www.dawestheband.blogspot.com/
Despite their youth—no one in the band is over the age of 24—Dawes’ influences run deep. The L.A. based roots-rock outfit, led by singer-songwriter Taylor Goldsmith, cite artists like Neil Young and the Band as major inspirations, and they proudly wear those influences on their denim sleeves. Their growing popularity, on the strength of sing-along anthems like “When My Time Comes,” has put them at the forefront of a revival of California’s classic “Laurel Canyon” sound, a movement whose other adherents include former Rilo Kiley drummer Jason Boesel, singer-songwriter Blake Mills (formerly of Dawes’ precursor band, Simon Dawes), and producer Jonathan Wilson, who recorded Dawes’ luminous debut album, “North Hills.”
Listen: “Dawes - When My Time Comes”
Before Dawes’ latest round of tour dates, Goldsmith answered a few questions via email about the band’s retro sound, their ambitions to play bigger stages, and why they’re seemingly the only non-bearded folk-rock band on the planet.
Your music has such a timeless, rootsy quality to it—are people ever surprised to find out you guys are from Los Angeles?
Sometimes. But the people that are familiar with L.A.'s musical history are less surprised. I understand that the time of guys like Jackson Browne and Neil Young and Warren Zevon has since passed, but people like that are big influences to us and those are all L.A. artists.
There’s a shot of you guys in a recent issue of Rolling Stone hanging out by the Big Pink house, where the Band recorded their classic, “Music From Big Pink.” How did you wind up there?
It was a filmed performance we were asked to do, and what it's gonna be used for is still sorta unclear. It was such an honor and an experience to just be in that basement, let alone to get to play music in it. I'm certain it'll be one of our favorite memories as a band forever.
Any other rock ‘n’ roll landmarks you aspire to play at some point?
Yeah. They all seem to be big stages. Red Rocks, Madison Square Garden, the Gorge. Some bands talk about being contented with wherever they are. While we're grateful for any and all the good things that have come our way, we want to play the biggest stages out there.
Can people get “North Hills” on vinyl, too? Because there’s something about the record that definitely evokes that crackle and warmth of a vintage LP.
Yeah, it's definitely on vinyl. And our record was recorded to two inch tape, and then mastered analog to the vinyl as well. So the vinyl copies of "North Hills" never went through any computers, which is a pretty cool thing for us.
I read a write-up of the band recently that suggested (jokingly, I’m pretty sure…although you never know) that you might get more attention in indie-folk circles if you all grew beards. Ever considered it?
Ha. I guess I wouldn't mind having a beard. Although, something that we sometimes pride ourselves on is that we are very honest and up front about who we are. In the same way that we made a record where none of the songs hide behind any effects or tricks, who we present ourselves as on stage is exactly who we are offstage as well. Basically, we don't change clothes before the show.
You get a rare break from the road in September. What do you plan to do with the time off?
Record the next album. Always on the clock!