News Column

Dawes Firmly Rooted in Retro LA Folk Rock Sound

May 23, 2013


There is no denying the comparisons between Dawes and the folk rock acts of 1970s Los Angeles.

Playing a slew of shows in Colorado this week, their music instantly draws comparisons to groups like The Eagles and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, among others. The notion is further solidified by their distinct L.A. roots, which put their early recording and performing locations right up next to those giants as well.

Those connections, brought up endlessly in interviews and reviews, are something that singer Taylor Goldsmith and his band have pretty much embraced, but not fully come to love.

"Those bands they compare us to are great artists for sure, but it's our job to get you to listen to our recordings, not just long to hear those older tunes," said Goldsmith.

Fortunately, Dawes accomplishes that with ease.

The band has earned heaps of praise for their new album, "Stories Don't End," which showcases Goldsmith's storytelling across smooth melodies, crafted perfectly for the summer bonfire and the open road. Reviews from NPR to Rolling Stone have been glowing, even anointing them as the next big rock band and the saviors of the Laurel Canyon sound, which put L.A. on top of the music world in the 1970s.

That is probably too much to lay on a band still young in their career, but Goldsmith is OK with it. Even after recording "Stories Don't End" in North Carolina, surrounded by the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains, he said their music is still decidedly from L.A. and probably always will be.

"We really do feel those influences and we are an L.A. band," he said. "It was nice to get away and record in a different place for those five weeks, but that doesn't change where we come from."

Several things came together to create Dawes current sound. The band was originally a post-punk style group, but Goldsmith and his brother eventually reformed the sound closer to what they sound like today. Both were, and still are, influenced by the acts they are often compared to, but their path was shaped more by seeing their dad Lenny Goldsmith play in clubs. The senior Goldsmith served as the singer for funk-rockers Tower of Power and pushed the brothers toward the likes of Otis Redding rather than Bob Dylan.

"I feel like that has shaped the musicians that we are. We really care about guitar tone and performance rather than the effects and pedals that you can use, for example," Goldsmith said. "I guess I am just in love with the inherent qualities of an instrument."

This reliance on themselves and their instruments rather than technology has shaped the band in plenty of ways. Before this album, the group recorded strictly on analog, claiming it made them more disciplined to have to work with one take at a time and no overdubs. There is no room for sampling or electronics. Goldsmith admits he wouldn't know what to do with those things if he had them anyway.

Dawes also regularly plays unique venues that highlight their down-to-earth feel, including a series of shows in old barns. During their stops in Colorado, they will play festivals, theaters and the Mishawaka.

"We really like to change it up and explore those different areas. Playing in one type of venue can get tiring, so we keep going to different places," Goldsmith said.

While Goldsmith has performed in various side projects and has a pretty impressive list of friends to jam with, he said there were no plans to take a break from Dawes in the future. Why would he?

"These are the guys I love. I'm not getting anything out of a side group that I couldn't get out of Dawes," he said. "I want to play with them for as long as I can."


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