In an era where Disney churns out pop icons and auto-tune is becoming evermore frequent in today’s soundscape, the North California based band Dawes breathes life into live music. The quartet consists of singer/songwriter and guitarist Taylor Goldsmith, his brother Griffin on drums, Wylie Gelber playing bass, and Lee Pardini on keyboard. Their sound, while hard to succinctly describe, is their own. Some compare Dawes to the greats of old like Crosby, Stills & Nash, or Neil Young, and while rightly so in their earlier albums, Dawes stakes claim to their own piece of music history simply by being themselves. This comes through in their latest album, We’re All Gonna Die, which sees the group developing a newer sound that strikes the same cathartic chords as previous albums.
If you’re in doubt, you’ll have a chance to judge for yourself; they’re playing at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester June 16. Before ‘An Evening with Dawes,’ we had a chance to sit down and speak with Goldsmith about songwriting, downtime, and where the band finds inspiration.Take a look at what he had to say, and check them out live this coming Friday.
You’re a poignant songwriter and lyricist. What comes first, the lyrics or the melody?
Sometimes it’s just a line. Like I had the line ‘Things happen that’s all they ever do’ or ‘You look like one of them but you talk like one of us’. All of these lines that I have are kind of swimming around in the brain, where I know there’s a song there but I don’t know how to make it quite yet. As time goes on, the “how to write it” presents itself.
I knew about Quitter for a long time and I knew that it would be ‘Quit doing this, quit doing that, quit doing this and then you’re going to have to quit everything if you find something you want.’ But I didn’t know how to get in there and start writing without making it sound preachy or pedantic. I had wait for it. Then the music comes along which becomes a tool for how to continue writing it. The right music helps me figure out how to write the song.
I’m glad you mentioned Quitter. A friend of mine wanted me to ask about the inspiration behind it.
You know, I think it’s been a sort of poisoned term. Should I sum it up to be ‘you giving up’? In some cases, yes, but in other cases it might be a healthiest thing to do for yourself.
When we first started the band, if I didn’t quit paying the rent that I was paying on this house that we’re all living together in, or quit this just dumb dead-end job that I had at an insurance company answering phones; if I didn’t quit those things to really give it a chance with music, I’d still be doing that stuff. Sometimes quitting is really the first step you have to take in order to do what you want.
You’ve got five records under your belt now. Is there one album you might hold closer to the heart than the others?
They all are, and for different reasons. I love We’re All Gonna Die because it felt the most progressive, it felt the most free. That we were the most willing to follow our inspiration and not ever think about what people expected of us or more than what we expected of ourselves. It was more like ‘well that feels good and fun,’ without thinking of it as under some sort of Dawes microscope.
I love All Your Favorite Bands because it really freed us up to play like the way we play. I mean like, looking back now I kind of laugh at how much or how many guitar solos we can play. But I think it’s good to have a record like that. It’s really, truly jamming and that’s a big part of who we are and that record, to us, showcases that.
I feel like Stories Don’t End, you know, is a record that’s kind of a subdued record. It’s kind of more our strange record. And some of my favorite songs I ever wrote are on that record. But the record itself is a challenging one. It’s not necessarily what our favorites are really. I dig it because of that.
And I love Nothing is Wrong because it was kind of the one that opened up this whole world of taking this career seriously for us.
And then North Hills was a scrappy first album so I love it for that. I have great a relationship with all of them.
Switching gears real quick, what do you do for fun when you’re not touring or in the studio?
I’m always trying to work on another song. There’s nothing as satisfying as writing a song. I love a good show. I love having a good take on a record or having a good track where you know you really did a good bit of recording a song.
But there’s still nothing that comes close to that feeling of finishing a song that you’re happy with. So, I know it’s kind of a cop out of an answer for you but it’s really what I love to do.
You played the Capitol Theater last July and a few other times previously. What do you think of the place acoustically, aesthetically or just overall in general?
I mean it’s one of the legendary spots. We’re huge Grateful Dead fans so what that venue meant to them — it’s not hard to find quotes of them talking about how that’s their favorite venue or one of their favorite venues in the world. And when we play there, it’s not hard to understand why they loved it so much. There’s something about the energy in that room.
We played there three or four times, opening for some friends in the past and it is truly… we haven’t had a set we didn’t like there. It just hasn’t happened. It’s an inspiring place to play in, and I feel like the crowd is tuned to live music in a cool way. People that dare to hear a band live are more in tune in fresh ways and I think that’s something that always keeps a band on their toes and is, therefore, inspiring.
Can we do some rapid fire/short answer questions?
What’s the last movie you saw?
The last movie I saw was Fish Tank.
What was your first concert as kid?
First concert as a kid… probably seeing my dad play.
What about your first car?
My dad’s Ford Explorer that he handed down to me and then I wrecked it.
What’s your favorite kind of ice-cream?
Man. I don’t know. That stuff kind of fucked me up so I don’t know. I don’t eat too much anymore. I’ve never been an ice cream guy.
Favorite road snack?
We have many variations of trail mix. That’s something that we’ve become connoisseurs of.
If you could have dinner with one person in history who would it be?
Biggie or Tupac?
Batman or Superman?
Dogs or cats?
You know I used to be dogs, but now I’m cats.
Oreo’s. Do you dunk dip or twist?
I throw that junk away.
Final question, what’s the last book you’ve read or are reading?
I just finished East of Eden and that was really good and now I’m reading Look Homeward Angel.