In three short years Dawes has become one of America's shiniest rock 'n' roll bands. Band members Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith were born in the belly of the L.A. music scene. Their father, Lenny Goldsmith, was Tower of Power's lead singer. Now, joined by Wylie Gelber and Tay Strathairn, Dawes headlines mega-festivals while continuing to pound the small club circuit.
They stay grounded. Griffin Goldsmith still takes drum lessons. We spoke last week just before Dawes' Lollapalooza performance. Griffin says he looks forward to returning to Madison, where he celebrated his 20th birthday in 2010. The band plays at the High Noon Saloon on Aug. 22.
Dawes' sound is a throwback to the L.A. sounds of Jackson Browne and others. Artists who were around before you were born. How did Dawes' interest in that era of music come about?
It was unknowing, really. We've been fortunate enough to get to work with people like Jackson. And you get the feeling that he's, like, passing the torch, but we were well under way as a band with developing what we thought was our own sound.
Do you feel a kindred spirit connection to the history of rock music in L.A.?
Yes. I love the city just as much as anybody else who's grown up there. It's hard to be objective, and I take it in stride. I very much feel a part of a lineage that comes from there, but I don't know what we'd necessarily sound like if we'd all been born Seattle.
Describe the process from when Taylor introduces a song to the group to performing that same song live.
The first time we play a song it's very different from the way we could be playing it a month later. Taylor normally writes on piano or on acoustic guitar. Chords sometimes come out just as a piece of an arrangement. Sometimes the harmony is written. Oftentimes he doesn't.
Take a song everyone knows of yours, "When My Time Comes," and describe how it changed from the first time you heard it to the way you'll play it in Madison this month.
If you listen to the recording, I feel like we've all come so far from where we were then to where we are now as players. So it's pretty evident that there's a sense of struggles through certain parts, that Wylie and I are just trying to hold on.
Why don't more drummers sing?
That's a good question. I think a lot of people just don't expect drummers to be singers. And I know a lot of drummers who can sing really well who don't sing a lot. I've been singing for as long as I can remember.
What are your memories of making music at home as a kid?
I remember Taylor and Blake [Mills of the original "Simon Dawes" lineup] and Dad all lending a hand and teaching me chord progressions. I played piano long before I played drums. So there was a lot of, "How do you play this? What are the chords here?" It was all very helpful.
What kind of connection do you feel when you sing with your brother these days?
There's definitely an innate presence with brothers or siblings when they sing together. We naturally blend well because we come from the same creative juices and come from the same bloodline. I know what he's going to do and vice-versa.
Can the hard work of touring with a sibling do harm to a brotherhood?
No. It makes it considerably stronger than it would be otherwise.
Who's the best band that no one has yet heard of?
Tough one. There's a record that was recently made in L.A. by a friend of ours. It's called Father John Misty. It's a project of John Wilson. The songs are really strong.
What else are you listening to lately?
I ebb and flow between jazz things. I recently got Another Passenger by Carly Simon, which has a cover of the Doobie Brothers' song "It Keeps You Runnin'" on it - that's very awesome with Little Feat. I'm always listening to Little Feat. Dionne Warwick. She has a record called Just Being Myself. There's a producer called Charles Stepney. Pretty much anything he touches is awesome.