Dawes // “An Evening With Dawes”

Over the course of four previous albums, Dawes has often been typecast as a folk-rock band in the Laurel Canyon tradition of the Eagles or Jackson Browne.


Dawes guitarist/singer Taylor Goldsmith sees some validity in those comparisons, but has always felt they sold his band short when it came to the range of its music.


“I feel there are elements of all of our records that sure, of course, they totally fit into folk-rock or whatever,” he said in a recent phone interview. “But also, I feel like even back (as far as) our first record, we had songs like ‘When My Times Come’ or (later tunes like) ‘Most People’ or ‘From A Window Seat,’ or ‘Things Happen,’ or ‘Don’t Send Me Away,’ this is throughout all of our albums, and I would not say that any of those songs can technically be summed up as just L.A. folk-rock.”


The fact is, Goldsmith said, it’s always been important to him to evolve as a songwriter and see the music of Dawes grow with it.


“With the stuff I’m a fan of, when Bob Dylan wants to make ‘Empire Burlesque’ and when Paul Simon wants to make his way from ‘Bookends’ to ‘Graceland,’ like I’m thrilled,” Goldsmith said. “I’m excited by these artists doing those things. So I can’t relate to the kind of fan that says I like this artist because they sound like this, so I want them always to (sound that way). And if they don’t, I don’t want to listen to them. I can’t satisfy that kind of fan because I wouldn’t know where to start. So for me, we want to be true to ourselves and what our tastes are, and if that means certain people want to sort of get off of the bandwagon, then I’m perfectly fine with that.”


Hopefully, Dawes won’t see many fans tumble to the side of the group’s wagon trail after hearing the band’s outstanding new album, “We’re All Gonna Die.”


It’s Dawes’ most musically adventurous album – providing emphatic evidence that Goldsmith and his bandmates (drummer and brother Griffin Goldsmith, bassist Wylie Gelber and keyboardist Lee Pardini) are trying to follow the example set by the likes of Dylan

and Simon.


Yes, Dawes’ folk-rock foundation is still present on “We’re All Gonna Die,” particularly on easy-going and decidedly pretty songs like “Roll Tide” and “Less Than Five Miles Away.” Long-time fans, though, may find some of the sonic and instrumental approaches on “We’re All Gonna Die” a bit jarring, at least at first. The squawky tones and distorted vocal that open the album’s lead track, “One Of Us” immediately announce that this is a new chapter for the group, yet the warm vocal melody of the song is immediately recognizable as Dawes. “When The Tequila Runs Out” is another track with a decided electronic bent, a good fit for the song’s angular melody. “Roll With The Punches” mixes familiar folky textures with edgy stabs of keyboards to create another fresh stylistic hybrid. On “Picture of a Man,” Dawes injects a reggae pulse into this unconventional, yet appealing tune. Then there’s “As If By Design,” another song unlike anything else in the Dawes songbook. It’s delightfully catchy with jazzy piano fills and Tex-Mex-ish horn parts accenting its disarming

vocal melody.


Given all that feels new and different about “We’re All Gonna Die,” it’s the type of album that may take a few listens to absorb, but eventually the songs reveal just how finely crafted, sonically detailed and lyrically perceptive they are.


The adventurous mindset Dawes brought to the latest album makes sense in the context of the Los Angeles-based group’s career.


Dawes entered into making “We’re All Gonna Die” coming off a fourth album, “All Your Favorite Bands,” that the band felt did a better job than the previous albums in capturing how the group sounds in a live setting. “We tried to play and sing as we did on the stage (in the studio), and that allowed us at that point, to have our most, like personal record in terms of the way we played, the one with the strongest fingerprints,” Goldsmith said. “I feel like when you hear ‘All Your Favorite Bands,’ if you are familiar with Griffin’s drumming at all, then you’ll hear it and say ‘That’s Griffin,’ and the same for my guitar playing and all of it. And it’s a bare bones record in that sense. We didn’t want to clutter it up with a whole bunch of sounds. We wanted to really let just our playing voices come through.”


Achieving that goal, though, presented a new challenge going into the fifth album, Goldmsith said.


“What that record (“All Your Favorite Bands”) meant for us was ‘Great, this is exactly what we needed. Now what?’” he said. “Now what do we do to add to our vocabulary or add to our body of work that is just as representative, but bringing in a new dimension?”


One person who helped take the music to new places was keyboardist Pardini, who replaced Tay Strathairn in 2015.


“He was such a wealth of ideas and had so many cool things to contribute that I found myself writing these songs and then he would have all of these great ways of giving it its instrumental identity,” Goldsmith said of Pardini. “Like the riff on ‘Roll with the Punches’ and the piano playing on ‘As If By Design,’ and like the organ on ‘Picture of a Man,’ I feel like to me that’s the track, these keyboard parts.”


Despite the new twists in instrumentation and sonics in the “We’re All Gonna Die” material, Goldsmith said the songs actually translate well to the live setting. “We worked out a lot of the sounds just in the studio in the arrangements of the (songs),” Goldsmith said. “As long as we kind of honor certain songs, and really our keyboardist (Pardini) is so good at that — he’s good at chasing down how we captured certain sounds and how to re-create them — it’s actually been very easy (to represent the songs live). And it’s taught us a lot about dynamics.”


The shows figure to cover plenty of musical ground. With five albums of material from which to draw, Dawes now plays an evening-with show featuring two full sets of music, including something that’s new for the band — an acoustic segment.


“There were times, even with the ‘All Your Favorite Bands’ tour, we would find ourselves playing close to, or even actually a little over two hours just for no reason,” Goldsmith said. “We just wrote too long of a set list. And it felt too long. When we got off stage, it felt like you know what, we don’t have enough key songs in our live show, at least this was my own feeling at the time, to be playing that long. It just felt a little meandering and it felt like we hit certain emotions and certain energies a little too often.


“Having five-plus records (a few covers are in the band’s live repertoire as well), it allows us to kind of touch on everything without over-staying our welcome in any certain record or energy level or anything like that,” he said. “I feel like we can kind of go over our whole catalog and then obviously really put across the new record most of all in a way that feels right to play for a long time.”


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