Dawes - Interview
Interview with Dawes July 2013
To support the release of their new record 'Stories Don't End', we caught up with frontman Taylor Goldsmith to have a chat about the new album and what the band install over the coming months.
Dawes support a classic stripped-back sound with clever meaningful lyrics and simple percussive instruments to create a sound that contains the essentials of classic folk rock artists such as The Band whilst enforcing fresh grooves and maintaining their own musical identity.
Dawes new album 'Stories Don't End' is due for release on 19th August in the UK.
CM: It's a pleasure to talk to you. How are you?
Taylor: Pretty good!
CM: How does your latest album 'Stories Don't End' compare to your previous two records?
Taylor: It's very much coming from the same band. I don't think anybody will hear anything from 'Stories Don't End' and think 'Who is this?' - As long as they're familiar with the band, obviously.
I think it's definitely exploring new territory for us on a certain level. I think we're approaching our instruments in a new way, where we're trying to give each one a new tone and identity and I've been approaching the song writing in a new way, trying to employ certain devices that I have never done before, with new quartel structures or key changes, just musical devices like that. I think there's definitely more of that to be found in this album then the other two.
It's very much of a Dawes record.
CM: What was it like producing the album in North Carolina?
Taylor: It was incredible. We've been to Ashville, North Carolina a few times and we've always loved it there. Every city in North Carolina is really beautiful and the people there are great. There's an incredible energy out there. Our producer suggested us getting out of our LA and him getting out of his Nashville so we went up to Ashville. It was great to have nothing around other then the music so there were no other possible distractions. It was really just play music every day.
CM: You worked with producer Jacquire King, tell me a little about how the process went.
Taylor: It was incredible. We did both of our first records with Jonathon Wilson which we loved but we were very used to one experience so Jacquire was a very different one and it went really great for us.
He's not as much as a musician as Jonathon is, he grew up in mixing and producing so it's not like he can go to me as a songwriter and speak as a songwriter or go to Griffin and speak as a drummer, he's coming from a place as a producer and as a more objective listener. That's something we've never had and in a way is very useful. With a bunch of musicians in the room it's easy to forget how to appeal to someone who doesn't know the ins and outs of how the song works and having Jacquire represents that. Sometimes his ideas would be very unorthodox like, 'Why don't you just take out the pre-chorus to this first chorus and just have it come on in time for the second pre chorus' - just certain things like that. We would resist at first because it was so foreign to us but eventually it always ended up having those set of ears.
CM: Was working with a new producer in a new environment a way of moving away from being defined as California vintage rock band?
Taylor: It wasn't an effort to do so. We are what we are and we're proud of what we are and we're proud of the first two records. If people want to say we're a vintage California band then ok, but that was never our intention. Like any band we just do what comes most naturally: we don't do anything because we think 'this is how to be big', or 'this is what will make us cool'. We just played our music and write our songs the way we thought sounded good.
We grew up in a world musically, where there were guitar solos and a lot of work. I don't think it was really thought of as traditional to make music the way we always have. I think some people might grow up in the studio, we grew up at shows - it might come across like we're old school but really we just grew up around live music and we don't understand a lot of the ins and outs of newer keyboards or newer studio tricks. For us, it's really just simple relationships with our respected instruments.
CM: So the album has been released in the US and is due to come out in the UK in August. What's the reception been like?
Taylor: It's been great. It's been selling faster than any of our records. It hasn't caught up to our second record yet but it seems like it's easily going to overtake it. None of our records have sold this much, this fast.
CM: You've stated that you write the songs by yourself with an acoustic guitar. Is the transition between this state and the finished band version difficult?
Taylor: Definitely unexpected. Sometimes there are inherited qualities to acoustic guitars that suggest how the band are going to play it, but then there are other times where it comes out much different than I thought it would. I try to keep it as open as I can just for the sake of everybody feeling invested in it musically. I don't know how to play the other three guys' instruments better than they do, so it would be a little bit ridiculous for me to comment and say 'Here's what you do, here's what you do, here's what you do' so I mean it's a very trusting experience and we just let everyone do what they do.
CM: You've had an impressive history of supporting successful artists. What was it like supporting iconic artists Bob Dylan?
Taylor: Opening up for him was incredible. We never thought we would get to share the stage with him or anything, so getting to go on a tour with him was obviously one of our highest honours. He's a very private person. I think what we took away most was the fact he's so invested in the artistic experience. He's 72 and he still tours more than anybody and it just shows what it really means to give yourself over to the art and the song and the whole process. It's very inspiring.
CM: You're achieving fast, notable success. Are there any specific artists you would like supporting you, which you are able to talk about?
Taylor: We're very lucky. The bands that open up for us are bands that we love. Right now in the States we have Shovels and Rope that are so great. They're coming up fast - in fact, they're probably too big to be opening for us but obviously we feel really lucky to have them. They're incredible. This fall in the States we have another bunch of groups. We're honoured to have incredible artists that if people don't know now, they will soon like: Jonathon Rice, Hayes Carll, Jason Isbell and others.
CM: You've played both ends of the spectrum from small independent record stores to large arenas, how do they compare to one another?
Taylor: With the record stores, they're so small we play a lot quieter - we play smaller gears. Sometimes there's not even enough room for anything but an acoustic guitar so it's very quiet and a lot more intermit. You pick a different set-list and you have a different approach to the whole thing. With a live show it's a lot louder and a lot more energetic and you're playing your most intense songs. Your concern is getting across to the people at the very back. In the record store everybody is there to be there and you don't have to worry about keeping them there. You don't want to play at an inappropriate volume or energy level at record store.
Every venue is like that, if you play at a seated theatre or if you play at a club, all these things are going to dictate how you play.
CM: You did charity work in Rwanda. Can you tell us about that?
Taylor: This charity called Nothing But Nets that is fighting against malaria asked us to get involved. At first we thought it was a little bit strange because there are a lot of bands that are way bigger than us so we thought that maybe they would be better served to talk to a band that could do more for them, but they thought our relationship with our audience was one where there's an open line of communication where we would be hearing what our audience had to say and they would listen what we had to say. Without sounding arrogant, I think they were right.
It's actually been a really positive experience. We went to Rwanda to educate ourselves on malaria and to visit these refugee camps to see what these people had to live with whilst having malaria on top of all that. To come home and get people to donate money and help save lives in a very direct, meaningful and simple way was very moving. We've been able to create a lot of traffic for the website and the charity in general.
Anytime someone says "Hey, would you like to get involved in something where you're helping directly save lives" obviously anybody would jump at the chance so we're so proud that we're able to help on that level. If that was ever going to be possible for us we didn't think it would be this soon or at this level so the fact we can feel through our music that we've helped to save lives, it's an honour that's even hard to comprehend.
CM: You're playing a sold out show at London's Borderline. Can you tell us what to expect from a Dawes live show?
Taylor: I think with a Dawes live show we play according to the song. The priority is always the experience and making sure the song comes across and, whilst the songs are definitely a priority for us live, I think the biggest priority is the experience. We use the songs to serve the show when it comes to a live performance rather than the other way round on the record. We stretch songs out and make sure we're enjoying ourselves in terms of playing. It's not just what you hear on the record, it's much more elaborated than that.
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