By Lindsey Lowe Osborne
If I could choose a superpower, I would choose reading minds. Or flying. I went skydiving once and really enjoyed it. But I believe—though I’m not certain—that most people’s superpowers aren’t chosen, but are rather happened upon (like William Shakespeare says, some have greatness thrust upon them.) So my superpower would probably actually be my ability to tell you exactly where I was and often what I was wearing when I heard a certain band for the first time, as well as what song I heard. OK, it’s less of a superpower and more of a conversation starter for road trips.
That said, I’ve been listening to Dawes since 2011. It was in August that year that a friend suggested their debut album, 2009’s North Hills, to me. I was wearing a T-shirt that (coincidentally) had mix tapes on it. I had bangs that summer. The first song I listened to was “Love Is All I Am.” If I remember correctly, I even later titled a blog post after that song. When I hear the opening chords on that one, I can’t help but remember how terrible of a decision bangs were. “I need a silent, true way to admire / Like you as a sunset and I as a wildfire…”
I’ve been a steady listener since, through 2011’s Nothing Is Wrong, 2013’s Stories Don’t End, and their most recent, this year’s All Your Favorite Bands. It’s been remarkable to see their evolution—though North Hills is still one of my favorite albums, their sound has definitely matured in some ways. It’s a bit more refined these days. The band, comprised of brothers Griffin (drums) and Taylor Goldsmith (vocals and guitars) and Wylie Gelber (bass) and Tay Strathairn (keyboards), agrees. “I think we have all become more proficient at our respective instruments. That is inevitable when you play as many shows as we do. Personal tastes evolve and change. Our changing preferences in the music we listen to begins to inform the change in sound,” Griffin explains. “It’s allowed us to at least feel that we are growing as a band. It’s been a natural progression for us, and I think/hope it will continue to be in the future.”
But their sound and their songs are still authentic as ever, full of bits of bluegrass and folk, with unusual and raw and true lyrics, like these from “A Little Bit of Everything”:
“With his back against the San Francisco traffic
On the bridges side that faces towards the jail
Setting out to join a demographic
He hoists his first leg up over the rail
A phone call’s made, police cars show up quickly
The sergeant slams his passenger door
He says, ‘Hey son why don’t you talk through this with me?
Just tell me what you’re doing it for.’
‘Oh, it’s a little bit of everything
It’s the mountains, it’s the fog
It’s the news at six o’clock
It’s the death of my first dog’
‘It’s the angels up above me
It’s the song that they don’t sing
It’s a little bit of everything.’”
“My brother writes all the material and we do our best to support the songs,” Griffin says. “We try to play whatever the song calls for, and it is always changing. We’ve been very fortunate to have done this for as long as we have, and my dream is that we can continue to do this forever.”
The band, from Los Angeles, was formed in 2009. Original keyboardist Alex Casnoff left in 2010, and Strathairn joined to form Dawes as it is now. “I’m most proud of how well we get along as a band. There’s an ineffable feeling that comes when we play together,” Griffin, who doesn’t have body odor, says. “I feel expressive when I play. That is my favorite part.”
Dawes is coming through Birmingham (not for the first time—they were a part of 2011’s Secret Stages) on Sept. 29 at Iron City, and you should go. You can trust me when I say it will be a remarkable show. “[People who support music] are the lifeblood of this industry,” Griffin says. “It’s next to impossible for most bands to sell any records these days, as everyone knows, and the paradigm has shifted. Bands seem to have extended record cycles. It’s what musicians have to do to make a living these days. So thanks for supporting!
“We’re lucky to be able to do what we do. It would be a lie to say that we didn’t want to be as successful as possible,” he continues. “But our main priority is to play the music that we like. If we can continue to make records and tour, I will be more than satisfied.”
9/9: Purity Ring @ Iron City. For fans of Phantogram, Disclosure, and Grimes.
10/3: Beach House @ Saturn. For fans of Grizzly Bear, Perfume Genius, and Youth Lagoon.
10/14: Jackson Browne @ the Alabama Theatre. For fans of James Taylor, Van Morrison, and the Eagles.