ALL IN THE FAMILY
“‘You better be following the changes because I’m not gonna mouth ‘em to you for the whole song!’”
This is Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes talking about his dad, Lenny. When he and his little brother, Griffin, were growing up, their rock-star dad would bring his boys onstage to tread water in the family business. “For a long time we would fall on our faces,” Taylor reflects. “We weren’t really able to hang with those accomplished players [in the band], and to a large extent, we still can’t. It was really effective, because you embarrass yourself over and over again and eventually you learn how to swim. I have my dad to thank for that more than anything.”
The encores that Dawes elicits on their coast-to-coast tours can be attributed in part to Papa Goldsmith’s tough love. Though Taylor and Griffin make up one half of the LA-based rock quartet (they are joined by bassist Wylie Gerber and pianist Tay Strathairn), Dawes remains very much a family affair. The band was named for Taylor and Griffin’s grandfather, and their earnest, down-home playing invokes the epoch belonging to Lenny—where a man with a voice and a presence drew more accolades than those who rely on a genius producer’s skills at the soundboard.
These instant classic qualities of Dawes won critics over with North Hills, their 2009 studio debut. It was the stream of subsequent live shows which followed that kicked the proverbial door down, as anyone who’s ever attended a Dawes show can attest. Their songs simply transform as soon as Griffin gets behind the drum kit, Tay plops down at the piano, and Taylor and Wylie plug in.
For Taylor, the difference between recording the songs and the live performances of Dawes is elementary: “We started touring, and from there the songs developed naturally,” he says. “Some took on a different identity, and it’s unfortunate when people say something like, ‘Your set should sound more like the record!’ or ‘Your record should sound more like your live show!’
“A lot of our favorite bands are bands, in all the associations you draw from that word, because they’re not just a bunch of guys playing songs together and re-creating a record onstage. Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers, the Allman Brothers—they’re something larger than the record. They offer something you can’t get from a recording, and there’s a certain romance to what we do. It’s to be looked at like two different things for the people who want the record, but to really understand what the band is about, you have to see them live.”
Though North Hills gives us a healthy offering of beautiful music, live renditions of “If I Wanted Someone,” “She’s Still My Girl to Me” and Dawes’ modern anthem, “When My Time Comes,” give us Griffin’s trademark concentrated lip curl while proving that Taylor’s voice couldn’t shy away from the most painful notes of heartbreak, fury and desperation even if he wanted.
Whether you prefer them on your iPod or the stage of the nearest rock joint, one thing’s for sure: The men of Dawes have done-- and continue to do-- their daddy proud.
WITH PETER WOLF CRIER
279 TREMONT ST.