BUILDING CONNECTIONS: Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith talks new songs and live album

The Port City last welcomed Dawes in 2015 after they’re hit record, “All Your Favorite Bands” (released on the band’s independent label, HUB Records) came out; it was praised around the country. Back then, encore spoke with Griffin Goldsmith (drums and background vocals) prior to their Brooklyn Arts Center gig. He said they were trying to capture a Dawes show, admitting: “It’s not easy to do.”

LIVE AND DIE: Dawes will return to Wilmington on their ‘An Evening With Dawes’ tour to play Greenfield Lake Amphitheater on May 2. Photo by Matt Jacoby
LIVE AND DIE: Dawes will return to Wilmington on their ‘An Evening With Dawes’ tour to play Greenfield Lake Amphitheater on May 2. Photo by Matt Jacoby

Still, the band never completely ventured from their first three albums—“North Hills” (2009), “Nothing Is Wrong” (2011) and “Stories Don’t End” (2013). Last week encore interviewed the other Dawes’ brother, Taylor Goldsmith (guitar and lead vocals), to preface their “An Evening With Dawes” tour—which will include Wylie Gelber (bass) and Lee Pardini (keyboard)—stopping over at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater on May 2. Taylor agrees “All Your Favorite Bands” was a turning point for the crew.

“I don’t know if it was explicit or conscious, but, after those first three records, we had people coming to our shows saying, ‘Wow, I had no idea you could play guitar like that,’ or ‘I had no idea you could play drums like that,’ or ‘I had no idea that you guys could sing like that,’” he lists. “Well, that’s a compliment, but it also makes us feel like we’ve gotta be doing something wrong if we’re not able to represent what we do on a stage on our records.”

With 2016’s “We’re All Gonna Die,” the gap between studio recordings and the live stage is now smaller than it has ever been. Dawes created a recording environment that forced them to think their feet, and respond and react to each other in a room as they would onstage.

“When we made the album, I was singing while playing guitar,” Taylor describes. “I was sitting right across from Griffin, and we were watching each other; it was very much a live record. . . . It was something we needed to do for ourselves.”

Since their 2009 debut, Taylor says Dawes has been a victory—if for no other reason than they’ve done what they want on their own terms. Like most any record for any band, “We’re All Gonna Die” is representative of where Dawes is and how they feel as a band in the now (a bit more of a literal concept with their “Roll With the Punches” music video, starring Taylor with girlfriend, singer and “This Is Us” actress Mandy Moore). Of course, they haven’t found the be-all and end-all of how all future Dawes albums will be recorded—a dangerous confidence to assume they know how they want to make their music forever. While every record is a step forward and a response to what came before it, it’s also done in a respectful and loving way.

“We have a high regard for all the records we’ve made,” Taylor adds. “Of course, it only takes me a week after we finish one to realize we could have changed something or another. In the grander scheme, we’re very proud of all the records we’ve made and their relationship with each other; and we hope we can continue to make music that continues to talk to each other.”

They continue to expand their “vocabulary and arsenal.” Most importantly, their constant quest to inspire and excite themselves—and connect with more people—drives each collection of songs. There’s a fan for every Dawes record. Yet, some are saying 2016’s “We’re All Gonna Die” is by far the band’s best work.

“It makes me so happy when there is preference rather than some agreed-upon hierarchy,” Taylor says. “I can totally understand how a big fan of ‘All Your Favorite Bands’ . . . can potentially hate ‘We’re All Gonna Die.’ Obviously, I want them to like whatever music they’re going to listen to, but they’re totally entitled to their opinion. In a weird way, I find that exciting. . . I think sometimes bands don’t give listeners enough credit. I think they can see bullshit way better than the artist can.”

Any preconceived notion Taylor had about “We’re All Gonna Die” turned out to be wrong. The band’s folk sounds ended up taking the back seat more often for rock ‘n’ roll instrumentals. “And I’m glad that it did,” he affirms. “We really took things piece by piece and sound by sound.”

As far as songwriting goes, it came from the same space it always has. In fact, if songs like “Roll with the Punches” or “For No Good Reason” were written just two years earlier, they still would have fit perfectly in “All Your Favorite Bands.” The real difference with “We’re All Gonna Die” is in how the songs are presented.

“In the past with certain songs I really wanted to try to get into more of a harmonic sensibility and really stretch how far we could take something,” Taylor explains. “With [‘We’re All Gonna Die,’] we wanted to defy sounds normally associated with the instruments and ended up making the record what it is.”

Dawes also released a surprise live album, “We’re All Gonna Live,” in February 2017. In an effort to show how their catalog is intrinsically different, it also shows how it can still connect. Featuring 15 songs from four shows, almost half are from “We’re All Gonna Die,” mixed with cherry-picked performances of “All Your Favorite Bands,” and elaborate versions of “Somewhere Along the Way” and “Picture of a Man.” They wanted a collection unheard of on a singular Dawes record.

“There’s real harmony to the material [at live shows],” Taylor says. “This stuff very much belongs in the same set.”

Since beginning their current tour, there’s now a final sense of having released “We’re All Gonna Die” into the world. Taylor now feels he can look to the next project.

“It sounds a little silly, but I couldn’t really write songs,” he admits. “I was still living in all those ‘We’re All Gonna Die’ songs. Now that we’ve started touring, and I feel like this music is being presented the way we want it presented, I’m writing. I’m actually doing that today . . . We don’t want to wear people out with too much Dawes, but, at the same time, we’re workaholics, and we like to be on the clock.”

Tuesday, May 2
Doors: 6 p.m.; Show: 7 p.m.
Greenfield Lake Amphitheater
1941 Amphitheatre Dr.
Tickets: $27-$32

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