Los Angeles rock quartet Dawes are informed by a great, American musical tradition. Lurking in the folds of their amplified crunch of guitars, road ready rhythms, and soulful blasts of organ lay stories that are weary and lonesome...the product of a life lived out of a suitcase, traveling between far flung places. Laurel Canyon, Woodstock, Haight-Ashbury... You know these places, you know their significance. What started with bands like Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and The Band lives on in Dawes' snarly riffs and stories. Rock and roll's past colliding with the present in the best way possible.
That's Dawes, that's their live show, that's their latest release Nothing Is Wrong. Here though, in our latest session vid, the band try on something different...something a bit more informal and intimate. With nothing more than their mighty harmonies and an acoustic guitar, the band gives a glimpse into their most private world with three cuts from Nothing Is Wrong, emulating those moments when guitars are pulled out on tour buses, in hotel rooms, or quiet backstage retreats. After all, Dawes are a traveling band, the kind of group that can't go without that pounding pavement rumbling under their tires. The road, after all, is the greatest musical tradition. That's what makes great American bands.
"How Far We've Come. " Stars that shine away from me Show the one that I have followed To see how far I've come Sun that slowly sets on me Be the same to rise tomorrow To see how far I've come These are the days we've sworn upon So far they keep the TV on To see how far we've come Peak to peak and shore to shore This is our love was ever for To see how far we've come From California's greenest parts I reach out for my brother To see how far he's come, and for that girl that came to break my heart I caught on her new lover To see how far she's come Why a mother keeps a record of a child's life Why we all are here tonight Is to see how far we've come Where the only point of blocks and maps The only point of looking back Is to see how far we've come Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh Stars that shine away from me Show the one that I have followed To see how far I've come Sun that slowly sets on me Be the same to rise tomorrow To see how far I've come - We start by just saying it's rock n' roll music, but I think if we get further into it, I think I'd describe it as sort of a direct kind of experience. We don't really...there's not a lot of effects that we try to bring out the inherent nature of the instruments rather than putting a lot of effects on the vocals or instruments or anything. Also same with the lyrics, really try to let that kind of stand out front on its own rather than turning it into something else. We play acoustic performances a lot for radio or for in stores or things like this and... - Yeah, we always enjoy it. It gives it a whole other side of the song. - Makes the harmonies tighter. - "Time spent in Los Angeles," the first song on our record. Because it's based on my experience, it's about Los Angeles, but the idea was that when you come from somewhere, it really leaves its mark on you even if it's in a way that you can't necessarily define or describe. And I feel like if there's a hundred people in a room and two people that are from Los Angeles, eventually they'll be able to point each other out based on qualities that they aren't even necessarily aware of. But as a whole, they can recognize it. And again I think that'll be exactly the same case if you come from anywhere like Minneapolis, or Seattle or Austin. I feel like there's just something that the environment that you grew up in, there's something about that that leaves its stamp on you and I guess it can be fascinating. These days my friends don't seem to know me Without my suitcase in my hand And when I'm standin' still I seem to disappear But maybe that's how I found you Maybe that taught me exactly what I want Maybe meeting you so far away from home Is what makes it all so clear, but you've got that special kind of sadness You've got that tragic set of charms That only comes from time Spent in Los Angeles Makes me wanna wrap you in my arms When people ask me where I come from To see what that says about a man I only end up giving bad directions That never lead them there at all It's something written in the headlights It's something swimming in my drink And if I were the moon It'd be exactly where I'd fall 'Cause you've got that special kind of sadness You've got that tragic set of charms That only comes from time Spent in Los Angeles Makes me wanna wrap you in my arms I used to think someone would love me For the places I have been And the dirt that I've been gathering Deep beneath my nails But now I know what I've been missing And I'm going home to make it mine And I'll be battening the hatches and pulling in the sails 'Cause you've got that special kind of sadness You've got that tragic set of charms That only comes from time Spent in Los Angeles Makes me wanna wrap you in my arms You've got that special kind of sadness You've got that tragic set of charms That only comes from time spent in Los Angeles Makes me wanna wrap you in my arms - "Nothing is Wrong," if it wasn't entirely written on the road, it was in these little breaks when we were home and kind of had time to think back on it, but it was in the thick of it. And each song would be written and then we would kind of arrange it on tour. We would learn it and put it in front of an audience and see how that shaped up because we felt like one performance was worth a bunch of rehearsals, so that was kind of the way we approached it and so I feel like this song's had more of a road-tested and stage-tested quality to it than our first record. We were going round and around to figure out the title of the album for a while, and something that really shaped up the entire thing. And "Nothing is Wrong" is the last line of each chorus in the song "So Well" and it's used as this...there's a reassuring quality, and I feel like any time someone says that it tends to be in a reassuring sense. It's never just because that's simply the case. And so I felt like a lot of the songs on the record have this quality of kind of taking a look at a darker side to a situation and then trying to somehow trace it to its root and figure out what took it there and figure out how to move forward or I guess just see the brighter side. I am an old, old sailor With a future much shorter than his past I live alone, I do not wander A world that just slips further From my grasp, and from my home, I watch the people Struggle through the burden of each day That's where Marie sweet and gentle Smiles to me when she passes on her way And she does it so well She pulls me out of time's cruel spell For long enough to finally tell That nothing is wrong I am a boy, I am a child With those simple dreams still burning in my heart I've known Marie for a while She shows me where all my beginnings are And once a week she takes me dancing She shows me friends and places I never knew And it always ends watching her leaving With a man she knows don't understand What loneliness will make you do And she does it so well She shows me where my dreams dwell She shows me how to find myself And that nothing is wrong I am a lonely singer With a song for every feeling I cannot name And I find Marie in every measure And somehow the clearer she becomes the longer I'm away And she does it so well I was still falling in love When she said farewell For long enough to finally tell That nothing is wrong Oh I know that nothing is wrong I think that the whole point is, for me, when I listen to music that I like, the stuff I respond to the most, I find it being the artists that really teach me their perspective and how they approach a situation. And if it's something that I identify with or that it resonates with me because it's something I feel like I've gone through, then it's like, "Wow, here's someone that's gone through this and got out on the other end all right," and I can learn something from that. I mean, that's definitely only happened like so few artists. I'm sure for anybody, you have that intimate relationship not too often with a piece of art or a song or something. But mainly just to make sure someone feels like this is coming from the world that I'm coming from and it's making me feel good. And that's all that we can ask for, I guess. If I can place it all together Make out the nature of the call
"The best rock 'n' roll is never preconceived," says Dawes' Taylor Goldsmith. "It's almost a country mentality: 'This is what we do. We write songs.' That's how it is for Dawes."
A self-described "American rock 'n' roll band," Dawes represent everything pure and true about that fundamental delineation, four talented friends making music together, fueled by a shared belief in the power of their songs. With Nothing Is Wrong, the Los Angeles-based band singer/guitarist Goldsmith, his brother Griffin on drums, keyboardist Tay Strathairn, and bassist Wylie Gelber continue to master their blend of singer/songwriter reflection with folk, country, and AOR-inspired arrangements, all ringing guitars, soaring harmonies, and heartfelt melodies. After spending much of the past two years on tour, songs like "Coming Back To A Man" and "Time Spent In Los Angeles" have a restless, unsettled quality evocative of life lived on the road. A collection of songs that expertly builds upon the template laid by 2009's extraordinary debut, North Hills, Nothing Is Wrong sees Dawes displaying staggering growth and evolution while still manifesting their distinctive, unforgettable voice.
"We didn't change up our approach too much and yet we were able to create something that I feel has a new identity from our first record," Goldsmith says. "It's definitely taking a step in a direction and at the same time, it's maintaining what it needs to maintain."
In 2009, Dawes emerged from the ashes of California combo Simon Dawes with North Hills, which drew instant acclaim for its rootsy revitalization of classic El Lay rock. And like any American rock 'n' roll band worth its salt, Dawes followed up by touring nearly non-stop. As a result, Goldsmith was only able to write during rare free moments, in the course of brief visits home or while crashing at a friend's for a few days. No surprise then that songs like "My Way Back Home" and "How Far We've Come" (featuring Griffin on lead vocals) are redolent of van fumes and road dust, rich with weariness and longing and restive reflection.
"Both of these Dawes records have been written in a one-to-two year span of time," Goldsmith says. "With North Hills, there was an 'I just want to go somewhere and experience things' quality. And then with this record, we're in the thick of going out and playing shows and being on tour."
Dawes took advantage of their situation by using the stage as a way to focus and arrange the new material. Songs got to live and breathe in front of an audience rather than in the hermetic confines of a rehearsal space.
"That helped the songs grow so much," Goldsmith says. "The songs became tighter, more aggressive even. The first record was written for a band that wanted to be a band, the second record was written by a band that was able to get on stage and explore things that we hadn't explored yet."
Goldsmith took a brief break from the band to record with friends and tourmates John McCauley of Deer Tick and Matt Vasquez of Delta Spirit as the collaborative supergroup Middle Brother, and in September 2010, Dawes reunited with producer Jonathan Wilson at his new Echo Park studio. A gifted singer/songwriter/musician in his own right, Wilson has proven a true kindred spirit whose vision and tastes are in perfect sync with the band.
"We're so lucky to know him," Goldsmith says. "It's really crazy how good he is at everything."
As with North Hills, Dawes opted to record Nothing Is Wrong live to 2" analog tape. Far from just an exercise in nostalgic authenticity, the band sees the more traditional technique as a way of focusing their energies and affirming their dedication to the creative process.
"If you're writing on a typewriter," Goldsmith says, "you have to commit to whatever you're writing. Typewriters don't make it easy for you to go back and rethink things. Same thing with recording analog. We don't do it because that's what the people we admire did. We do it because it demands something out of us. It doesn't allow us to show up lazy or not on our game. We cut every track knowing that this stuff isn't easy to edit."
Nothing Is Wrong captures both Dawes' studio and stage approaches, matching the loose extemporaneity and crunchy dynamism of the band's live sets with finely honed arrangements and deft musicianship. The album evinces the band's self-assured strength right from the start by bursting off the blocks with the impossibly infectious "Time Spent In Los Angeles." Throughout the record, Goldsmith's lyrics evoke a powerful feeling of constant movement and endless fleeting moments. Songs like "The Way You Laugh" or the choogling "If I Wanted Someone" are wistful and melancholic, while the ruminative, piano-driven closing track "Little Bit Of Everything" (featuring lap steel guitarist Ben Peeler) is peopled with indelible characters encountered on his travels.
Along with critical approbation and an ever-growing fan following, Dawes has earned admiration from many of their greatest heroes. Benmont Tench of The Heartbreakers joined the band on organ on both North Hills and Nothing Is Wrong, while the new album's "Fire Away" sees guest vocals from Jackson Browne, who has since invited the band to both support and back him on a European tour. In addition, after Goldsmith contributed vocals to Robbie Robertson's star-studded new How To Become Clairvoyant, the legendary guitarist/songwriter asked Dawes to serve as his backing combo for a number of promotional performances, sensing in them the character of a true band, a tight knit unit who know how to work together and instinctively play off each other's individual gifts.
"It's hard to accept and believe," Goldsmith says. "It doesn't seem like it should possibly happen. Experiences like these are why we do it. Before playing in front of huge audiences and before selling a lot of records, before all those things that people are looking for when they decide to play music, for me, sharing these experiences with the people I grew up listening to, getting their acknowledgement or respect, that's right at the top, the number one reason and the most rewarding thing that could happen."
While Nothing Is Wrong marks a new milestone on this remarkable band's musical journey, it remains but a single step on all involved see as a long-term trip. For Dawes, the aim is always about turning it up and taking their music even further.
"Our attitude is always, what can we do to take it to the next place?" Goldsmith says. "To share our music with more people, make better music, and be happier people through our music."