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Dawes much more than a musical relic from Laurel Canyon

Published November 29, 2013 1:06 pm

Music • Folk-rock band to headline Eccles Center in Park City on Saturday.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In the music world, the phrase "Laurel Canyon" conjures evocative images.

Up in the Hollywood Hills in Southern California, Laurel Canyon became the epicenter of a new genre of music in the 1960s and 1970s, home to musicians including Jim Morrison of The Doors, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash. Just as places such as Muscle Shoals and Greenwich Village have a sound associated with them, so does Laurel Canyon, where the introspective, acoustically dominated singer-songwriter movement blossomed inside the homes far above the Sunset Strip.

For better or for worse, the folk-rock band Dawes has become associated with the Laurel Canyon, and not just because the quartet's origins were in Los Angeles or because its first album was recorded in Laurel Canyon itself — directly to analog tape. With Taylor Goldsmith (guitar and vocals), his brother Griffin Goldsmith (drums), Wylie Gerber (bass) and Tay Strathairn (keys), Dawes has become much more than just another vintage-sounding rootsy rock band since its debut. On its 2013 album, "Stories Don't End," the band tries — and succeeds — in carving out a sound that straddles genres and refuses to be pigeonholed.

Taylor Goldsmith spoke to The Tribune ahead of the band's headlining show at the Eccles Center in Park City.

Does playing in a band with your brother made him just another member of the band, or is there a special relationship between the two of you that affects the energy, creativity and work habits of the band?

Griffin and I came up with the same musical sensibilities and he happens to be extremely musical way beyond the drums. He has a very developed sense of songwriting, harmony and production so I think he'd be a major force in any band he's in, whether or not his brother is a member. For us, I think our sense of family only helps us trust each other that much more. We have a lot of love and trust already in this band, but it definitely helps.

What does the phrase "Laurel Canyon" mean to you, and should it be used in conjunction with your band, or is it too limiting?

I don't think any band or songwriter would embrace some sort of genre reduction. We don't mind it if that's what people collectively hear, but I feel like it definitely doesn't sum us up conclusively. We have a lot of songs that I don't think anyone would associate with "Laurel Canyon." But we appreciate where it's coming from, and if people need catchphrases with which to describe a band, it could be a lot worse.

In 2011, you closed out the Red Butte Garden Outdoor Concert Series season by opening for Alison Krauss and Jerry Douglas. What do you remember about it?

I do remember that show. It was a beautiful place to play. And as far as I can remember, our last show with Allison Kraus. Unfortunately we haven't gotten to play in Utah much more than that because certain laws there made it impossible for Griffin to play there before he was 21.

Why did you once play for the Occupy Wall Street protestors, and what part of their cause resonated with you personally?

We honestly had no designs to be a part of Occupy Wall Street when we were first hearing about it. We don't consider ourselves as a particularly political band. It happened because we were doing an event with Jackson Browne in the area and he really wanted to do it. We felt like we needed to make sure our own beliefs and opinions were in line with the movement and through learning about it, we became really proud of getting involved. A lot of people may criticize its successes or lack thereof or just dwell too much in the specifics. I feel like, more than anything else, Occupy Wall Street showed our current generation that you can still get people's attention through protest. I grew up feeling that with this world constantly feeling like a bigger and bigger place, something like protest was not ever going to be relevant again. And after the amount of global attention the movement got, I think it will serve as an inspiration and template for anyone in the future who's got something they want to say but not the means to do so.

What was the intent of the band upon writing and recording this album?

There was no intent with any shift of sound. We've always tried to do our best but I think that over time we start to approach things differently just to make sure every song and arrangement have their own personality. And as long as we continue to do that, sounding different will be more of an inevitability rather than a specific goal. And we like it like that. Every time someone tells me about a song they love of ours, in a roundabout way I hope that they never like another song of ours for those same reasons. Nothing sounds worse than a band striving to re-create something someone already liked them for. Every band that ever stayed relevant did it by embracing their developments in their sound — not by fighting to sound like they always have.

Any band or songwriter creates images and perceptions of them in the heads of fans. Does the perception of who you are differ from who you really are?

I guess, technically, I'd be the last person that would know the correct answer to this question. But I do know that we are definitely not trying to put on personas of people who we aren't naturally. The artists we've always responded to most are ones that seem to be putting themselves on display rather than some character.

Do you write music that answers questions and helps you find the answers to the questions you have?

If there are questions asked within my songs, I definitely don't intend to answer those questions within them or even try to. I like the idea of just talking about or musing upon something without reaching any conclusions. I like to think of songs as a ball you throw into the air and do whatever it takes to keep it suspended there. —


When • Saturday, Nov. 30, at 7:30 p.m.

Where • Eccles Center, 1750 Kearns Blvd., Park City

Tickets • $20 to $69 at ecclescenter.org