For Los Angeles pop-rock quartet Dawes, natural scruffiness is part of their charm. Touring the country this fall in support of a solid, critically acclaimed debut album titled North Hills, singer/guitarist Taylor Goldsmith and his colleagues hope to make more than a quick splash on the national scene.
“We’ve been able to stay on the road steadily, and people are becoming more and more aware of the band,” says Goldsmith. “The last time we played in Charleston was with Delta Spirit in early 2009 — and that was during our first big tour, well before the album even came out.”
Rounded out with Taylor’s brother Griffin Goldsmith on drums, Wylie Gelber on bass, and Alex Casnoff on keys, Dawes formed just a few years ago under the moniker Simon Dawes. The name referred to Taylor and Griffin’s music-loving grandfather. After Simon Dawes fell apart, the elder Goldsmith brother and Gelber reassembled the lineup and went on a songwriting spree.
Working with studio man Jonathan Wilson at his facility in the legendary Laurel Canyon region (an epicenter of California pop, folk, and rock songwriting in the late 1960s and ’70s), Dawes put North Hills together in quick order last year. There’s plenty of twangy guitar tones and rich harmonies from song to song. The collection sounds more like the mature efforts of a classic guitar-pop band that’s been at it for 20 years than a foursome of young upstarts.
“We love hearing certain songs by the Band, Neil Young, and other rock ‘n’ roll songs that have basic arrangements and instrumentation,” says Goldsmith. “That was something we wanted to explore. We wanted to express ourselves through the natural role of the instruments that we play.”
Reviews of North Hills have been quite favorable, although some critics insist on defining the band by their hometown. Others miss the mark.
“I’m always shocked to read reviews where writers say they’re surprised that we’re from California,” says Goldsmith. “The California that I know has got Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon, the Byrds, and Crosby, Stills and Nash. All of them started in L.A. There’s a country influence in those artists, but there’s a musical quality that’s specific to L.A., too.”