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Dawes' Taylor Goldsmith: 'I feel like we're one of the luckiest bands in the world'

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"Misadventures of Doomscroller" is the eighth studio album from Los Angeles-based Dawes.

Following acclaimed albums such as 2020's "Good Luck with Whatever," 2015's "All Your Favorite Bands" and 2011's "Nothing Is Wrong," "Misadventures" finds the group in fine, expansive form, earning the band positive reviews and placement on many Best of 2022 lists.

Whereas previous Dawes albums often adhered to more traditional song structures, this latest effort has found certain critics proclaiming that the era of Dawes as a jam band has arrived.

You might be forgiven for taking the rollicking, percussion-laden "Ghost in the Machine" as a sign that Dawes has embraced its collective inner hippie and stands poised to take to stages with blazing, Santana-esque explorations that leave audiences' thirst unslaked after 15-minute readings of songs that were a slender three minutes and change on record.

The same might be said for the new record's opening cut, "Someone Else's Café/Doomscroller Tries to Relax," a musical suite that moves from familiar Band-inflected terrain to the progressive rock terrain of both Gentle Giant and Mike Keneally without apology.

There is, of course, the notion that both that and the album closer, "Sound That No One Made/Doomscroller Sunrise," both surpass the nine-minute mark, a sign, perhaps, that Dawes isn't too concerned with hit singles at this point in its career.

But according to co-founder and primary songwriter Taylor Goldsmith, "Misadventures of Doomscroller" represents just one more rung on the ladder of the group's continued evolution. As he says, Dawes is a living, breathing entity that could continue with this new direction as quickly as it could depart from it.

Speaking with KMUW from a stop on the outfit's spring tour (which will mark the final dates with co-founding bassist Wylie Gelber in the band), Goldsmith remains thoughtful and reflective as he fields questions about the past and future of Dawes, the inspiration behind the songs on "Misadventures of Doomscroller" and even his personal reading habits.

Dawes performs a rare "evening with" show at Wave on Tuesday, April 18.

Interview Highlights

"Misadventures of Doomscroller" has easily identifiable elements of Dawes' music but there are a couple of new moves. Was this about growing in new directions and avoiding any sort of stagnation?

A band is a living, breathing thing, so I would apply what you're saying to any living, breathing thing. If you had a haircut that was working for you in high school, if you still have [the same haircut], it's probably not working for you anymore. It's the same with a band. If you find something that works in 2009 or 2011 [when we released our first two albums] … if we were to strictly and relentlessly try to continue to adhere to that I think we'd really pay for it in the long run. I think we'd really regret it.

We try to be open to growth, which is normal, but it's also scary. That goes for moving forward, too; now that we've made this record, we've had a few people be like, "Great! This is who you should be now!" But we can't stop here either. I'm happy for it. I'm excited [about this direction.] These are easily the most fun songs we've ever played on stage, there's no doubt about that. I'm excited for there to be an element of that going forward, but when you're trying to carve out some sense of identity, the idea of ever stopping is ridiculous.

None of us could be unscathed by the events of the last few years. It seems like you were drawing on those experiences for the material on this album.

Absolutely. In one sense, even just these arrangements were a love letter to live shows. We missed being on stage and turning up and playing loud and playing long guitar solos, and so I don't think there's any coincidence that this was the kind of record that was made when we thought all of that was under threat or maybe never coming back. At least that's how it felt in the moment.

There was a lot of COVID songs that were coming out and, to me — it might sound harsh — but I never heard one that I really wanted to listen to. It just made me go back to a situation that I wanted to escape from, not dwell on further. But, at the same time, as a songwriter, I want to make sure that I'm sharing what's been on my mind since the last record that we made. The lockdown was something I wanted to explore, but I didn't want to do it directly or overtly.

"Joke In There Somewhere," which, to me, is the COVID song, [is] about that. Well, I shouldn't say it's about that. It's inspired by that. What it's really about is how our social fabric is a lot more fragile than we ever wanted to admit to ourselves. I wanted to sing about these things and explore these emotions we were probably all sharing some version of. But I didn't want to do it in a way that felt dated and tired by the time we got to 2023.

Do you know the Jackson Browne album "Late for The Sky?"

Oh yeah.

To me there's a thread on your record with the song he wrote for that album, "Before the Deluge." Where's society at? Where's it going? Can we brace ourselves for a potentially unpleasant future? How will we meet it?

I've also considered myself to be something of an optimist. I think there's something convenient about saying, "Things were better before the Internet and smartphones." That just kind of ends the conversation. The reality is that that's not really on the table. So rather than live in that kind of resentment and anger — whether it's a song like "Everything Is Permanent" or previous songs of mine — [it's about], "This is who we are now." It's less about switching some light switch and more about, "Are we better off or not?" and more about exploring what that means and how we feel about it.

I'm 37. I bitch to my managers about how I don't want to do any social media stuff. I'm kind of a cliché in these ways: I'm not on the cutting edge like younger people are. But rather than condemn them or thinking, "Oh man, you guys are really missing out on what life's really about," to me, it's just about something else now.

A friend of ours, an older friend, said, "I see these kids … we were all at a bonfire one night and I just thought it was so sad that they couldn't be present for the bonfire." I couldn't help but thinking, "Well, maybe they are in their new way. Maybe this younger generation is finding a way to do two things at once and maybe they don't actually mind it in the way that our inferior brains assume they would."

In my songs, I never have it try to be some black and white thing of, "We're doomed" or "We [expletive] up." Rather, it's, "Isn't this fascinating and who knows what's going to happen and it might all be a total [expletive] disaster" but until it definitively is, let's just keep talking about it.

It's funny when we talk about what younger generations are into. I'm 50, and I remember my parents being concerned that I was spending too much time reading books and not enough time outside playing.

Oh my gosh! I remember reading an article about how the printing press, when that first came out, [inspired people to say], "Oh my god! Now the spreading of awful ideas is running rampant, and we might not survive this. Everything is so polarized and toxic and venomous." Then it just all figured itself out. Obviously, I'm not suggesting that we all just stand around until it's all OK, but there's precedent for humans finding their way through scary things.

Are you a student of history? It sounds like you've done some deep reading on these ideas.

Actually, no. I love reading. I read all the time. But it's always novels. I find that when I read history and nonfiction — this is me, I'm not [expletive] on a very, very important genre — I find myself in a situation where they have answers to the questions, dates, very real events. There's something about novels that reminds me of songs in the sense that they ask a question, and they leave it there. For that reason, as a writer, I'm always drawn to novels. I feel like I have an indirect understanding of history through a lot of the books that I've enjoyed reading. But my brother [Griffin Goldsmith], the drummer in the band, is much better with his nonfiction intake — history and biographies. He's reading William James right now. If I'm reading two books at once they tend to both be fiction. If he's reading two books, he's always trying to do one nonfiction, one fiction.

Disruptive things can be frightening. The internet itself had that impact on people let alone social media. I can remember my roommate coming back to our apartment when I was in college and saying, "Hey! There's this cool thing where you can look up tour dates on a computer! You don't need to look at magazines now!" But to some of my professors, it signaled the twilight of the written word.

[Laughs.] Whenever there's this dark attitude toward any of this, it kind of pushes me away. A friend of ours is working for a global climate change initiative, and he told me that there's just been such a gloom and doom agenda with a lot of the climate change movement, and he said, "We're actually trying to remind people that [stemming the tide of this stuff] is possible. It's tangible." I apply that to music. Whenever I hear those songs about, "Oh, we're so [expletive deleted]," even if it's moving, even if it's powerful, I just don't want to hear it. I feel powerless, I feel small. I don't think people should be lied to if our situation is dire. But I also feel like, especially in art and music, it should be empowering and edifying and hopeful.

This is what I take from the album: there is a way forward. The way forward may not look like it has before but there's still happiness to be found. There's still love, there's still jokes.

The first song, "Someone Else's Café/Doomscroller Tries to Relax," if it ended after those first three verses [on that idea of] "We're all waiting tables in someone else's café," that would have been uncomfortable for me. I feel like that wasn't done. So, adding that coda at the end, "Let's enjoy each other's company on the brink of our despair/Does someone have a song to sing or a joke that they could share" [was something I felt it needed]. "I think this song might be OK." Before that, I thought, "This just isn't how I feel entirely."

"Ghost In the Machine" is a song that I take very much as being about being in a band and having those early, common goals. "We're going to get a Friday night at the club. Then we're going to get 10 of our friends to come out, then 15." Is that where you were at with that song?

Basically. I've seen older guys and gals do it, so it's not like it has to be in your early 20s, but for us it was. There was this beautiful window of us being willing to sleep on the floor at strangers' houses and drive in a van for eight hours a day and budget our breakfast and lunch on five bucks until we were able to get to the venue and were able to get a buyout for an extra 10 bucks and then go find dinner with that. We were all young enough and scrappy enough where that was fine.

We did that for several years. Our first band was Simon Dawes, and we were in a van for all of that. We were really broke with that because nobody liked our band — including ourselves. Dawes didn't get back out on the road until 2009; our first bus tour was 2011. It was a lot of years in that lane.

But then there are times when I look back on that and say, "It'd be fun to do that for a week or three days." Back then it was nine, 10 months a year. Back then, because we were an opening band most of the time, we could be back in any given city within a month. Now … if we play Dallas, that's kind of it for the year or year-and-a-half. Just because you want people to be excited that you're coming back. Back then it was, "Now we're opening for Langhorne Slim, now we're opening for Edward Sharpe, now we're opening for Deer Tick." So, we'd get back to a place like Dallas once a month or once every two months.

Now if we had to start that over, I think it would just be too hard; and so we're able to look back on it romantically. Not for nothing. It's harder than ever now. You hear about people starting out and what guarantees could be, what ticket sales are industry-wide. Spotify wasn't part of things at the time. Everyone was buying records on iTunes. Not that record sales were soaring, but it was better [than it is] with Spotify.

The idea of doing [what we did at 24] now? I feel like there are so many more odds against you. With that song I feel comes a lot of gratitude.

I think about all these bands whose first records I loved, and they didn't get to make a second record or a third record.

Or they did and you didn't hear about it.


That's the weird thing about Dawes: I'm very grateful for it, but we'll see bands that open for us, and they'll just go soaring past. Jason Isbell opened for us on a show, Alabama Shakes opened for us. Sturgill Simpson opened for us. All of these acts have just become massive, massive global artists. They all deserve it. There's no question about it. They're all the [expletive] best. I think, "I wonder what's wrong with us?"

But I have to remind myself, like you were saying, that we just put out our eighth record, and I'm still having conversations like this. Even though we've never done Madison Square Garden, I feel like we're one of the luckiest bands in the world.

And I'll close out on this: I think there's this perception of the band being a tightknit unit and recently your bassist, Wylie Gelber, announced that he's leaving the band. It's got to be strange to have someone leaving.

When our touring guitarist Duane Betts left, we found Trevor [Menear]. When our original piano player, Tey, left — twice — we found Alex Casnoff, then Lee Pardini. Lee is as much our brother as anybody who has ever been in this band.

We've done this, but it's like two separate conversations. On one hand it's about the survival of the band and in that sense we're going to be good. I don't know how to do anything else so there's not really another option. I'm too old to start over and unlike Wylie, I don't have any other skill set. So, as far as the band is concerned, it sucks to be missing one of our favorite people in the world and one of our best friends, but I'm not concerned or fearful [about our future] that's for sure.

But there's the part of me that's...he's friend and he's brother and that part's going to hurt forever. Wylie lives two blocks away from me. Me and Griffin are trying to build a studio, and Wylie wants to help us put it together because that's what he loves to do. It's going to change the band, no two ways about it. But, like we were talking about at the beginning of the conversation, change can be good. That said, if Wylie wanted to stay, I would play with him until the day that I die. I don't want anyone to misunderstand and think that we aren't sad about him leaving, but we're going to make the most of it.

Jedd Beaudoin is host/producer of the nationally syndicated program Strange Currency. He has also served as an arts reporter, a producer of A Musical Life and a founding member of the KMUW Movie Club. As a music journalist, his work has appeared in Pop Matters, Vox, No Depression and Keyboard Magazine.