Event on 2017-08-02 20:00:00
Dawes Dawes has come home. After recording its last two albums, Stories Don't End and All Your Favorite Bands, in Asheville, North Carolina, and Nashville, respectively, the Los Angeles band has returned to the city that has been both home and inspiration since its inception in 2009 to record its fifth album, Were All Gonna Die, with longtime friend and Grammy nominated producer Blake Mills at the helm. Mills had been in bands with Dawes founder Taylor Goldsmith since they were in junior high together, but they hadnt worked on an entire project together since Mills left the band's early incarnation, Simon Dawes, in 2006 after the release of its well-regarded album Carnivore. It was clear from the onset that home was much more than a physical place for Dawes. It was a state of mind. For the bandguitarist/singer Taylor Goldsmith, drummer Griffin Goldsmith (Taylors younger brother), bassist Wylie Gelber, and new keyboardist Lee Pardini, who took over from Tay Strathairn last fallit also meant getting to a point where everyone felt they had found a sound that was uniquely their own, equivalent to an author finding their own voice. The dream has been not to have someone say, You sound like Warren Zevon in this song or Bob Dylan with this song, but where someone hears a first few notes of a track, even before the words come in, and they know its Dawes," says Taylor Goldsmith. "And they say, Thats Wylie, thats Griffin, thats Taylor, thats Lee. Thats the way they play together. I think weve finally done that on this record. All of their records seemed to have been in service to getting to that point, each album willfully different, every one a point on a continuum. First, the acousticbased folk-rock and close harmonies of North Hills that brought to mind nothing so much as the Bands Music From Big Pink. The cosmic country-rock of Nothing Is Wrong, an album that conjured up visions of Gram Parsons Nudie suits. The smart, wordy, Joan Didion-inspired Stories Dont End, then the literate, post-breakup yowl of All Your Favorite Bands, with its crisp lyrics and Dire Straits guitars, masterfully capturing their live genius in a way none of their other albums had. I think how we got here is our ambition level and discipline to be honest, explains Goldsmith. "When we worked with Dave Rawlings on All Your Favorite Bands, we were searching for a representation of what we did on the stage. Once we got that, we wanted to fuck with peoples perceptions of us. From the first song I wrote, Were All Gonna Die, it was clear that this wasnt going to be a folkie record at all. This was an opportunity for us to be a new band. Not just a rock band, not just an alternative band, but a new band. One that maintains all the weird personality traits that our other records might have had, but that also brings them out even more. With this record we went in thinking, 'How do we create something thats coming out of the speakers that forces someone to say, "What is that? How did they do that?" Theres sounds on 'Were All Gonna Die' or 'Roll With the Punches' where people are like, 'How did you get that guitar tone?' Its not even a guitar, laughs Goldsmith. Its something that fans hardly expect from Dawes, which has always bridged generations and genres, writing music you feel you already know, with a familiarity and a resonance that seemed to echo from earlier times in rocks great canon. Its one of the reason they have found great favor with classic rock artists such as John Fogerty, opening up for him, acting as backing band for Jackson Browne and Robbie Robertson, even appearing on Robertsons album How to Be Clairvoyant. In 2013, they opened for Bob Dylan for six weeks. I have to say Blake Mills has challenged me more than any producer Ive ever worked with, says Goldsmith. And thats a good thing. We can read each others minds: The two of us learned music together, and we were sitting next to each other when we were in AP Theory class. Its like we have the exact same set of tools. But those tools are used in astonishing ways on Were All Gonna Die, with Mills guiding Dawes into much deeper waters, crafting a record that is much more bass-heavy and keyboard-centric than any of their others, recalling some of the sonic explosions that Kanye West and Bon Iver have set off on their recent albums. Mills has distorted Dawes formerly pacific sounds by adding futuristic noises, anxious beats, an occasional island sensibility, and even the messed-up plunk of New Orleans-style piano on As If Design, which attempts to solve one of lifes bigger conundrums, amplifying one of Taylor Goldsmiths familiar themes of trying to figure out both arcane and pragmatic mysteries about life and love. From the disorienting synth sound that kicks off the albums lead track, One of Us, Dawes' paean to not fitting in, to the buzzy stutter of Quitter, with its metaphysical uncertainties, to album stand-outWhen the Tequila Runs Out, with its found and familiar sounds used in disconcerting and unnerving ways, as jarring as the debauched hipster party the protagonist attends, this is a new beast. I know its not anything like All Your Favorite Bands, and I know its much stranger, but in some ways its much simpler, says Goldsmith. Simpler in terms of winnowing down some of the lyrics, compressing the stories, saying less and meaning more, like the very best novelists. In fact, it would be fair to say that Goldsmith is perhaps more writer than he is musiciancasting no aspersions on the multi-instrumentalists musical acumen. Were All Gonna Die is dense with stories and brilliant, telling images that are more like movies than four-and-a-half-minute songs, all containing a moral, a proverb, advice or hope, like a scrap of paper tucked instead a Chinese fortune cookie, nudging listeners towards understanding, clarity, or at best, enlightenment. Theres a difference between art that makes a suggestion and art just thats just disruptive. Anyone can pick up a guitar and say, She left me, Im heartbroken. Thats going to do something to people in the audience. Theyre going to feel something. But if you leave it at that, they just feel stuck in the same place as you are. But if there is some sort of suggestion, like heres how I moved on and heres why its okay, then at least theres potential for a listener to feel empowered. Thats what I try to do in my songs, says Goldsmith. This time out, the songwriting responsibilities didnt fall only on Taylor Goldsmiths shoulders. Six of the album songs were co-written with Blake Mills and two with Jason Boesel, Goldsmith's longtime friend and former member of Rilo Kiley. Mills and Boesel also wrote one together, Roll Tide, which takes the University of Alabamas football war cry and turns it into a romantic lament. But what you hear most over the span of the album's 10 songs is joy and camaraderie, from the close relationship between the band members to such friends as Jim James, Jim Keltner, Brittany Howard and Will Oldham, who all make an appearance on When the Tequila Runs Out, and Mandy Moore and Lucius Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe, who pitch in their lovely voices on Picture of a Man. I feel like listening to the record, its four players who are really in love with each other and want to support each other. Nobody felt like they needed to step out. I dont think we were like that before, Goldsmith says. It feels like joy. It feels really good. What I like most is the risks weve taken. I know we have always taken steps that help us get to the next level even when we dont know where its going to take us. But we just know that it will take us somewhere. And it has. Its taken us to a place that feels right.
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