Nothing is wrong withthe whirlwind ride of the band Dawes.
In just three short years, the Los Angeles-based folk rockers have cut two albums; toured nationally; appeared on late night television and the NBC series “Parenthood”; performed at Liberty Park in New York during the Occupy Wall Street movement; and hit the major festival circuit, playing Bonnaroo in Tennessee, Coachella in California, the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island and Lollapalooza in Chicago.
All single and ranging in age from 21 to 32, the four bandmates are landing at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City on Sunday. In addition to touring with Mumford and Sons, Dawes has selling out solo concerts as well. After touring in support of their sophomore CD, “Nothing is Wrong,” since early 2011, they’ll head back to the studio soon to work on album number three.
Hoopla caught up with drummer Griffin Goldsmith via email. Other members of the band are his brother, Taylor Goldsmith on vocals and guitar, Tay Strathairn on keyboards and Wylie Gelber on bass.
HOOPLA: Please tell me a little more about the genesis of the band.
GRIFFIN: One of our oldest childhood friends is a truly incredible guitar player and songwriter. His name is Blake Mills. (He and Taylor) had been collaborating since they met, when we first moved to Malibu, which was in the mid ’90s. They then met Wylie through some mutual friends in L.A., and shortly after met the drummer, Stuart Johnson, also through mutual friends. They started a band called Simon Dawes, and recorded and toured until the band broke up in 2008. By that point Stuart had been my drum teacher for a couple of years, and I was just about to graduate high school. I had been in the peripherals for quite a while. It happened to work out in such a way that Taylor had a new batch of songs right around the time that I was graduating. I moved into the house that they had already been sharing, and we arranged the songs with the hope of playing some shows in LA.
We were fortunate enough to become close with Jonathan Wilson and make a record at his studio in Laurel Canyon. After that we were offered our first tour and have been pretty much doing that since.
Q: How did you connect with producer Jonathan Wilson, leading to jam sessions at his house with Conor Oberst, Benmont Tench and Chris Robinson?
A: Jonathan and our bassist Wylie were introduced to each other at a bar in LA. He pretty much agreed to record us without ever having heard the music. In the following months we became close friends.
- WHEN: 8 p.m. Sunday (8/19)
- WHERE: Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St., Iowa City
- COST: $16 advance, $18 day of show
- DETAILS: (319) 688-2653 or Englert.org
Q: I love what I’m hearing on your CDs, but have seen lots of different descriptions of your sound. How do you describe your sound?
A: Considering that I’m asked that question often, I usually just say rock n’ roll. I don’t ever want to distract people from the music with an ambiguous title. Especially if it’s someone that isn’t familiar with it.
Q: What do you seek to communicate through your music? What niche are you carving in today’s music scene?
A: I seek to convey how I feel through my style of drumming. I try to do what feels the most natural to me. Taylor’s songs are about many different things. Each song sends a different message. We’re not making an effort to carve a niche in today’s music scene. If it happens as a consequence of the careers that we are leading then that’s great.
Q: Your music is so gentle and intimate, well suited to the 725-seat Englert Theatre in downtown Iowa City where you’ll be playing Sunday. How does that translate to larger venues and summer fair grandstands? Do you ramp up the energy onstage or keep it all pretty mellow?
A: Big outdoor stages often require different set lists. We tend to stay away from the ballads on stages like that.
Q: You’re a new band, with a whole lot of sold-out concerts, which is unusual. How are you getting the kind of attention and building the fan base that fills venues?
A: We’re fortunate to work with a lot of great people. A lot of that promotion and publicity goes on behind the scenes. I’ve found that for myself, it’s good to stay as open minded about music as possible. The more eclectic my taste is, the more ideas I have to draw on when arranging or playing a song. I think open mindedness plays a big part in the music we make as well as the approach to being a successful band in today’s music business.
Q: Bands form every day in every way, many of which just fizzle out, especially in this tough economy. When did you guys know you had something that would sell?
A: A lot of bands that have sustainable careers are riding on the weight of the songs. It is no different for us.
Q: What influences the songs you write and what is your process?
A: Taylor writes all the songs himself and we arrange them as a band.
Q: What has surprised you the most so far on this career ride? Those moments that make you go, wow!
A: We’re currently on tour with Mumford and Sons. The amount of success coupled with the modesty and generosity, that they have acquired and possess is awe inspiring.
Q: How do you pass the time on the road?
A: I read and listen to music.
— Diana Nollen