Dawes | Analog Love 5.18.11 (Interview)

“It was definitely a more lo-fi thing and this album is more professionally done analog, whereas the last one, while analog also, was a scrappy experiment done in two weeks.”

Sometimes bands transcend their locale, other times they embrace it with open arms. Dawes is a band that does a little bit of both. As a band from Los Angeles’ mythical North Hills region with a cozy, forward Americana tinged rock, the “Laurel Canyon” genre affixes itself to Dawes incessantly. Dawes is out to prove that they’re more than just their hometown, despite it having a major influence on them. The analog recording musicians are supporting another American gem – Bright Eyes. Bright Eyes and Dawes will set The Pageant ablaze on June 6th, the first date of the tour that sees Dawes joining forces with Oberst and company. I caught up with Taylor Goldsmith before they set out on their tour, starting May 17th.

You recorded North Hills in analog form – did you do the same for Nothing is Wrong?

Yes, same way. I doubt we’ll ever do it otherwise. We don’t do it [record that way] for nostalgia. It’s just a recorded performance from a band doing a solid take and it also helps you to listen with your ears.

What made you decide to record the same way?

It sucked with digital recording and Pro Tools – you go in to the control room and everyone just watches the .wav files, whereas if you don’t have that stuff in front of you, you can put your head down to listen to the recording and shape your listening. It forces us to do as good of a performance as we can instead of just playing and then editing on the back end, you know, that lackadaisical approach. 

What positive developments occurred while recording Nothing is Wrong?

We had a longer time to record this record – we took a month to do it instead of just two weeks, so that was a big deal to be able to spend more time doing the right things. We ran into a few problems but our producer has a bigger space now, along with better gear including a cool microphone. It was definitely a more lo-fi thing and this album is more professionally done analog, whereas the last one, while analog also, was a scrappy experiment done in two weeks.

You’d said in previous interviews that you chose to record North Hills in analog because when you tried recording digitally it wasn’t beneficial to your sound and you “lost a lot of faith in us” – what did you mean by that and has any of that changed with the upcoming album?

Well, when we tried recording digitally it just wasn’t happening. I was talking about the fact that we tried doing it “not live” because it was weird to take turns setting tracks, watching one another set the tracks between glass. It was just so fragmented and not very good, it was awkward. We were playing better live and we felt that we needed to record that way, too. We felt that we should be playing together because each guy [in the band] has subtle, dynamic differences and changes that we can all pick up on. So, when we did North Hills we did it live, analog, and that solved all those problems. Same thing with this new one, with Nothing is Wrong – we did it live in order to avoid that disappointing aspect of us just recording one track at a time. 

How responsive are your hometown crowds to your sound and how does that pump you up? How do you feel about the Laurel Canyon ties, speaking in terms of both hometown crowds and musical genre?

In terms of LA being our hometown shows, it’s strange. I mean, everyone plays LA and it’s hard to be a local LA band because it feels like ‘this band is mine’ to fans but bands are always on the move and everyone comes through LA. Because of that it’s not like it’s more special when we come and play at home because everyone comes through. But I talked to a guy recently who made me feel really good – he said that with Dawes it’s like “Oh, that is our group, that’s our band” and people come out to see us and love to hear songs like ‘Western Skyline’. The guy said that it’s like having a group that speaks for them and said that we always make it feel like a special hometown experience. I don’t know that that transcends to other people. The Laurel Canyon thing, I mean…there’s not a whole lot of bands that play that kind of music now. We don’t really think of it as a genre, we just do what we do and it comes out sounding like that and people draw their own conclusions, but we don’t intend to do that – we just keep our music that way organically. It’s how our music comes out naturally.

How did the leg of the Bright Eyes tour come about other than merely having connections with Conor Oberst?

Like it is with a lot of tours, it just comes from agents talking to one another. This one though, really came from us developing a relationship with Conor. He’s been really supportive and always been here for us. That is a positive quality that’s been exciting for a band like us to have and when the time came he offered it [touring and supporting some dates] he offered it to us and we were excited to take him up on that offer. We’re big fans of Conor Oberst and of Bright Eyes.

How do you typically set your tours up? Do you get much of a say when it comes to dates, directions, venues and the like?

It’s usually all up to our agent. We don’t get much say but if we have a bad experience with something then we relay that to your agent and they’ll set up something else. We usually tell the agent which cities we do well in, which cities we don’t do well in and they then pick the venues accordingly. For example, there is an event that we want to play on Memorial Day and we called our agent an didn’t schedule a tour stop for that night. Our agent has free reign, he’s great; he knows how to get bands to the next level, knows when to have bands headline, support, tour or not tour. We trust him and he does a great job. | Jenn Metzler

Originally posted at Playback:STL, May 18th, 2011.

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