This week, the North Hills, California-based folk quartet Dawes released their fourth studio album, All Your Favorite Bands, an indicative record that conveys serene and insightful message that reassures to devoted fans and listeners alike a blissful sense of prosperity through the power of music. As the record’s title-track, “All Your Favorite Bands,” waves an introspective torch with the lines, “And may all your favorite bands stay together,” we cannot help but reflect back on the bands that made us smile, and the songs that saved our lives—all while tipping our hats to the memories they’ve helped shape for years to come.
Right before Dawes embarked on a summer tour celebrating the release of All Your Favorite Bands, I had the opportunity to talk with drummer Griffin Goldsmith on how the band first “road tested” their new material prior to getting into the studio, the sincere perspectives that are brought to life through the album’s title-track, “All Your Favorite Bands,” plus his thoughts on sharing the stage with Mumford & Sons once again in support of the upcoming Gentlemen Of The Road festival.
In a few weeks, you will be releasing All Your Favorite Bands. What will you be looking forward to the most?
I think we’re looking forward really to get back on tour, to play some proper shows in front of people and get to play some new material for a lot of fans that never heard it.
Now, I’ve read that the album was recorded after the songs were “road tested” in front of live audiences at intimate venues, yes?
Yeah, well, we had our producer Dave Rawlings come out for us for about two weeks on the West Coast. We played some small venues and did exactly that—we “road tested” these new songs and we would talk about them before the set, and during soundcheck, we would try something new like mess with the arrangement. We would view the live shows as a pedometer of how stuff was received, and changed stuff accordingly and figured it out. It was pretty valuable input.
What was it like for the band to play these songs live before jumping into the studio right away?
Well, we’ve never done that, and we figured, what better way to try out new material than in front of fans? I think we could sit in a rehearsal studio all day and hack away these songs, and you know… change this and that, or try different things, but the crowd receptivity is more valuable than any amount of rehearsal. Yeah, we figured it would be a good way to kind of kill two birds with one stone—it gave us the opportunity to do pre-production, and also to go play some shows.
Once you finally got to put together the record, how did the songs translate from the live setting and into the studio? Do you think that playing these songs live beforehand influenced more a natural writing process, as opposed to jumping into the studio first?
Definitely. Dave is used to doing stuff in that fashion, so we were kind of… nothing really changed I guess in that respect, but to play the songs obviously live, and then live in the studio, it was just a matter of taking what we were doing on stage, and filing it in a little bit more sonically, and trying to capture the same energy in the studio. Like, Dave is really awesome, and is really good at creating a conducive environment.
I think that some of the songs went through a bit more scrutiny once we got into the studio, and we kind of started hacking away a few of them. You know, once you put them through page, you get a more definitive sense of what needs to be changed. So, once we were able to get in there, we were able to look at these songs under a microscope.
And when we recorded the songs, it became clear which songs were going to make the record, and which ones were not because we favored the way that they ended up sounding when they hit big, you know? I consider these nine songs to be the most cohesive.
One song that I felt like I related to the most was definitely the title-track of the album, “All Your Favorite Bands.” From a personal, and a musical standpoint, how does this track in particular capture the general message of the record?
You know, the sentiment obviously presents itself when you listen to it, but it’s kind of like good tidings, you know? It’s an interesting, unique way of saying, “May you live long and prosper.” And I am guessing my brother [vocalist and guitarist] Taylor Goldsmith’s idea was that it is something that you would say to a really good friend or somebody would say that to you when they wanted to make your day, and cared for you or your well being. It’s a very interesting way to put it because I know personally, I never thought about it like that, and somebody is able to define their life in that way.
And then potentially, with your favorite bands stay together or breaking up, end up changing their life, or being indicative of… I don’t know, a certain period, or like how somebody’s crossroads align with… obviously, one is not responsible for the other, but it’s an idea that does point out how important somebody’s favorite band are to them, and how influential that can be in that respect.
I’ve read that your brother Taylor said, “Your favorite band can identify you, express how you see yourself,” when explaining the meaning behind this song. With this ideologically in mind, as a solid unit, how would you say that the band was able to incorporate your own personal influences into this record compared to any other release?
It’s a funny question because it’s a question that is imposed to a lot of many people often, you know? Like, you ask, “What’s your favorite band?” That’s a very difficult question for people to answer. And I think that’s because it’s so personal and intertwined with your life and your upbringing.
When I think of my favorite bands, and the ones that hold the most nostalgic value, they’re the bands that I have been listening to, or that have defined a period of my life of which I was going through something. And there is always going to be something to accompany it—something that resonates with you at that time, and depending on what you were listening to in a way, I think that music can make a difference on your life for an eternity.
I mean, I don’t think there was a concerted effort to make it sound like our favorite bands for the sake of solidarity with the title. But you know, what any band does, of course we carry some of our influences into our music, and I think that happens on an individual level, as well as on a group level, you know?
We study particulars of drumming, or piano, or each other respected instrument, and take our favorite players and use ourselves as a filter to… We had ideas that we liked and make them your own, so there’s that. I think that we each individually contribute on that level and also as a band. You know, work in a specific way, and it’s very obvious to us, being that we’ve been working together for so long when something is working and when something is not.
So, we can play to our strengths, and I think when we get that we are able to be vintage, or Americana, or folk, or something like Jackson Browne. I don’t think that’s necessarily wrong or right, but it’s the consequences of the fact that we are a traditional rock band, and we play a certain way, and I think maybe it’s traditional, and my brother writes “traditional-type” songs.
We do what we are capable of doing, and sometimes it sounds like something that might remind somebody of one of their favorite bands or not. And I like to think that Dawes will become, or is becoming, the type of band you can hear and recognize immediately and know that you live with The Grateful Dead, or, you know… Little Feat.
Along with touring extensively to celebrate the release of your new album, you’re also going to be playing a few supporting dates with Mumford & Sons on the Gentlemen Of The Road festival. Is this going to be your first time playing a festival tour such as this?
Well, we actually toured quite a bit with Mumford & Sons in 2013, I want to say. Amongst that, we were on the Gentlemen Of The Road dates, so no, it’s not. But it’s very exciting—it was a blast the last time we did it. Those guys are cool, and the music is great. We’re really looking forward to it; it’s been a while.
How did the opportunity come about to play on Gentlemen Of The Road? Have you had the opportunity to share the stage with groups like Mumford & Sons or Alabama Shakes in the past? Is there anything in particular you are looking forward to about playing these shows the most?
I mean, yeah, they’re all pretty exciting. The smaller towns that they bring the festival to are really fun and interesting because often times, there are more people there for the festival than there are people who live in the actual town. So, it’s kind of “the event” of their summer or whatever for these little towns, when we play in them. And that’s always fun—you get a good sense of what these places are like. You get to hang out with a lot of the locals, and that is something you do not get to do at normal shows because you are not really out in the crowd. I mean, [being] in a festival environment definitely makes for a more relaxing experience.
It looks like you have the summer all booked up with a lot of exciting shows. What is the rest of the year looking like for Dawes? Any cool plans in the works to continue forward with supporting All Your Favorite Bands?
After the summer? I think we are going to be heading to Europe in September. You know, hopefully get to do a stint of these through October, November and December. I’m sure we will be touring here again, and hopefully, you know, at some point early next year, we could go into the studio, write some songs and make another record.
Dawes will be playing with Mumford & Sons, Alabama Shakes, The Flaming Lips and more at the Gentlemen Of The Road festival in Seaside Heights on June 5,the Xponential Music Festival in Camden on July 24 and Central Park Summerstage in Manhattan on July 27. Their fourth studio album, All Your Favorite Bands, is available now on HUB Records. For more information, go to dawestheband.com.