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Raised on a ‘steady diet of California’

Dawes connects with West Coast sound

“I’m honored to be compared to stuff I love. I can only hope that we have our own unique voice that separates us from it,’’ says singer Taylor Goldsmith of his band, Dawes. “I’m honored to be compared to stuff I love. I can only hope that we have our own unique voice that separates us from it,’’ says singer Taylor Goldsmith of his band, Dawes. (Matt Jacoby)
By James Reed
Globe Staff / November 5, 2010

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The video for Dawes’ “Love Is All I Am’’ plays almost entirely in slow-motion, as if you’re supposed to savor its images. Beautiful women in bikinis leap into pools, some of them captured freeze-frame underwater. Couples kiss with their eyes closed on a park bench. California sunsets look like they’ll never end. And in a closing shot, the four men of Dawes shoot fireworks in the middle of a residential street, their Roman candles exploding straight into the sky.

Just over five minutes, the video is a valentine to being young and restless, but it also encapsulates the grace and wistfulness that have made Dawes a band to watch this past year. Following a star-making appearance at the Newport Folk Festival in August, the Los Angeles quartet is finally in the headlining slot, including a show at Royale tomorrow night with Vetiver and Peter Wolf Crier. The timing couldn’t be better.

“We’re not trying to fool ourselves into thinking that we belong as quickly and immediately on the same size stage as bands like Edward Sharpe and Local Natives,’’ says Taylor Goldsmith, Dawes’ singer and songwriter who enlisted his brother and two friends to flesh out the lineup a few years ago. “Those are two bands that we love but also two bands that we admit we’re less accessible than.’’

Not that Dawes is all that inaccessible. Its pastoral palette conjures a vintage era of American music when bands forged country, folk, blues, rock, and blue-eyed soul into something new, something old. Cosmic American music, as Gram Parsons was fond of calling it. If there’s any constant, it’s Goldsmith’s connection to where he grew up.

“I feel a very strong connection with California music that developed before I was even conscious of it,’’ Goldsmith says. “Someone pointed out to me that all the music I listen to is from California groups, and I looked at my playlist, and it was all Grateful Dead, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon, and Graham Nash. I was like, ‘Whoa, they’re right.’ Other than John Prine, I’m on a pretty steady diet of California.’’

Depending on whom you ask, Dawes could be the next Crosby, Stills, & Nash or maybe the Band. They’re both influences Goldsmith readily acknowledges, but he also knows that nostalgia can only take you so far.

“I’m honored to be compared to stuff I love. I can only hope that we have our own unique voice that separates us from it,’’ he says. “I look at the bands before us that our label or our managers have brought up as templates for the way they’d like our career to go, and I’m 100 percent sure it won’t end up that way.’’

Instead, Dawes has caught fire organically, building a fan base through a breakneck tour schedule with shows where the audience’s enthusiasm rivals the intensity the band brings on stage, similar to what you might see at an Avett Brothers performance.

Dawes released its debut, “North Hills,’’ last year. The album has been a sleeper, but Goldsmith admits its moody introspection might be a tough sell in an indie-folk market looking for the next Fleet Foxes. That’s partly why Dawes has become such a seasoned live act.

“[Our album] is not meant for the big radio stations or the big movie spots and other ways that artists find ways to make money,’’ Goldsmith says, adding that he appreciates Dawes’ slow incubation. “A lot of people I know who have gotten into Dawes have admitted that it wasn’t a first-listen experience for them in terms of enjoying the music. It was something they had to consider. Sometimes I feel like the fans who show up the quickest are the ones that will head out the quickest.’’

James Reed can be reached at jreed@globe.com.

DAWES

With Vetiver and Peter Wolf Crier, at Royale, tomorrow, 5:30 p.m. Tickets: $15. 800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com