After a required high school stint, multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Taylor Goldsmith and guitarist/vocalist Blake Mills assembled the framework of their first band, each lending a middle name toward the newly forged Simon Dawes. With drummer Stuart Johnson and bassist Wylie Gelber, the Malibu, Calif., quartet crafted a couple of impressive EPs and, after an inordinate amount of time spent with The Kinks’ Waterloo Sunset, its debut full-length, 2006’s Carnivore. The debut combined Jellyfish’s Pop melodicism, The Kinks’ British dancehall swagger, Spoon’s Garage Pop squall and the wise-beyond-their-years songwriting team of Goldsmith and Mills.
For whatever reason, Simon Dawes began to crack and shift. Johnson departed and was replaced by Goldsmith’s younger brother, Griffin. Mills also ultimately left (he’s become an in-demand touring and session guitarist and just released his debut solo album, Break Mirrors). With the defection of the Simon half of its name, Goldsmith shortened the band’s appellation to Dawes, a change that signaled a shift in musical direction as well.
Long guided by the spirit of John Prine, Will Oldham and Townes Van Zandt — as well as genetics (the Goldsmiths’ father is former Tower of Power vocalist Lenny Goldsmith) — and freshly inspired by the sound of Gram Parsons, Crosby, Stills & Nash and Jackson Browne, Goldsmith began writing songs that actually reflected the sonic perspective of his old influences and new discoveries. As a result, Dawes’ debut album, last fall’s North Hills, evokes the desert sunset beauty of the best of SoCal’s ’70s Country/Rock movement while the band makes its sound and message completely relevant to Indie fans of the here and now. Fans of early Wilco, Son Volt and My Morning Jacket will find plenty to embrace in Dawes, from the gorgeous lyrics (“Love is not convenient/It does not cease at your command/You might take and leave it/But love is all I am”) to the scuffed, heart-sleeved Indie Americana soundtrack.
The band performs as part of the free MidPoint Indie Summer show Friday on Fountain Square, teaming with a trio of superb, like-minded local groups: Messerly and Ewing, The Sweep and Goose.
Go here for show details and to check out all the bands.
Read about announcements of the lineup for September's MidPoint Music Festival here.