Each time Dawes goes on stage, the band is telling more of an ever-expanding, always deepening musical story, most often to those who have been reading the tale from its beginning, according to vocalist/guitarist Taylor Goldsmith.
“We’ve been doing this for a little bit,” Goldsmith said in a recent phone interview. “We’re on our sixth record now. It’s like if you read 800 pages of the book rather than 50, the experience gets richer and richer and deeper. That definitely happens for us. I don’t know what it’s doing to the audience. We have this deep catalog to explore and we want to take them along with us.”
That exploration will, of course, include songs from “Passwords,” Dawes’ new album, and its first to hit the Billboard magazine Top 10. But those songs may or may not be featured in the set which changes from show to show, including Sunday’s (1/27) concert at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City.
“We’re trying to create that live culture where fans go and have a completely unique experience night after night,” Goldsmith said. “We might start with the same song. Then we try to explore the far reaches of our catalog for the audience and for us.”
Dawes, especially early on, was tagged as retro — a band that hearkens back to the Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter folk-rock sound. It’s easy to understand why the group was hit with that label by the hipper-than-thou set, Goldsmith said.
“There are certain things we do that create an easy target,” he said. “We let the lyrics be the focus of the song. Which is not what you hear with some of the zeitgeisty bands, like the War on Drugs, who I love, their lyrics are usually buried, and The National, one of my favorite bands, Matt Berninger writes in fragments in a very impressionistic way.
“I’ve always been a little more narrative, a little more linear, a little more direct. People instantly want to classify that as something retro,” Goldsmith said. “It’s just a way of writing songs.”
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Goldsmith has been crafting those Dawes songs for a little more than a decade — since he discovered he wanted to write and make music for life.
Dawes, which grew out of the band Simon Dawes, was put together by Goldsmith and his drummer brother, Griffin. The band recorded its first album, “North Country,” direct to tape in a Laurel Canyon studio in 2009.
By 2016’s “We’re All Gonna Die,” Dawes had added synthesized sounds to its organic folk-rock mix, crafting an instantly identifiable sonic palette, a sound that is further enriched on “Passwords,” released in June.
The new album has some political and social lyrical references, but they aren’t overt.
“When everything is very obviously and intentionally political, I feel like the buck stops there,” Goldsmith said. “It becomes something easy to toss aside at that point. When you talk about the undercurrent of the political opinion, you’re talking about what it’s like to be a human being. When you break it down to the human level, it’s hard to deny people’s thoughts and feelings.
“It’s easy to project your feelings onto someone who disagrees with you, all the evils, bad intentions and ideas. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy,” he added. “With these songs, I want wanted to remind people of that. With these songs, I wanted to remind people that we need to have a conversation.”
“Passwords,” however, isn’t only topical. It’s got a heartbreaking story song in “Telescope” and a good share of songs about breaking up and finding new love.
“With this record, I was thinking a lot about what it meant to be alive in 2017-2018,” Goldsmith said. “But at the same time, I was also falling in love and getting engaged. So the songs are about these things, bringing together these things.”
For those who don’t follow celebrity news, Goldsmith was falling in love with actress Mandy Moore — beginning a relationship that, he said, has already profoundly changed him.
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“What’s helped me in living through these times is living for someone else, living for love,” he said. “Putting somebody before our personal concerns can be freeing.”
Now Goldsmith and Moore are apart from each other for a while as he heads out on the road with Dawes while she works on her projects.
“We’re getting good at it,” Goldsmith said of their separation. “I was home for a lot of months and left the other day. It was hard. I don’t like being away from her. But we know that to do what we want, to put that out in the world, we have to be away from each other.
And, Goldsmith said, Dawes has to go out and play shows for those who have become attached to the band over the past decade. He doesn’t take that for granted either.
“For people to come out to see us, we want to make sure they’re getting absolutely every dollar’s worth and (we’re) leaving everything out there that we can,” Goldsmith said. “That’s what our heroes did. I feel like that’s the job. That’s when we feel most satisfied and proud.”
WHERE: Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St., Iowa City
WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday (1/27)
TICKETS: $40, Englert Box Office, (319) 688-2653 or Englert.org/event/an-evening-with-dawes-2/
BAND’S WEBSITE: Dawestheband.com