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Dawes' Taylor Goldsmith on Their Irreverent New Album and Why They're Okay Not Being the 'Cool Band'

Dawes photographed in 2015.
Dan Martensen

Dawes photographed in 2015.

California quartet Dawes has been riding high on the success of their new album: The L.A.-based group notched their first No. 1 on Billboard’s Folk Albums chart (dated June 20)  with their fourth album All Your Favorite Bands, which also reached the No. 4 spot on Top Rock Albums.

All Your Favorite Bands is also Dawes' second self-released LP (they were previously signed to ATO Records). Continuing their legacy as mystics of the '60s and '70s scene in Laurel Canyon, the boys stayed true to their sound with the collection of folk-rock ditties. Billboard sat down with frontman and principal songwriter Taylor Goldsmith to talk the album's "live" sound and the meaning behind the LP's title.

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With All Your Favorite Bands, it seems like you’re more focused on creating a cohesive project and not trying to compete in the singles market. Why?

If we wrote [Hozier’s] “Take Me to Church” and had that [success], that would be totally welcomed. But you’ve got to follow whatever comes to you; the way that I write and we play, it comes out the way it comes out. We want to grow and force our fans who like this record and the one before it to really have to see if they like the next one. [We want] it to be different enough that it has its own identity but also continues to widen the spectrum of what this band can be. We’ve never been the cool band. You know, we think our music is fucking cool, but it's never been part of the zeitgeist. While it definitely keeps us off top 40 radio, I think it does keep us coming off like a career band, which is a dream of ours. I feel like a lot of artists, when they're on their fourth record, they're perceived as the old guys. At least in this day and age. I like that people perceive us as just getting started because that's how we perceive ourselves.

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You guys are one of the heaviest touring bands out, so it’s fitting that the songs sound very live.

Yeah. We’ve just always felt like we had a product onstage that represented us. Like, “That’s us -- that’s how I play guitar, that’s how I play drums, that’s how I would sing.” We knew that we wanted to just play together, play live, stop being precious about anything. The record is so much more irreverent and much more joyful than any of the music we’ve ever made. You can tell we’ve got smiles on our faces.

You toured with Mumford & Sons, who recently shifted their sound toward harder rock. Would Dawes ever do that?

There are so many times where an artist does that, and their effort is very transparent, and they felt compelled to be this different band because of these external forces. The only way for artists to stay in a conversation is to really change up what they do and add to their catalog’s range. But I don’t think that should be forced.

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What about the line “I hope all your favorite bands stay together” pulled at you as the album title?

I think that there's a singular emotion that goes along with what the bands that we love mean to us. I feel like people feel represented by that in a way that you don't get from saying, "Oh, I like this book" or "I went to college here" or "This is what my job is." Bands speak for us in this inevitable way that you can't get anywhere else because it is this perfect balance of artistic expression and popular culture. The band that really told you who you are when you were 12 years old, it’s the idea of "Oh, I hope that band always stays together." It's a way to hold on to a part of yourself, holding on to that innocence.

You guys worked with Pledge Music on this release -- did you enjoy crowd funding? 

We dug it. It was just a way for us to make more people aware of the record. We did deluxe editions with 7-in. just for Instagram that I recorded with handwritten lyrics. It was just an effort -- when it's hard to sell a record -- and then also there's a lot of records coming out. It was just a way for us to keep the conversation alive and to try to keep a record release interesting. So, we like all the stuff that we were putting out there, and I'd like to do that sort of thing as much as we can. 

A version of this story originally appeared in the June 20 issue of Billboard.

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