Some bands might balk when they are looking at a nonstop tour itinerary from the middle of January to the start of May. Not Dawes. This Los Angeles band is about to embark on its biggest-ever headline tour that stretches that amount of time, and bassist Wylie Gelber sounds excited about it.
“We’re definitely into it,” said Gelber during an interview from his home in Los Angeles. “We’ve just had one of the longest breaks we ever had in years, so we’re feeling nice and hungry to go out on tour. We haven’t really toured behind our newest record so we’re very ready. It may be a different side to the story once we are two months into it, but for now we are stoked to get out there.”
Gelber and his bandmates will stop in Lake Tahoe during this tour with a show on Jan. 20 at MontBleu Resort Casino and Spa.
For this tour, Dawes is headlining theaters, venues that Gelber enjoys playing.
“I like theaters a lot because you can get really loud but you can also do a slower song, a ballad, a still have it translate in that room,” he said.
Dawes will need to have that kind of dynamic range for this tour: the band is playing multiple sets and there is no opener. Gelber said that Dawes is really looking forward to the format.
“We’ve always loved playing long, long sets,” he said. “There’s a lot that you need to do to expect the audience to listen to a couple of hours solid. We just put out our fifth record, so we were going to play a lot of songs off that, but we are also going to get back to the catalog and do a lot of old ones. It’ll be fun to blend songs from all five records together and find the ones that combine the best.”
Gelber said that should also expect some acoustic-only songs and some fun covers as well. At the time of the interview, the band was just about to start rehearsals for the tour.
“We’ve never done a full thing like this, so it will be a learning curve for us,” he said.
Nothing is wrong with Dawes’ career
Gelber was there when Dawes was just starting out on the road. He worked with Dawes guitarist and singer Taylor Goldsmith in the post-punk band Simon Dawes in 2005 in Malibu (by the way, “Dawes” is Taylor Goldsmith’s middle name). When the band split a year later, they changed direction and favored acoustic guitars and folk-rock over louder punk. By then, the group also included Taylor’s brother Griffin on drums. Current keyboardist Lee Pardini joined the group in 2015.
Dawes gained attention as part of a new group of Laurel Canyon musicians that harkened back to the ’70s glory days of that Los Angeles region. The band released two albums — 2009’s “North Hills” and 2011’s “Nothing is Wrong” — on major label ATO Records. In an interesting reversal from the norm, Dawes gained a larger audience when it started putting out record on its own label, HUB. All three of those albums — “Stories Don’t End” in 2013, “All Your Favorite Bands” in 2015 and “We’re All Gonna Die” last year — have received acclaim and charted and sold better than their major-label releases.
Plus, the band got on some high profile tours as an opening act, including Alabama Shakes, Hozier and Jason Isbell. The band’s best known songs include “Things Happen,” “From a Window Seat,” “When My Time Comes” and “A Little Bit of Everything.”
One interesting new angle concerning the new album: “We’re All Gonna Die” was produced by Blake Mills, a musician who was actually a member of Simon Dawes with Gelber and Taylor Goldsmith. Mills has since become acclaimed for his production work for Alabama Shakes, John Legend and Jim James.
“He was great,” Gelber said of working with Mills. “Of course, there’s always something to think about in the back of your mind when you get into the studio with an old band member. You know, am I going to feel like I’m 16 all over again? But, that didn’t happen. A lot has happened to us all during that time and we’ve all evolved. Everyone was kind of in a nice place to do this.”
Gelber said that Mills encouraged the band to pursue new ideas and experiment in the studio, which was a break from past efforts.
“Over time, when we’d make a record we’d just grab a bunch of gear and just play these songs that we’ve hammered out on tour before we make the record, and then go in and record it in two weeks. This one was more like deconstructing the songs and very little pre-production aside from the first couple of days. We were building the songs from the ground up again.”
He added that it wouldn’t have worked out so well if it wasn’t for Mills.
“Blake just has an endless well of great ideas and it was really inspiring,” he said. “He’s actually pretty out there with his ideas, but we felt like we could get weird with him and take more risks. We felt comfortable with Blake because he’s coming from this place where he’s not just an old friend but also a great producer, so any idea he had we wanted to work on.”
Once the album was done, Dawes again faced the prospect of releasing it without major label help, but Gelber agreed that it’s an arrangement that band enjoys.
“Working with ATO was great, and we never had that classic ‘terrible large label’ experience,” he said. “But as easy as being with ATO was, it’s still a big company with a bunch of people and a bunch of people’s opinions on every little thing. Now, it’s just us and our managers, and everyone feels involved in things on the same level. We really love it. It’s complete freedom.”