In an era when stars tweak their voices with Auto-Tune, and never leave the house without tailoring from a high-priced stylist, Los Angeles quartet Dawes is an old-school anomaly.
Songs on “Nothing Is Wrong,” the band’s sophomore recording, are straightforward singalongs that hearken back to 1960s-and-’70s vintage California sound.
The video for the addictive single “Time Spent in Los Angeles” is just as disarming. Filmed for what appears to be a few hundred dollars in an L.A. living room, it features muss-haired, rumple-shirted frontman Taylor Goldsmith playing live for an intimate friends-and-family crowd, plus his then-gal pal who inspired the tune, from whom he separated only last week.
Can such an unlikely outfit succeed without such frills? Goldsmith — who brings Dawes to The City on Tuesday — believes so.
“Considering the kind of guys we are, and the kind of band we are, our music, videos, record covers, everything we’ve ever done has never been conceptualized,” says the singer, whose brother Griffin plays drums in the group.
“Like, just our music itself — it’s not enigmatic, it’s not pretentious. It’s just simple stories, or simple direct lyrics, reflecting direct experiences from a very direct band.”
Dawes is catching on. “Nothing” was tracked in analog by new Laurel Canyon maven Jonathan Wilson, and boasts cameos from Jackson Browne, Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench.
Additionally, the group toured with Browne, and backed one of their idols, the Band’s Robbie Robertson, on a rare string of recent appearances.
The whimsical cut “When My Time Comes” was snapped up for advertising use by both HBO and Chevrolet.
Ironically, Goldsmith, 26, grew up on alternative acts, like Spoon and Elvis Costello.
“I had a very limited knowledge of what people refer to as ‘Laurel Canyon music,’” says the composer, who only owned a few token CSN and Neil Young records. “But then, as people said ‘You guys have this Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Warren Zevon kind of thing happening,’ I thought ‘Oh really? Maybe we should dig deeper.’ So that was the first time I ever bought a Jackson Browne album, and then Warren Zevon became my hero.”
Goldsmith’s writing is Zevon-basic, as in “Time”’s chorus: “You got that special kind of sadness/ You got that tragic set of charms.” He says, “Everybody can relate to that sentiment. Like, ‘I like this girl ’cause she’s bad for me — I wish I didn’t, but I do.’
“Our music hinges on the fact that we stay honest,” he says. “If that ever goes away? It would be really transparent to anybody that likes us, and they’ll say, ‘Well, screw those guys!’”
IF YOU GO
Co-headlining with Blitzen Trapper
Where: The Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Contact: (415) 346-6000, www.livenation.com