I JUST LIKE WHAT I LIKE: AN INTERVIEW WITH DAWES
Dawes. Photo: Courtesy of the band.
American-folk, roots, Americana, or whatever the hip name is, the band Dawes is making quite a name for themselves. With the recent release of their fourth record, All Of Your Favorite Bands, Dawes has set sail on a national tour with support from Hiss Golden Messenger. Following their recent Houston show, Dawes’ bassist Wylie Gelber was available for a brief chat on his one-of-a-kind bass, the history of the band, and the state of current music.
FPH: First, to start off with your rig, you built your own bass, the “Model 2.” Why did you use decide to go through such a task, rather than just buying one?
Wylie Gelber: Yeah, my dad and I built it together. The neck is off an old Gibson, but the body is just a big chunk of wood. We cut it, painted it, everything. I actually made a new one, the “Model 3.”
FPH: Are you alternating the two on this tour, or are you sticking strictly to the newer one?
Gelber: Right now, because this is the first tour that the new one has been on, I’ve only been playing the Model 3. But when I record, I use both of the basses, and when I break this one in, I’ll start switching between the two. They sound relatively different, at least to me, so depending on the environment, I’ll be able to decide which one is better to play that night.
FPH: Dawes formed after the breakup of the band Simon Dawes, so where you guys be, in terms of music, without the latter?
Gelber: I guess it wouldn’t be this at all without Simon Dawes. In the beginning, there were a few songs that definitely made the crossover of the band. There was a song we played called “Bedtime Manner” that was a Simon Dawes song when we first wrote it, so I feel like [Simon Dawes] was beginning to turn into Dawes, and then it broke up. The only two members that stuck together, Taylor Goldsmith and I, formed this band. If [Goldsmith and I] hadn’t met, then this band would not be here, for sure. I think it was naturally going that way, whether that band was there or not, you know?
FPH: Where does the name come from? The Dawes Act?
Gelber: No, Taylor’s middle name, when he was a kid — I don’t know if it was ever changed or not — was Dawes, and that’s his grandfather’s name.
FPH: Your fourth and latest record, All Your Favorite Bands, did not have a name while in the studio. Does the band name the records right before they’re released? Also, what are some of your favorite bands?
Gelber: Yeah, we don’t have that much foresight to name an album before we record it. It’s not right before they’re released, but sometimes we cut it pretty close like that. I’m a big dude for old, soul music, so that’s what I’ve listened to my entire life. Bands like Sly and the Family Stone have been my favorite since I was a little kid.
FPH: When is it easiest for you guys to write songs?
Gelber: It used to be different; Taylor writes the songs on an Acoustic Guitar in the very beginning, and very folk-based, and he takes the name. He takes the name, often with an idea on how he wants the song to go, and then we all write our own individual parts. We never know how long that process can take. In the past, we could never write stuff on tour, but now, like anything else, you have to learn to get used to it. Sometimes [Goldsmith] will get off tour for a couple of weeks and write like six songs.
FPH: Speaking of folk, do you think that 2023 is the year of the folk singer?
Gelber: I don’t know [laughs]. Fortunately, I have members in the band who have their ears a little more on the pulse a little more than I do. I just like what I like. I don’t know if I would call it the year of the folk singer, but I hope something changes in the music world!
FPH: What do you think needs to change?
Gelber: I mean, personally, I’m often almost saddened with mainstream music I hear. Some of it’s not music, because they aren’t musicians playing it — it’s made on a computer. For years, musicians work on their craft, and it used to be recognized. I mean, look at Jimi Hendrix or fucking Neil Young! And now, it seems that the aspect of that has completely gone away. I don’t necessarily dream that the music I play will become super awesome, but I do hope that it slowly gets back to the appreciation of the art form, not just a vehicle to become a popstar.
FPH: If it’s not the year of the folk singer, could it the year of Charles Bradley?
Gelber: Yeah, I’m into that! That’s what I’m saying. We’re at festivals all the time, and when I see a dude like Charles Bradley out there, I’m blown away. He’s obviously so rad, but he is just now getting discovered. He should’ve been discovered when he was younger; he’s been great his whole life. I hope it’s the year of a new Charles Bradley: some twenty-five year old that could sing like that. He is an end of the era that we all know is super badass.