The band Dawes has signed with Rounder Records, a return to a “major indie” after four self-released albums that followed on the heels of two early efforts on the ATO label. The group’s seventh release and first for Rounder will be “Good Luck With Whatever,” slated to come out October 2, preceded today by a new single and video, “Who Do You Think You’re Talking To.”
The album was recorded at Nashville’s legendary Studio A by producer Dave Cobb (of Brandi Carlile, Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton fame) and follows 2018’s “Passwords,” one of a long streak of Dawes albums to reach the top of both the rock and Americana/folk charts.
While “Passwords” may have been Dawes’ mellowest album, a sneak listen to the new one reveals that it may be the one that is most geared toward presenting Dawes as an electric guitar-based rock ‘n’ roll band. That’s certainly the direction promised by “Who Do You Think You’re Talking To,” a track that feels like it could have been penned as a reflective ballad on paper but which ends up as something of a rave-up in its finished form.
“In the past, I’ve definitely been more precious about the way I wanted the songs to sound, but that’s never as fun,” frontman Taylor Goldsmith said in a statement announcing the new record and label change. “The music we make is everyone’s mode of expression, and the other guys all have chops that I don’t have and never will. The fact that we’re able to lean on each other and celebrate each other as individuals just makes us so much more excited about getting to play together in this band.”
He elaborated in comments on the band’s website: “As a band, this album is a celebration of each other and our closeness as a group. It’s the four of us live in a room not hiding behind any sort of studio magic. This band has made us stronger and brought us closer through the years and we’re recognizing that and are more proud of that than ever.”
The lyrics of the new song are reflective, in having the protagonist query his new love about whether she’s thinking about old ones more than him, before he realizes he’s talking to himself in a bar. The video, though, goes for nothing but zany, with Goldsmith in a variety of green-screen situations, and variations on headgear and facial hair, as he stars as (the credits reveal) “Tyler Dyler, Capt. Lucas Mozzarella, Graham Canyon, Commander Roman Solo, Allen Croissant and Perry Puddlesworth.”
The video’s credited director and producer, whose voice is presumably heard giving direction over the end credits, is actress Caitlin Gerard, who has been publicly connected with drummer Griffin Goldsmith (Taylor’s brother) in the past.
In a further statement on the band’s website, Goldsmith said, “As a songwriter, this album is a relinquishing of my codependence…Not concerning myself with things that I shouldn’t…witnessing life around me but trying to hold back judgment. It’s also about stepping more firmly into adulthood, even if a few years later than expected.”
That theme is born out in the album’s celebrative opening song, “Still Feel Like a Kid,” and bookended with sentiments in the more contemplative closing track, “Me Especially,” in which Goldsmith wonders at one point (with irony fully intended), “Why am I the youngest guy my age?”
Another highlight is “Didn’t Fix Me,” a ballad Goldsmith recently sang as a guest at L.A. concerts early this year by his wife, Mandy Moore, who was to be backed by Dawes on tour this summer before those plans fell victim to the pandemic.
Of the new label affiliation, the band waxed somewhat comedic in comments about Rounder in a newly released bio accompanying the album news. “Having self-released their music for the last 1/20 of a century, Dawes has now joined forces with their former legal council, now president of Rounder Records, John P. Strohm,” the bio states. “Attorney-client privilege has been lifted. Finally without the constraints of the fat cats up on Capitol Hill and their ever flowing spools of bureaucratic red tape, Dawes and their beloved ex-ambulance chaser are together again. Court is in session and they’re prepared to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” (Strohm was, in fact, part of Loeb & Loeb’s music industry division in the years between when he was a rock musician — as part of the Blake Babies and other groups — and when he became Rounder’s president in 2017.)
In early June, Dawes released an 11-track live album, “Live From Richmond, VA,” as a Bandcamp-exclusive download, with all proceeds split between Reform LA Jails and BLM Los Angeles.