by Nicholas Tristan, Features Editor
To discuss to impact and evolution of the band Dawes, I sat down with talented multi-instrumentalist Rob McLaren. Perhaps best known as the guitarist and fiddler for Union Duke, Rob also plays banjo for Toronto bluegrass band The Barrel Boys. He is currently finishing work on his second solo album. He was also my college roommate, and a close friend to this day.
Part Two: Singles and Girlfriends
R: I should mention that, starting with Stories Don’t End, when I started hearing the albums as they appeared, and I got the lead single before I got the album, the lead single didn’t end up being even close to my favorite song on the record.
N: Yeah. I was just listening to “From a Window Seat” before I got here (which was the lead single from Stories Don’t End), and I love it, but you don’t.
R: Not really. I get why you like it, though.
N: It was a huge departure from their earlier sound. I think Dawes had kind of figured out what their sound was on their second record -- the first record has a lot of country ballads, the second record is a little more Jackson Browne-y. Like, “Moon in the Water”, that’s a Jackson Browne song right there, cheese and all. It’s a sweet, nice, well written. But “From a Window Seat”, that’s Dawes saying “we’re not just a country-rock, a folk-rock band, we are an LA rock band.” You know? Because they’re doing the smooth, Steely Dan thing.
R: It’s pretty produced.
N: It’s a little groovier too, right?
R: Again, I totally get why you like it even if I don’t. Of the three most recent records, it’s the lead single I like the most. I like “From a Window Seat” way better than “Things Happen” (the lead single from All Your Favorite Bands). I just don’t like that song. Thematically, of all the songs Dawes wrote about stuff happening, “Things Happen” is the worst.
N: Moving on to talk about theme and lyrics, and I think we will talk about some really positive things on this front...Taylor writes a lot of songs about how he’s better than a woman. (laughs)
R: Yeah, I was gonna bring that up.
N: I mean, now he’s dating Mandy Moore so I think he’s in a better headspace. I think “One of Us” (the lead single from We’re All Gonna Die) is about Mandy Moore.
R: Is it about Mandy Moore?
N: (quoting) “You like like one of them, but you talk like one of us.”
R: That’s a transitional song, a transitional lyric. He’s not better than a woman, but his background is better than the woman’s.
N: He’s kinda saying “You’re one of the good ones! You’re not like those shallow pop stars.”
R: He says this in interviews, too, he’ll say “You may notice a shift in my songwriting, because I’ve fallen in love lately.” A ton of songs, even “Most People” (from Stories Don’t End)...
N: That’s a great tune.
R: It’s another song where he’s writing it and directing the lyrics and someone he doesn’t respect that much.
N: It’s a pretty harsh song -- but it’s also a really good song!
R: Totally. And you go back farther, back to their first album (North Hills), and I remember thinking that Taylor was really melodramatic at this stage. I mean, (quoting) “love is all I am!” Just a ball of emotion.