It's a strangely surface-deep era at which we've arrived, one where stars can't step outside the house without being meticulously preened by a high-paid stylist, lest they be snapped by paparazzi in — horrors! — a fashion faux pas, and where said stylists wind up with their own reality-TV shows. Which is exactly what makes "Time Spent in Los Angeles," the latest single and video from SoCal quartet Dawes, such a refreshing anomaly.
The clip is basically just a straightforward performance of the song — with an ear-candy chorus of "You got that special kind of sadness / You got that tragic set of charms / That only comes from time spent in Los Angeles / Makes me wanna wrap you in my arms" — filmed at a chum's Hollywood home before a small audience of friends and family. Muss-haired, rumple-shirted frontman Taylor Goldsmith looks like he just rolled out of bed as he strums his disarmingly simple chords, while his Afro-haired drumming brother Griffin keeps casual beat. (The siblings are the sons of ex-Tower of Power vocalist Lenny Goldsmith.)
At the end of the video, Goldsmith's girlfriend at the time, who inspired "Time" in the first place, strolls over to kiss her man. Although it was directed by renowned filmmaker Sam Jones, the whole thing feels like it cost about $750 to shoot.
Were there any image consultants on set? Goldsmith guffaws.
"No way! I feel like you could see through that stuff so fast, at least for guys like us. It might work for Beyoncé, and I'm sure her audience appreciates it. But if we started wearing things that were stylized, it would be apparent to people pretty quick, so that's stuff that we've rejected from the beginning." He pauses, looking for another way to phrase it. "You know, our music hinges on the fact that we stay honest, and if that ever goes away, it'll be really transparent to anybody that likes us, and they'll say, 'Well, screw those guys!'"
"Time" was culled from Dawes' new sophomore album, Nothing Is Wrong, on ATO. And Goldsmith says his gal-pal — from whom he just separated last month — inspired several other of its heartfelt ballads, like "So Well," "Million Dollar Bill," "Moon in the Water" and "The Way You Laugh." All are Dan Fogelberg-rustic acoustic hum-alongs that critics have likened to the classic Laurel Canyon sound.
Goldsmith wasn't aware of those influences on the group's '09 North Hills debut. Now, however, Dawes has no less than Jackson Browne chiming in on "Fire Away," and Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench popping up on "Time" and several other cuts.
"I had a very limited knowledge of what people refer to as 'Laurel Canyon Music,'" says Goldsmith, 26, who was weaned on Bowie and Elvis Costello. "I had the two Crosby Stills & Nash records that everybody my age owns, the first three Joni Mitchell records, the first four Neil Young records, and that was it. But then as people were like, 'Oh, you guys have this Jackson Browne/James Taylor/Warren Zevon thing happening,' I was like, 'Oh, really? Well, 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. It was like a self-fulfilling prophecy."