Breaking: Dawes

November 11, 2009 11:40 AM ET

Who: These folk-rock rookies started their career as the buzzy post-punk band Simon Dawes, co-fronted by Malibu native Taylor Goldsmith. But when the band's other songwriter bowed out, the remaining members — Goldsmith, his brother Griffin (drums) and bassist Wylie Gelber — shortened the name and traded their Smiths records for plaid shirts and pedal steel.

Sounds Like: True to its Cali roots, the group's new debut, North Hills, is full of twangy folk rock a la Gram Parsons and Neil Young. "Take Me Out of the City" features sweet, Byrds-ian harmonies, and "When You Call My Name" is a dusty singalong with ripping, Stephen Stills-style lead guitar. "All the music we've been inspired by was made right here in California," says Taylor Goldsmith. "We pride ourselves on that."

Down With: The band is also part of a renaissance in L.A.'s legendary Laurel Canyon scene, having participated in neighborhood jam sessions with local VIPs like Jenny Lewis and the Black Crowes' Chris Robinson.

Dad Rock: Performing runs in the band's blood. Keyboardist Tay Strathairn's dad, David, is the Oscar-nominated actor. And the Goldsmiths' father is a former lead singer for funk crew Tower of Power who raised the boys on a diet of classic soul. Says Taylor, "I'd ask him, 'What do you think of Dylan?' and he'd be like, 'Oh, he's not good. You need someone who can sing!'"

Good Genes Dawes got their name from the Goldsmiths' grandfather, a fiddle-playing Okie named Dawes Lafayette Goldsmith. "He used to say things like, 'If you got a drummer, you don't need a bassist, and if you got a bassist, you don't need a drummer,' " Taylor recalls. "I think if he heard us play he'd be like, 'Why don't you turn it down a little?'"

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