TAYLOR GOLDSMITH / DAWES

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In December, I interviewed Dawes’ vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Taylor Goldsmith for NBC SoundDiego. You can read it here. Below are some excerpts from that same interview that didn’t quite fit the narrative of that writeup, but do seem to fit nicely into the Gear and Loathing fold. Many thanks to Eric James and Rodrigo Espinosa for contributing some of their own photos from the band’s Jan. 10 Belly Up show for this feature. Enjoy.

Dustin Lothspeich: Do you guys typically rehearse much for tours? Seems like you’re a well-oiled machine at this point…

Taylor Goldsmith: I mean, through the years there have been tours we set out for where we wouldn’t get together – but this one’s different because it’s “An Evening With” tour so not only do we have to know 2 1/2 hours of music every night, we have to keep it interesting from night to night. We have to brush up on a lot of old tunes that we haven’t played in a while, so there will be a lot of rehearsing for this one.

DL: I’ve been way into acoustic music lately. Been thinking about picking up a real nice Martin or something. 

TG: To me, it’s the most expressive kind of guitar. You can’t pick up an electric and plug it straight through an amp and have it be the perfect sound for a really gentle ballad and a perfect sound for a really loud, angry song – unless you were to turn up the volume or get a bunch of pedals. Whereas with an acoustic, it really can go from the quietest and the gentlest to the loudest and the most aggressive very naturally. People associate it with ballads but it’s actually really expressive.

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DL: Do you typically write on acoustic or electric? Or something else?

TG: There are songs I write on piano and then once in a while, I’ll have a riff that I come up with on the electric guitar, like “Things Happen” or “One of Us,” where it wouldn’t have sounded right on acoustic originally, or I wouldn’t have noticed it or thought it was worth paying attention to. But most of the time, most of my songs are written on acoustic.

DL: One of my favorite songs of all time is “Don’t Send Me Away” – how did you write that?

TG: That one was, weirdly enough, written on a piano. And there’s those kinda like “bop-bop-bop” quarter notes that are going throughout while the bass line changes. As you can imagine, it’s a lot simpler and easier on the piano to do that. It took some figuring out how to play it and move the bass part around while keeping those three notes up top. But yea, it was originally written on piano.

DL: The band’s new record mixes a few different types of styles; it’s pretty eclectic. Do you think We’re All Gonna Die is different from your other albums in that regard?

TG: To us, we’ve always done that. I would say that they’re recorded in the same way – songs like “Most People,” or even “When My Time Comes” or “Don’t Send Me Away” even would be right at home on We’re All Gonna Die. I think any of them would be! I think a song like “Quitter,” or “For No Good Reason,” or “Roll With The Punches” would fit on any of our previous albums. I like that each record has a personality but I don’t think any of our records have strayed too far from what we’ve always done.

DL: I think one of your strengths, in particular, is your ability to write about everyday problems and our constant struggle with losing or regaining hope – without being too preachy. That’s a fine line.

TG: I think a lot of us try to get to a place, and I’m a victim of this as much as anyone else, where we get to a place in our lives where we don’t have to suffer. That we can build something around us and we’re never lonely and we’re never depressed and the reality is, that’s not gonna happen. And the only way to deprive that fear of its power is by embracing it and knowing that it’s going to come in strides. And you’re going to have to sit with it and deal with it sometimes but other times, you are going to feel like everything is OK. There’s a great Smog song where Bill Callahan sang something along the lines of: “We all have peace on earth about every other day,” [laughs] and saying it like that kind of no longer allows you to be scared of ever going through the dark times because when they do come along, you can go, “I knew this was going to be part of this equation.”

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Taylor Goldsmith’s trusty (and well worn) Fender Telecaster (photo by Rodrigo Espinosa)

DL: Off the top of your head, what was the record you listened to the most in 2016?

TG: Shoot, that’s a good question. I mean there have been several I’ve been going back to a bunch – my girlfriend kind of gets like, “Why are you listening to the same thing again?” So I don’t  live with one record like I used to as much anymore, but I was going back to Blood & Chocolate a lot by Elvis Costello & The Attractions a lot. Putting it on over and over. I’ve always had that record, but when you first discover Elvis Costello, you’re obsessed with This Year’s Model, or Armed Forces, or My Aim Is True, and then eventually Imperial Bedroom and Get Happy!! and all that. I had Blood & Chocolate and I’d always loved it but I hadn’t had that feeling of I-have-to-only-listen-to-this-for-the-next-week moment the way that I’d had with all the other Elvis Costello records that I’d loved. So I kinda finally had that.

DL: What was the favorite gig you played last year?

TG: It would probably be Nashville’s Live On The Green Festival, where it’s just this pretty outdoor show and we were playing after Kurt Vile, who we love and they’re obviously an impossibly cool band. We thought, “Aw shit, they’re putting us up after Kurt Vile? Everyone’s gonna leave!” And I didn’t go out during Kurt’s set – I mean, I love Kurt’s show and we’ve seen a lot of his shows, but I was kinda backstage the whole time with friends so I didn’t see the audience until we walked onstage and there was like 18,000 people and it was the biggest show we’d ever played – at least in terms of us playing last. I mean, we’ve opened for Mumford And Sons, but we were the opening band – people were there because they had to be. But with this, they didn’t have to be. It was the most surreal experience playing for that many people and really feeling connected to them. I’ve never had such a high after a set than I did that night.

DL: What are you looking forward to the most in 2017?

TG: I mean, I guess it’s like equal parts – a good tour (I’m really excited to get on tour and play these shows), but I’m also really excited to get a handle on the next batch of writing. It’s always fun to either be playing new songs or in the studio playing new songs. We never wanna be taking too much time off. That’s kind of how we’ve always been and that’s kinda how we want to keep it. Life is better when we’re working. I’m hoping to have these songs start showing up in a bigger way. I’ve written a couple so far but I’m excited for the new year for that.

JIMMY RUELAS

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1. Tell me about your current rig.

I try to keep my rig as simple as possible. I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to gear. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel. This is the stuff I use out on gigs. Gibson Les Paul from the early ’90s. I use a Marshall “Bluesbreaker” reissue from ’92. This amp has been tinkered with. So it’s actually nothing like a “Bluesbreaker.” It’s loud, it’s got that distinct Marshall tone, and I can fit it in my trunk. ……Pedals: A good wah by Fulltone and almost always two fuzz pedals. I switch up which ones I take out frequently. But there’s usually a germanium Tone Bender and a silicon fuzz. The blue one is the Fulltone Octafuzz. I love this pedal for the “Octavia” effect. Distinct. Especially when you run it into the “Sola Sound” Tone Bender. When it comes to pedals, I stay away from digital and stuff that offers a ton different options. I’m not into fiddling with pedals during a show. So a couple knobs and I’m good.

2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style/gear?

I am fond of the tone I got on the tune “Saints” from my latest album Charlebois. For that session, I used my ’66 Supro Thunderbolt. When it’s working, it’s the best amp I’ve ever owned. The rhythm is all Les Paul. I had some trouble getting it to feed back for the solo. So I plugged in my trusty op amp Big Muff and used my Rickenbacker 360. That did the trick. I literally shoved the pickups into the grill cloth of the Supro. Only thing that could have made that better is a better guitarist.

3. What’s the one “holy grail” piece of equipment you’d buy if money was no object?

If I could snap my fingers and one instrument would magically become mine…. without question it would be a Gibson Black Beauty Les Paul. A real one. Vintage. Triple pickup. Bigsby. I’ve always been a Les Paul guy.

4. What is your favorite piece of gear and why?

My absolute favorite piece I have is by far my Les Paul. It just fits right. It’s dinged up. Been dropped on the headstock (I think you can see that damage in one of the pics). It’s not a collectors item nor is it of superior quality. But it’s mine. It’s in desperate need of a fret job. But I don’t want to part with it even for a few weeks for it to get fixed.

5. What do you have coming up that we should know about?

On June 2nd, I’m playing with Badabing, Mrs. Henry and Taken By Canadians at The Casbah. Taken By Canadians are releasing their new album on that night. That will be a blast. I’m also playing on June 23rd at The Music Box for The Whiskey Circle‘s EP release.

KYLE AREFORD / THE PARAGRAPHS & EL CONSUMPTION

The Paragraphs: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp

El Consumption: FacebookBandcamp

1. You’ve got a ton of cool gear, tell me about it:  As far as pedals go, it’s pretty standard stuff. Nothing too crazy. I don’t typically like to rely on pedals that much. With exception of the Boss ’63 Reverb I rarely have a pedal going the whole song. I like to let the guitars and amps sound like, well to put it simply, what they sound like.

Amp-wise I used a VOX AC15. But she blew up not long ago. The Fender Super-Sonic head is fun and fuckin’ cranks. Lastly, I use a Fender 2×12 Deville. I’m not in love with any of these amps. Still looking for “the one”. In the back, there is an old Standel P.A. Like I said before, I like to let the guitar do the talkin’ so to speak.

From left to right: A DiPinto Mach IV. I have never heard of those guitars but I randomly saw it on Craigslist. It was cheap and left-handed. It quickly became one of my favorite guitars. Next up is an Epiphone Casino. Bought because of John Lennon. It’s the guitar you hear on the track below.

The Les Paul is my go-to guitar for live and studio. I got that about 6 months ago. It’s a ‘90s Goldtop. I fell in love with the look and sound of a Goldtop from Duane Allman. When I found a lefty, I couldn’t pass it up.

Next up is a MIM Fender Jazz bass, and finally a Gibson ’60s Tribute SG that feels like a child’s toy compared to the Goldtop, but its fun to beat around sometimes.

2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style?  In both my main bands (The Paragraphs & El Consumption), we kinda cover a few different “styles” I guess. This song below is one El Consumption has been doing for a while and will be on an album we are working on now.

3. If money was no object, what’s the one “holy grail” piece of gear you’d buy? Hands-down a left-handed American Telecaster B-Bender. Clarence White being the inspiration there. I have no idea if one exists or not but I want one.

4. What was the first piece of gear you bought and what are your thoughts on it now? Do you have still have it? My first piece of gear was a red Fender Squier Strat that I painted a vintage blue color. In a whiskey-fueled evening, I smashed it into about 5 pieces. The largest piece bounced up, cut my head open and concussed me at the same time. There is a video someplace.

5. Who (local or famous) do you admire most gear/sound-wise?  Hhhmm. That is a hard question. There are so many people I admire. I’m gonna go with a local favorite. A band I worked with for years. Jesse Kling from Dead Feather Moon has always been one of my favorite guitar players. He’s got that tone that will kick you straight in the ass. Get us together with some whiskey or a good amount of beers and we are hanging around the record player all night showing each other different songs.

6. What do you have coming up that we should know about?  Up next for The Paragraphs is a show at the Merrow on May 14th, and El Consumption is playing there on May 17th. Both bands are working on a full-length album. Check out the respective pages for updates.