Interview: The Dandy Warhols

Seventeen years, seven albums and several tours, The Dandy Warhols drummer Brent De Boer talks greatest hits.

The Dandy Warhols are a busy bunch. Since their last tour of Australia there have been babies, solo records and a retrospective, The Dandy Warhols Capitol Years: 1995-2007, the latter of which sees them returning to our shores. As one of the headliners on the Parklife tour alongside the eclectic lineup that includes Missy Elliot, Groove Armada, Soulwax and Kele, drummer Brent De Boer and his band are no strangers to the national tour circuit, having previously played Falls Festival and the Big Day Out. When I get hold of De Boer, he’s in Australia with family and has nothing but kind words for the local crowds.

“Absolutely, Australia is one of our favourite places to come, it always has been since the very first time. The people of Australia have really embraced us in a special way, the audiences are always so cool and so musically knowledgeable. It’s much different to playing in a lot of other places, it’s just a very communal spirit, everyone is in it together. We have an absolute blast, we love it.”

Admittedly, De Boer’s vantage point from the drum kit puts him in a different element when it comes to the live experience, and to him the contrasts between a festival crowd and sideshows can only be read between the lines, or notes, if you will.

“From where I sit at the drum set it’s all very, very similar, once the trip starts each song is such an odyssey in and of itself at the beginning of it you just get yourself psyched up for the tune. And all that is the same, whether there’s a 100,000 people or just a hundred people.”

“The fact is at most festivals we only play for about an hour, but when we do our club shows… we’ve played whole tours where we’ve played three, three and a half hour shows. You get that time to just chat to people from the stage and you see some familiar faces you know, it definitely feels a little bit different I’d say between songs, and just the fact that we get to play for much longer, play some trippier, tripped out sections that we don’t really get do when you’re playing a one hour set, you just have to bang out your hits.”

It’s those hits that make up The Dandy Warhols’ recently released retrospective record, tracing their days with Capitol Records from the fuzzy psychedelia of …The Dandy Warhols Come Down to the completely wacky Odditorium or Warlords of Mars. The fact that the band has been in motion since 1993, making this their 17th year together, is commendable in itself, let alone being able to present a collection of their finest works.

“It’s a major milestone and it’s kind of a dream for a band to do that because it sort of means you’ve been around for a while. Doing a retrospective like that is a pretty big deal and it’s a big achievement so we’re all really proud of it.”

Having always maintained an unusual balance between tv advertisement friendly pop songs and extended shoegaze jams on their records, two distinct versions of The Dandy Warhols now exist and De Boer is completely aware of it when asked if the band were involved in choosing the tracklist.

“Yeah basically, but it was surely obvious, it’s just all the songs that went to the radio and had videos made for them, the three and a half minute pop songs of ours, because we kind of have an identity crisis in the Dandys where on the one hand we play these long drawn out, tripped out songs, like all Massive Attack or Spiritualized or something, and then we have these Beatles-esque pop songs, so it’s kind of a collection of that side and if there’s a fan that’s bored by our long, psychedelic trip out jams but likes the pop and rock cuts then this would be the disc for them.”

Plenty else has been going on in the Dandy Warhols camp besides this record. Lead singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor became a new dad at the age of 42, affording the band a break that led to both Dandys keyboard player Zia McCabe and De Boer working on their respective solo projects in the Dandys personal studio space, the Odditorium.

“Brian Coates (Welcome to the Monkey House engineer) used to live in the rock dorm below me in the same building where Courtney lived and everyone in the world-famous rock dorm in Portland, Oregon…and he used to come up and hang out with me in my apartment and I’d play some four track songs that I’d made up the previous night and he remembered those years later…and he was in the Odditorium recording a record that he’s still working on with Zia…and he said ‘she leaves at 10 o’clock every night, why don’t you come in late at night, let’s record some of those old songs,’ cause he’d really liked them. We ended up recording them from 10 til 6 in the morning for about a week, and then he would just sleep there and Zia would show up again at noon and he would keep going.”

De Boer released his first solo album, The Farmer, in April this year, but did so with a twist. The album was made available exclusively in America via the Multiple Sclerosis website and part proceeds went to the cause.

“When Courtney had his baby we took half a year off so there was kind of the opportunity for all of us to do something with that stuff. My dad has Multiple Sclerosis and I was trying to think of a different way to put the album out where it doesn’t just come out in a normal way, I put it out so that it could go onto the Multiple Sclerosis website in America and give some of the proceeds to MS… we played four gigs and two of those four gigs in Portland recently were MS fundraisers and my dad got on stage and played a song with us too which was fun and he kind of told his story about Multiple Sclerosis and raised quite a lot of money for MS, so that was cool.”

As for his day job, plans are set for the Dandy Warhols train to keep rolling with no end in sight for the seventeen year juggernaut.

“We’ll be touring on this retrospective for a little while here and then we’ll get back in the studio. There’s already a few songs that we’ve started recording so we’ll finish those up and start some more. I’m not sure exactly when it will be done or when that will come out, but when we’re not on the road we’re in the studio and vice versa, so there’s definitely another Dandys record coming in the future, I just can’t say when.”

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