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The Dandy Warhols – Their Odditorium Experience

What can we say about The Dandy Warhols?

The members of Dandy Warhols are our modern day version of the psychedelic pop artists of days gone by, surrounding themselves with other artists and assembling their own creative love den, The Odditorium. But in contrast to their forefathers, their humble abode is not in the streets of New York, San Francisco or London. They much prefer the laid back, rich green of Portland, Oregon.

The online version of The Odditorium uses all the whiz bang web media tools available, allowing fans to peak into the Dandy’s recent projects, including their latest release, Welcome To The Monkey House, the title taken from Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s book of short stories. They even did a virtual tour, where their new music was available for listening on various web sites in the scheduled tour fashion.

In the vein of Andy Warhol’s Factory, the brink and mortar version of The Odditorium is the Dandy’s warehouse headquarters, where Courtney Taylor-Taylor (guitar, vocals), Peter Lowe (guitar), Brent DeBoer (drums, vocal harmonies) and Zia McCabe (bass, keyboards, percussion) lives and works, and provides Portland’s art community with an epicenter for exposure and expression.

The Dandy’s are definitely in building mode, from the actual space where songs are born, to building their musical substance. Welcome To The Monkey House is definite evidence of this. In addition to tapping into the growth of their own music talent, this time around they’ve got “legends in their own time” in their corner, providing an immense production and writing skills, including Duran Duran’s Nick Rhodes, Tony Visconti (David Bowie, T. Rex), and Evan Dando, the former lead singer and songwriter of the Lemonheads.

The result is a dazzling array of songs that flow from honey to a rich, chocolate soufflé that is addictive in every way. “Welcome to the Monkey House” provides an introduction their stripped down to their newly acquired spacey style – not just in a heads in the heavens type of way, but in the actual structure, providing an acute intricacy to each track.

Lyrically, the creative juices flow like a champagne fountain mixed with a flaming whiskey shot. On “Welcome To The Monkey House”, Courtney takes a stab at the music industry, “Wire is coming back again/Elastica jot sued by them/When Michael Jackson dies we’re covering Blackbird/And won’t it be absurd then when no one knows what song they just heard/Unless someone on the radio tells them first.”

Thing get very retrospective on “You Were The Last High”, where many of us could relate to “And I said just about all of the things you shouldn’t say/So maybe you loved me but now maybe you don’t/And maybe you’ll call me maybe you won’t/So I am alone but adored by a hundred thousand more/Then I said when you were the last I have been loved like a whore/From at least ten thousand more/then I swore when you were the last high.”

Okay, so maybe we can’t relate to having ten thousand people adore us, but you get the picture. To check out our full review of Welcome to the Monkey House, go to our Fresh Brew section.

To check out what Brent DeBoer, drummer and cousin of Courtney Taylor, had to say about their upcoming tour and the makings of their new album, read on. And don’t forget, they’re here and larger than life Tuesday, September 2 at the Fox Theatre’s stage in Boulder.

Kaffeine Buzz: You guys just got back from Australia, what were you guys doing out there?

Brent DeBoer: We played a few shows…we did a lot of interviews on T.V., radio and what-not. It was mainly a promo tour. We played a couple shows that were really fun…went to New Zealand too.

KB: How was that?

Brent: So good. It’s gotta be the best place.

KB: God knows that one interview after another can be tedious. But it seems like you guys have really gotten your fill of the British press.

Brent: Yeaaaa…not too bad, just kind of boring and repetitive. You got to the point where you had to kind of watch yourself if you were talking about sex or drugs or anything, they would just take it and run with it. You could almost predict what the headline was going to be.

KB: What were some of the ones you thought were the most comical?

Brent: (with a Brit accent) “The Randy Dandys are at it again!” You know, non-stop silliness.

KB: Hitting on the art side of things, aside from the sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll, what you guys have put together with the Odditorium is pretty damn interesting. I love the name.

Brent: (laughs) Yea, it works pretty good.

KB: And it seems like you’re more well known outside of your hometown, which is probably a luxury to you because you can go where ever you want, do whatever you want.

Brent: Yea, it’s perfect. However, we would be far more successful if we lived in L.A. or New York. You’re just in the press more often, going to movie premiers where there’s paparazzi, you end up meeting other famous people because you just can’t help it, you’re hanging out with them type of thing. I think people would just know about us more if we lived in one of those two cities.

KB: But it’s not worth it to you to do that type of thing?

Brent: No, because Portland’s our home. We have family here, boyfriends/girlfriends, husbands/wives, nieces/nephews, you know. It’s a pretty small town, so it’s kind of hard to imagine moving, plus, we like it here.

KB: And after you’ve been running around crazy to different places, to be able to come home where you can be with your family and friends would be…

Brent: Perfect, yea.

KB: Speaking of family and friends and the Odditorium, how long was that in the making and any of these people within your art community of sorts, did they have any creative impact on the songs on the new album?

Brent: This new space came about miraculously fast once the building was purchased, then it was time to make a video. So it was unbelievable how quickly that place got rewired, painted and cemented and all this stuff. We had the money from the video budget to create this impossibly surreal world to hang out in, record in and rehearse…take pictures, make movies, have dinner. It’s not done; it’s kind of an on going project. As far as the recording of the record, we recorded it across the river at a place we had just leased. But influenced, yea, you can’t help it because we all hang out in the same place, “the bar” right around the corner, gettin’ drunk, gabbin’ and blabbin’ about music. Those people…I think their main contribution came from us playing rough tracks for ‘em and checking out their reaction or getting a little bit of advice here and there.

KB: When I first listened to the new album, it seemed a lot more subdued, at least from a vocal perspective. After a few more listens, it was really evident that you guys have matured, and are going a lot deeper lyrically and musically. It feels like you guys are growing up.

Brent: You might be right. You can’t help it when you travel around as much as we do and meet as many people; you’re going to gain a lot of influences from different types of people, different types of music and perspectives. I think that’s the largest contributing factor. As far as improving goes as musicians, our techniques in the studio, one of those things we wanted to improve on was creating more space between the sounds. We’d done that wall of sound thing before, and it was beautiful and a great experiment. But we wanted to see if we could do this other thing, which was minimal in its rotation and making the space between the songs LOUDER. You can really stick your head all the way inside the mix and look around.

KB: Everything seemed to be pared down but refined. Even Courtney’s vocals feel more like a fine wine than a sparkling cider. There’s still a heavy pop essence, but…

Brent: Yea, I heard Courtney say once that, “This was our first, big city record.” I think that’s a good description. Having Nick helped finish the record.

KB: The kind of mentor/producers that influence you both musically and in the music business itself, must have had an impact.

Brent: Nick was the first champagne and caviar, truly sophisticated producer we’ve worked with…well, maybe not the FIRST, but he had this champagne quality.

KB: How did you come to work with Even Dando? We haven’t heard anything from him in quite a while. I wondered what happened to him.

Brent: He’s out touring now.

KB: That’s what I heard. He’s just popped up out of nowhere. It seems like it anyway.

Brent: Yea, it does seem like it. He’s a great lyricist. Courtney met somebody I think, that said they could introduce him. Courtney had a song with a few lyrics that he was having trouble with, finishing “The Last High”. He went over for one night with him, had some beers and sat around on the floor, and kinda hashed it out.

KB: That would be an amazing experience, since he’s such the icon in the indie pop world.

Brent: He just does great versus too. His new record is really cool. There’s only a few songs that I just don’t understand yet. But there’s one song that’s got to be the best song I’ve ever heard in my life…I think it’s called “Honey, It Looks Like You” or something like that. It’s like the Credence Clear Water Revival sounding, country rock song. I love country music…not that new country music.

KB: It’s interesting that you guys hooked up with Ron English [for your album cover artwork]. He did this showing in San Francisco years ago, and I got to interview him on this college radio station I was at. I’ve always thought his whole controversial concepts were so interesting.

Brent: He’s pretty much the smartest guy in the world.

KB: How did you guys get hooked up with him?

Brent: This is the story I heard. He was asked by many, many bands to do album covers. He kept saying no, no, no. So somebody asked him to write down a list of bands he would work with just in case they called. He only wrote our band name down, so…

KB: That was it? Just you guys?

Brent: Yea! That was a major compliment. So he went out to look for an icon, just like the Warhols icon. He definitely came up with it, which is that banana on the album. It’s great because it’s a combination of the Sticky Fingers cover, Velvet Undergound and Nico. He also did portraits of us, which are really, really out there.

KB: Where are they?

Brent: They’re up on his web site, You just click on the picture of Courtney and you can see all of them. I REALLY love mine. It’s like the coolest thing anyone has done for me.

(The portrait of Brent looks like he’s part of a wild, fantasy forest’s central nervous system, appearing with a huge smile on his face in this acid trip like pose.)

KB: Did he give you the original?

Brent: No. I don’t think he would do that.

KB: He’s done that before. I remember he did one for John Henson of Talk Soup on E! He’s definitely done a number of originals for celebrities.

Brent: Maybe he would give it to me. That would be so cool if he did.

KB: It certainly wouldn’t hurt to ask. So you guys are just back from Australia, then you’re going to tour around here, then you’re off with Bowie.

Brent: Yep, two months with Bowie.

KB: You toured with him before, didn’t you?

Brent: We just did one show, the Meltdown Festival in London, which was an honor. It was seven nights of bands, and he picked them all. He had us play with him on the last night…had us come on stage with him and play “White Light, White Heat”, which was like a dream.

KB: That’s gonna be pretty exciting, to say the least.

Brent (laughs): Yea, I got 30 tickets to Bowie.

KB: You’re gonna be at the top of the list of fans that’s scene him the most. Now, is it my imagination, or is that piano intro on “I Am Sound” very reminiscent of Bowie?

Brent: It’s kind of got that “Ashes to Ashes” trip.

KB: Yep.

Brent: When we played that song for Bowie in his studio, we were working with Tony Visconti. Bowie came over, and we were, “Hey, check it out,” and played a few songs for him. When that one came on, he’s like, “That’s my song!”

KB: But it’s just subtle enough, it’s not it’s the whole song or anything.

Brent: No, of course not. It has that similar drumbeat. We’re not afraid to show our influences.

KB: Well, you shouldn’t be…’cause everybody has them.

Brent: It’s not like anybody has invented the words, the chords…certainly nobody is reinventing rhythm. You just draw on your experiences.

Experience the full, artistic presence that is The Dandy Warhols, Tuesday, September 02 at the Fox Theatre in Boulder.


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