Capitol Betting Dandy Warhols Still 'Rule OK' On 'Come Down'

Billboard Magazine
by Doug Reece
June 14, 1997

It might appear that the members of Capitol recording act the Dandy Warhols have a lot to live up to when their sophmore album, "The Dandy Warhols Come Down," is released July 15.

The act, whose critically praised 115 Tim/Kerr Records debut, "Dandys Rule OK," sparked a hotly contested major-label bidding war, began making a name for itself outside of its Portland, Ore., home market when the first single from that album, "The Dandy Warhols' T.V. Theme Song," landed on several radio stations and MTV's "120 Minutes."

However, as Dandy warhols lead singer/guitarist Courtney Taylor notes, labels had to get over their excitement about Northwestern grunge before taking notice of the band's colorful pop.

"When we came up, there were a group of bands that didn't get much recognition because people weren't appreciating what it was we were doing," says Taylor. "A lot of us were more influenced by Galaxie 500 than the post-pubescent, fanzine, Nirvana-angst, college thing that was so prevalent at the time."

Capitol VP of A&R Perry Watts-Russell, who signed the Dandy Warhols and their Tim/Kerr labelmates Everclear, says his immediate reaction to the former was one of curiosity.

"It confused me," says Watts-Russell of "Dandys Rule OK." "It wasn't the type of things that I would instantly run out and buy. It was very eclectic and jumped all over the place, but I wanted to keep listening to it to sort it out in my brain and get a handle on what they were about."

Watts-Russell says he eventually came to appreciate the band's experimental tendencies, even after frustrations in the studio resulted in an extended period of post-production tinkering on the new album.

A tongue-in-cheek biography written by Dandy Warhols drummer Eric Hedford describes Capitol's reaction to the early recordings: "There's no songs!," and the band's response, "Songs? Oh, we thought you wanted something new."

"It wasn't that we told them the record they were delivering to us was unsatisfactory," says Watts-Russell. "They were the ones who decided it wasn't good enough, and as a result of that decision, we put the whole thing on hold until they could go back in after a break with a completely different procedure."
The band's perseverance has resulted in a glorious final product. The group lays out a lush carpet of sound capable of inducing psychedelic daydreams.

"I've always kind of wanted to get a big, wraparound sound that fills the space of the room it's in," says Taylor. "That hasn't occured to me until a couple years ago, when I saw Stereolab play in this huge, empty room. [Their songs] just flooded out of the speakers so warm and full, and that's when I realized that that's what music should do."
The act continues it habit of mixing such hooky and immediately accessible pop tunes as "Minnasoter" and the albums first single, "Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth," with more esoteric, fanciful material.

"With the first album, we had about 10 days in the studio," says Dandy Warhols guitarist Peter Holmstrom. "This time we had a lot of time to play around with different things that sounded good. We recorded it in about a month, but the mixing seemed to take forever."

Watts-Russell says the decision to move back the release date of the album was not due to its prolonged recording process. Rather, the label wanted to make sure that it had time to properly set up the album amid major new releases by Foo Fighters and Radiohead.

The band, which is booked by Los Angeles-based Artists Direct, will start a promotional tour around the time of the album's release that concentrates on such established markets as San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Boston, Minneapolis, and New York, hitting rock clubs as well as such nontraditional veunes as strip bars and gay dance clubs.

"We feel that this band can get up in front of anybody that's into music and completely win them over," say Capitol VP of marketing Clark Staub.

Staub's estimation of the band's charisma has been widely echoed by the press and enhanced by rumors of fans completely disrobing mid-set.

However, Watts-Russell says the band's live performance can be spotty at times.

"I've seen shows where this band has just transported the audience, and I've seen shows where I thought, 'What idiot would sign this band?' But I didn't get involved with the Dandy Warhols expecting them to do things by the numbers. They are a gloriously risky band, and it's nice to be part of that."

June 16 is the impact date at college and modern rock radio for "Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth."

Modern rock KITS San Francisco music director Aaron Axelson is particularly enthused about the band. The station, which has already been served with a cease-and-desist from Capitol for playing the new single, first intruduced its listeners to the band when it spun "The Dandy Warhols' T.V. Theme Song." Following an enthusiastic response to the track, KITS albo began spinning "Ride" from that album.

Axelson, who calls "The Dandy Warhols Come Down" "One of my early conteders for best album of 1997," says the band's music strikes a rare balance by appealing to both mainstream and underground audiences.

"They sort of combine the lush, psychedelic sound of Velvet Underground and the bouncy pop sensibilities of the Monkee," he adds. "They're credible in the indie world, but they write these powerful, cume-friendly songs."

Still, Watts-Russell says the label is aware that the anti-drug message on "Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth" could be misconstrued to the detriment of the band.

"When you make a record that has this sort of artistic breadth, your potential is huge. but at the same time, there could be some missteps," says Watts-Russell. "If [the song] is wrongly misinterpreted as some sort of endorsement for drug use, it could keep it from being played on many pop stations. But if people are going to make that kind of decision based on the title, so be it."

A video for the first single, shot by fashion photographer David LaChapelle, should also turn heads. The clip features an outlandish game-show theme where contestants "win" the consequences of their vices.

Though originally a skeptic, Terry Currier, owner of Portland-based two-store web Music Millennium, says he has been won over by the new album.

"Personally, I always thought the band was OK, but that there was just too much hype around them," he says. "I've listened to the new record about 30 times, and there are tracks on there that are simply amazing and could really break them out nationally."

Tim/Kerr will release a vinyl version of the album at the same time the CD/Cassette is released.

The act could also benefit from a still-to-be-titled independent documentary being released this summer that focuses on the Portland music scene.