A Dandy Balancing Act

Toronto Sun
by Kieran Grant
August 1, 2000

TORONTO -- Dandy Warhols frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor has a delicate theory about life on the road.

"You have to be loose and f---ed up enough to have fun, but if you go a step too far, it becomes not fun," says Taylor, lounging over a late breakfast during his Portland, Ore., band's Toronto tour stop last week in support of their new album Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia. The album comes out today.

"Everything comes down to cost-benefit analysis," Taylor continues.

"There's going to come a point where spending a day in a cafe doing interviews is not worth it. Y'know, 'F--- it, I would not rather sell an extra 10,000 records. Today, I want to sleep or go thrift shopping.' But right now we don't mind sitting here, so here we are. It's like drugs or anything."

Of course, the comparison between narcotics and press is unlikely. But then, The Dandy Warhols are unlikely spokespersons for moderation.

Wafting out of Portland's underground pop scene five years ago, the quartet came on like some much-needed post-grunge booster shot, lacing their swell psychedelic dream-pop with a good dose of arrogance, glamour and an almost desperate sense of fun.

Sex, drugs, and top-notch rock 'n' roll ensued -- not to mention on-stage nudity and off-stage dysfunction.

All the while, The Dandy Warhols wore their colours on their sleeves, even cracking North American charts and scoring a sizable hit in Britain with the catchy, sardonic Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth.

"We wanted a revolution," Taylor says of The Dandy Warhols' early days on the West Coast's nascent neo-psychedelic scene.

"We're going to open the door for great bands, dominate pop culture. We're going to make it cool to be cool again. It was a fun pipe dream. But while we kept it together, half of our friends became junkies or speed freaks. It was like, 'I guess we're on our own.' "

Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia, which Taylor, guitarist Pete Holmstroem, keyboardist Zia McCabe, and drummer Brent DeBoer unveiled at their jam-packed and sweaty two-hour Horseshoe gig last week, captures a group that has also held together creatively over three records.

Where the band's 1995 indie debut Dandys Rule O.K.? and '97 EMI release ...Come Down were, respectively, the raging party and its immediate pre-dawn aftermath, the new disc is the wake-up call, trying to make sense of what happened.

"When we made Come Down, we had one goal in mind, and that was to make a come-down record," Taylor says.

"There were only really two great ones: A Storm In Heaven (The Verve) and Lazer Guided Melodies (Spiritualized). But all the songs were utterly different, tied together by the production.

"On this one, we were more interested in letting the songs go where they wanted. It was worked and worked until it fell into its natural shape. But there's still something tying it together: A beat that goes through the entire record. We have a version that actually has a loop all the way through it, but it didn't make the final release.

"I kept thinking of this album as an old 1930s or '40s apartment building that's filled up with our friends and neighbours, and the Energizer Bunny is walking through the walls, one life at a time. That's the sound."