The Dandy Warhols return to Australia in support of their latest album, Distortland. The album was first recorded in frontman, Courtney Taylor’s basement on an 80s cassette recorder with the band putting on the finishing touches in a studio. Jim Lowe – best known for his work with Taylor Swift and Beyonce – mixed the album. Courtney notes that the end result is an album that is ‘organized like a pop record but still has the sonic garbage still in there.’ This will be Australia’s first chance to hear new material live and in living colour on their national tour so we caught up with Courtney to discuss the upcoming shows and more.
Courtney is certainly an interesting character and one of the reasons I took the interview in the first place. His super relaxed manner puts you at ease and is entertaining and friendly enough to engage in an actual conversation which is certainly how our interview started albeit a messy confusing one at first! Waking up at 530am while its still dark outside caused a sleepy incoherent hello from myself which Courtney helped by talking me through in waking up and starting again thankfully! Hilarious I am sure to anyone reading this but not exactly the best start! After a brief rant on the early times we ended up talking alcohol of all things which Courtney is pretty fond of and helps in long travel times like to Australia.
“What I do is upon arrival I start drinking. Alcohol is fun, it makes time pass really quickly and then at midnight whatever day I showed up I go to bed fairly buzzed and drunk, I go to bed exactly at midnight and I sleep until 10 or 11 or noone the next day and that’s it, I’m over jetlag. You have to stay up to midnight every time and then you’re fine [laughs].”
I can certainly relate to that having been on the lengthy US-Australia route many times. Wine is his drink of choice and more specifically French 75.
“Yeah French 75, it’s very cool. It’s great, I love it. When it comes down to it, I’m a wine guy. I like fucking wine man, I love it! That is just amazing, a 15, 18, 20 year old bottle of white wine, 10 year old bottle of red wine and chardonnay. That is the best high I’ve ever had in my life and it’s legal and you can get it anywhere in the world and keep just getting it again and again. You never get like, ‘Oh it takes me 4 bottles now’. It takes about a glass and a half of wine for you to get the fullest high every time, it’s fucking great!”
We probably could of talked about random shit all day – chicken coops come to mind and if you know Portland, Oregon at all then you know what that is about and if not, read on as we do go back to some more interesting babble but at some point we had to bring up the upcoming Australia tour which at the time of our interview was only a couple of weeks away. The Dandy Warhols are no stranger to Australia having been here several times over the years so what keeps them coming back?
Courtney: It’s just a place where people want to see us. We get offers, we come down. We kinda go where the demand [is], we’re very fortunate that Australia is one of those places. We’re really fortunate that Australia and France I think are our 2 biggest countries we go to the most and they happen to be the 2 best countries to go to so that’s cool.
Andrew: What about the Aussie audiences? How do they respond to you and is it any different in Australia to other countries in the world or is everyone the same pretty much as far as the audience response?
Courtney: I think that all the rooms smell like pot, it’s a sea of frobbing heads. The kind of music we make is very trancey, it’s somewhat intellectual and we’re really good. We’ve been doing it a long time, we’ve got our craft, we jam some sick fucking jams. We’re a great live band so we tend to have the same kind of crowd-ish everywhere and we’re a very specific band. Our crowds tend to be generally pretty bright people that are fun I guess [laughs]. Smart, slightly prone to depression and maybe a little bit of cocky, smarty pants type. I would say we probably have one of the highest average IQ audiences of any band in history!
Andrew: Well there you go then! So do you cater a setlist to the kind of audience that you think you will play to?
Courtney: No we just kinda try and switch it up as much as we can so we don’t get bored. I think we’re going to record a live album on this tour, we’ll record every night. We’ve never really released a live Dandy’s record before, we’ve only released a live version of “Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia” but we’ve never actually recorded and released what we do live, what our trip is. So that will be fucking awesome!
Andrew: Is that something that you have thought about in the past or is it something that’s only come up just recently?
Courtney: Oh we’ve probably talked about it constantly for the entire history of our band. It’s just we are a band so in that respect we’re not business men, we generally follow through on what we say we’ll do but generally not very soon. At the end of the day we are stoners and we are artists and we are a band so we’re kind of half assed about the business of getting-shit-done side, it’s probably the nature of any truly great band.
Andrew: I absolutely think that the live band, the live set, the live sound is really where the band lives and captures what the band is really about. And certainly with your band, it’s one of the reasons people come back to see you again and again because you have such a great, energetic live show
Courtney: Yeah it’s intense, we’re going for sheer power. It’s a magic trip of music, you can just get the people’s lift up to a euphoric trip. You just start with a little musical idea and start swirling it around and get that groove going, get the trance on. Start laying on the harmonies and melodies and really it should just send you…it will send you somewhere fucking else.
Andrew: In that respect, do you do a lot of improvisation on stage then?
Courtney: Yeah definitely. We have songs that are very tightly balanced and those we play perfectly, exactly the way they are on the record and the way we did it 15 years ago or last night or whatever and then there are some that are looser. They are just looser by nature, they are like ideas where you just crank up the idea and then we all just start jamming on it and try to get a balance of both. Once you’re lost in a trance for like 8 or 10 minutes you kinda want to set it back down and have everyone go, ‘Welcome back to earth everybody, now we’re going to play We Used To Be Friends’, or whatever.
Andrew: That must be hugely inspirational as well, it must inspire ideas even more in your music I guess.
Courtney: Yeah probably it does.
Andrew: Before I let you go a friend of mine who is a huge fan of yours is curious about something, obviously you guys are from Portland in Oregon and he wants to know what the deal is with the chicken coops over there. Do you know anything about this at all?
Courtney: Yeah there’s a trend that started about 10 years ago where everyone just somehow decided that they wanted to have chickens and fresh eggs every morning and then you find out it costs about 25 cents a day in food and that’s about it and everyone started building chicken coops. It’s just a Portland trend.
Andrew: Right so it’s true then! Do you yourself have a chicken coop at your house?
Courtney: No I travel too much, they would die.
Andrew: So why Portland? I was told it’s a big sort of urban area so it’s kind of surprising to hear about that kind of stuff there.
Courtney: No I don’t know. It’s just the kind of people that move to Portland are like people who fancy themselves to be very green, very low carbon footprint and one piercing and 3 tattoos and a job in graphic design or something. Young groovys, it’s like ‘I’m still earthy, I’m having chickens and I work as a graphic designer for Nike but I have chickens’. I like it, I’m glad. It has some nostalgic era of hippyness to it, Portland wasn’t a very hippy town when I was growing up and now it’s just a kind of urban cleaned up place for retirees to live in. It’s gone through a lot of change man, it’s condo world now so I’m very glad for anyone who gets their hands dirty shoveling shit in their own yard.
Andrew: OK well that’s cool! Anyway it’s been great speaking to you today, do you have any last words for the Aussie fans before you get over here?
Courtney: Legalize marijuana. Whatever you got take it before you get in the door, take it 45 minutes before the lights go down and we start cranking up the tunes.
Andrew: [laughs] Good advice man! It’s been a pleasure talking to you, thanks for your time today, really appreciate it and we will see you in a few weeks.
THE DANDY WARHOLS AUSTRALIAN TOUR 2016:
26th Oct – PERTH – Metro City
27th Oct – ADELAIDE – HQ
29th Oct – BRISBANE – Eatons Hill Hotel
30th Oct – GOLD COAST – Parkwood Tavern
3rd Nov – CANBERRA – ANU Bar
4th Nov – SYDNEY – Big Top
5th Nov – MELBOURNE – Palais Theatre
Tickets and tour info HERE.