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Dandy Warhols still enjoy taking chances with their music

The Dandy Warhols released their first album in 1995 and will release their 10th next week. Members are (from left) Zia McCabe, Courtney Taylor-Taylor, Brent DeBoer and Peter Holmström.
The Dandy Warhols released their first album in 1995 and will release their 10th next week. Members are (from left) Zia McCabe, Courtney Taylor-Taylor, Brent DeBoer and Peter Holmström.

The Dandy Warhols aren’t yet up to speed in the social media rat race, but they are finding their legs.

“We’re trying,” guitarist Peter Holmström told The Star this week. “We’re just old enough now that it doesn’t come naturally to us. But we’re getting there.”

The Dandys aren’t exactly old, but they have been making music since long before the reign of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Holmström co-founded the band in Portland with frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor in 1994. They were joined by keyboardist Zia McCabe and drummer Eric Hedford, who was replaced by Brent DeBoer in 1998.

The band released its first album, “Dandys Rule OK,” in 1995, a nascent piece of work that was widely panned by critics. It has released eight more since, including “Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia,” its third album, released in 2000 and arguably its most acclaimed and beloved. From Wall of Sound: “Without a doubt one of the best pop records of the year.”

On April 8, five days after they perform at the Riot Room in Westport (see box), the Dandys will release “Distortland,” their 10th studio album and their first since 2012. Holmström talked about the new album, the recording process and living in Portland amid the population boom.

Q: Was there a cogent plan or agenda for “Distortland”?

A: Initially, the plan was to make it without guitars, then exclusively with guitars. Then, like almost every other record we’ve made, it ended somewhere in between.

On this record we took a more stripped-down approach, which meant we had to make the tracks we chose count more because songs aren’t buried under 12 other sounds. It was more fully thought out, I suppose, as opposed to just laying something down as soon as we thought of them.

Q: Did the songwriting process change?

A: The songwriting is always the same. A song generally starts with chord progressions and lyrics from Courtney and we add parts.

Q: The Dandys aren’t afraid to tinker with style changes from one album to the next, even at the risk of alienating fans and critics.

A: That’s probably why we’re still a band. It’s how we push ourselves. I’d get really bored if we did the same thing over and over. Our music tastes are all over the place.

Q: Do you still play older songs live?

A: Playing the old songs is fun, but we wrote a lot of them when we could barely play our instruments, and they aren’t that challenging. A few years ago, we started playing with Eric our old drummer, when Brent was out of town. Initially we just played old songs. It was fun at first but then I went bat-(bleep) crazy.

It takes us a while to get comfortable with new songs. We’ll have about four of them worked out for the start of this tour and add others as we figure them out. We’ll play new songs, plus hits and other songs we know people will enjoy and we have fun playing.

Q: Do you have a favorite Dandy Warhols album?

A: For me, it’s all about the recording process rather than the actual record. My favorite one is the last one before the process was ruined by ProTools, which was “Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia.”

That was the last one we truly recorded as a band. We had rehearsals for, like, two months to learn all the songs, and then 12- and 14-hour days in the studio. The results are something that doesn’t seem to happen these days, at least for us in the sense we’re never in the same room and recording at the same time. We still get cool parts, and cool things happen, but that overall vibe has been lost.

Q: Why do you go that route?

A: It’s all about ease. ProTools is so easy. I can record all my stuff at home in the studio in my basement. I sit there, press “record” and play along. If I don’t like the part, I do it again. I can record 30 takes and chop them up and pick pieces from all of them. It’s so easy, it’s hard to go back. Plus our drummer lives in Australia, so it would be hard for us to do it the old way, anyway.

Q: Where do you stand on the new music models, on streaming and digital downloads?

A: I think, overall, things are pretty great the way they are now. I think people maybe don’t take music as seriously as they used to before the Internet, and that’s kind of sad. But it’s also amazing. I’ve got nearly every song ever recorded at my fingertips, which is very cool.

Q: Portland has become a destination city and the epitome of hipster-dom. How do you view the population surge?

A: There’s good and bad. The population has doubled, so there are things like parking and traffic jams we didn’t have to deal with before. In the old days, you could bartend for two or three days a week and be able to pay your rent with no problem and spend the rest of your time working on your art. Not any more.

But all those people who have moved here have brought in an amazing energy and great talents and skills we didn’t have before in the arts, design and music.

Timothy Finn: 816-234-4781, @phinnagain


The Dandy Warhols perform Sunday, April 3, at the Riot Room, 4048 Broadway. The Seratones open at 8 p.m. Tickets to the 21-and-older show are $25. After the show, Zia McCabe of the Dandy Warhols will DJ an afterparty.