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Interview: Brent DeBoer from ‘The Dandy Warhols’


The dream of the 90s is alive in the Dandy Warhols. The Portland alt-rockers have been caressing our earholes with their psychedelia madness for about 20 years now (millennials may know them from the intro to TV series ‘Veronica Mars’). With the Dandy’s set to release their ninth studio album ‘Distortland’ on Friday 8th April, we had a chat to their drummer Brent DeBoer about the new record, the ever changing music industry, and how listening to your own voice can actually be quite pleasant!

Hi! How are you?

I’m doing really well, how are you doing?

I’m really good thanks. So, The Dandy Warhols are releasing ‘Distortland’ very soon.

Yeah, it’s coming out on the 8th I think!

How does it feel to be releasing it?

It feels really good to finally have it out. I mean, I can’t wait for it come out and hear it start to finish. It’s a hell of a trip, we’re real happy about it.

Wonderful. How does ‘Distortland’ progress from all your other albums, where does it slot in?

Hmm, god that’s a good question. I’m not sure. Gosh, it’s one of those albums that, well kind of like a lot of our records especially ‘13 Tales [From Urban Bohemia]’, where it sort of jumps around in style and almost in genre as well with some of the songs, yet it keeps a good flow. I think it’s a little mix-match between ‘Odditorium [Or Warlords of Mars]’ and 13 Tales [From Urban Bohemia]’. I think somewhere right in-between those ones.

Yeah, in so many Dandy’s albums you guys jump around from rock, to psychedelic stuff, to tracks like Minnesoter, which I don’t even really know how to define, so ‘Distortland’ definitely fits into that sort of mould?

Minnesoter is certainly different haha, but yeah I think it does kind of fit in with that. It goes from Manchester rock to kind of classic Americana to… well it’s one of those ones that’s kind of hard to define. But it’s very unique compared to what’s been going on lately. It’s a big record though. A big beast of a record.

Awesome! Was the process of making this record any different to previous ones?

Well, it’s always an adventure. You always have to come up with new songs and each song kind of asks for different things and you have to find out what they’re asking for. We have our own studio, so we took our time and made sure that we didn’t have any regrets. We like to do that, take our time and get it just right, and I think we did that, so we’re really happy.

Yeah, how long has the process been of making it?

Good god, maybe three and a half years?

Woah, really! I guess you guys have been touring in between.

Yeah, it’s not like we’re working on it every single morning. You know, between tours and everything, whenever we could get it going really.

Has the song writing process then been different than usual, or is the same?

I think it’s the same. Courtney just waits for a song to be beamed into his head, quickly scrambles to grab his Dictaphone recorder and get it in there, and then the four of us together build it up however we think is appropriate, and just like the last couple of albums I contributed a bit of my song writing towards it. Courtney and I wrote one together again on this album. I think it’s really similar, it’s just a matter of getting every step of the way and getting it just right until you’re happy with the way it’s going.

Sounds good! So the Dandy’s and yourself have been a part of the music scene for a while now, how has it changed? You mentioned earlier that this new album is different to a lot of stuff that’s out there, do you think todays artists are less experimental?

Well I guess, for like about seven or eight years there it felt like I was hearing a tonne of bands that were a cross between say Black Rebel [Motorcycle Club] and [Brian] Jonestown [Massacre], like basically a mix of all those bands with the word ‘black’ in the title. They seemed to be droning along on the e-chord and droning their vocals and so I guess, with this album, it’s one of those ones that you could crank at a club. You could crank it with strobe lights at a ‘chester nightclub or a London nightclub and it would pump away, but it still has that wall of busy, distorted guitar and keyboard. There’s a difference. But then there’s that new Tame Impala record, which is a very daring thing to do because it’s so clean. If you really think about it, the instrumentation and the way the overall album sounds isn’t that different from a Phil Collin’s record from the late eighties. Which is maybe the most ballsy thing you could do. But I think it’s also really popular, that kind of clean sound that you can’t get out of peoples set ups at home. It’s really tempting to get those real MIDI, synthy, clean patterns that are very pleasing to the ear. With this new Dandy’s record, it’s just a lot of old vintage mics and torn up, filthy, abused amplifiers turned up really loud. From what I hear on the radio, especially here in Melbourne, I don’t hear too many records that sound like filthy, grungy guitar. They call it bedroom music I think. Like, from people making their records in their bedroom.

Yeah, there’s not a huge scene of that in Australia.

Yeah, I mean, like this new Dandy’s record. A lot of them are really dancy, even though a lot of it is straight up loud rock.

Excellent! When you guys started out, did you ever expect that you would be making your eighth or ninth record in 2016?

I never expected that. With my whole musical career, I’ve just enjoyed it day to day. Every time I get on an airplane and look out the window I can’t believe I’m flying to like New York to play a show, my little 16 year old self pops up and says ‘You’re very, very fortunate Brent’ and so I’ve never really taken it for granted, I always go one day at a time, one album, one day at a time. I never have plans. I can’t even plan like one day. So I just enjoy it one step at a time and I’m really happy to still be able to play music 20 years on with the Dandy’s, it’s amazing.

It is. So many bands that started in the 90s kind of disappeared or just broke up, but you guys are still here and still making music. What makes you guys different?

Well, we’ve never had any real issues with anyone destroying themselves physically with drugs or mentally with anything. We’re actually a pretty well adjusted group of characters. I can definitely say that we’re four major weirdo cartoon characters, but nothing so strange that we can’t get along, which is fortunate. Everyone in the Dandy’s is for the most part quite considerate, congenial and thoughtful. Like any family we can have our problems, but we get through it. It’s a good gang.

As you go on, do you find it more difficult or easier to keep creating new material?

Gosh, well Courtney writes most of the songs. I guess, I don’t think he’s quite as prolific as he once was, but I think the quality of the tunes that get completed are phenomenal. Like, for this new album, these are some of my favourite songs that Courtney’s every written. He and I wrote one together called Catcher in the Rhye which I think is a beautiful track and we’ve worked on songs together for the last couple of albums, which has been a really nice experience and we’ve come up with some really good stuff. I don’t think the process has really changed at all, it’s just a matter of Court sitting down with his guitar and singing to himself until something magical comes out and sounds like it’s been around forever.

Of course, you have your own band Immigrant Union, which is obviously very different from the Dandy’s, going from drums to being the singer and songwriter. How is that, having your own separate thing to do as well?

It’s really good! Playing guitar and singing in a band has helped my experience with the Dandy Warhols immensely, it’s made me a much, much better drummer. I’ve played with so many different drummers now and I’ve learnt so much about what the drumming does for the rest of the band and how it effects the guitarist and singer. It’s helped me a lot. And looking back, someone will send me a link to an old YouTube video of the Dandy’s playing ten years ago before I played guitar in a band, and I swear that’s the difference. I’m listening to where I placed the snare and just the overall feel of my drumming and I’m like ‘God! I should have been playing guitar in a band a long time ago’. I’ve just learnt so much and have become a way better drummer because of it.

A lot of people really hate listening to themselves when recorded and stuff like that, do you ever get that same feeling watching your old videos?

Only if I’m singing out of tune. I listen to Dandy’s records a lot. I’m a bit narcissistic that way… I actually love listening to my voice!

At least you’re honest!

Courtney and I will just get the records out, I don’t know if Pete and Zia do this, but Courtney and I we just get the thing on repeat. Once you’ve realised it’s done, you just listen to it embarrassingly. Like all day long the needle goes back. I’m not sure if other bands do that.

I’m guessing you guys are really making music for yourselves and making what you like.

Oh, 100%. It’s going to be around for the rest of your life, forever maybe so yeah. First and foremost we make it for ourselves and then if we’re digging it and getting off on the way it sounds then, we figure that we’re not so strange and different that other people couldn’t enjoy it as well. So, maybe just focus on making yourself happy and there might be a group of people out there who discover your music and will realise that they really need it.

Yeah, so releasing ‘Distortland’ and then what’s next after that?

Well, we’re planning on touring around the states in April and then we’re touring Europe starting May and then I imagine we’ll go back this summer for some festivals in Europe and then maybe Australia towards the end of the year? I’m just thinking out loud here, I could be completely wrong. But I do know that the states and Europe are definitely happening. And then, I’m actually going to Portland to rehearse in a few days, and we’re going start recording the next record right away.

Damn! Straight into it.

Well, anytime in Portland, I gotta get straight into the studio because I live in Australia.

In Melbourne right? How does Melbourne compare to Portland?

It’s like a gigantuous Portland, on the ocean, with good weather and horrible traffic. The traffic in Melbourne is just disgusting. But other than that it’s really lovely. Once you get to where you’re going, you’re gonna have a great time in this town.

The Dandy Warhols’ latest album ‘Distorland’ will be released Friday 8th April.