Monday to Friday, Courtney Taylor-Taylor walks two miles to work. Since the world went into lockdown, he’s been holed up back home in Portland, mainly drinking wine and making music at Old Portland, The Dandy Warhols’ pied-à-terre wine bar housed inside the band’s longtime Odditorium clubhouse and studio, which entertained the likes of David Bowie, Duran Duran, and Gus Van Sant in its earlier days.
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“It’s the perfect length of walk to get your head together, loosen up, shake off the morning depression and record,” says Taylor-Taylor of his new, daily routine. “Sometimes I don’t get anything done, because I start drinking wine instead. There’s always a huge stockpile of wine just sitting there, so by the time lunchtime rolls around I’m like ‘that would go great with an Alsatian Pinot Gris or Pinot Blanc.’”
Indulging in a 15-year-old Bordeaux one day and a Barolo the next, Taylor-Taylor is still trying to wrap his head around the daily monotony of this past year as he pieces together The Warhols’ 11th album and a weekly series of 30-second songs the band has been releasing every Friday on their YouTube and TikTok pages.
“It’s just so weird to be stuck in this Groundhog’s Day,” says Taylor-Taylor. “It does get very depressing. It’s really unnerving. I spent so much time this year being nervous, and it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning. Everything just seems really drab, and pointless, and slightly frightening.”
Stowed away and imbibing, Taylor-Taylor is also reflecting on the past 25 years with the band and the 20th anniversary of The Dandy Warhols’ seminal release, 13 Tales From Urban Bohemia, which they’ll mark with a live broadcast of the band’s 2013 full concert recorded at Portland’s Wonderland Ballroom, streaming on Dec. 30.
Perhaps the best way to breakdown the lifespan of The Dandy Warhols is in five-year increments from 1995’s Dandy’s Rule OK through the tectonic shift of Bohemia, then oddities and sonic experimentation around 2005’s Odditorium or Warlords of Mars prior to the band’s Capitol split, and so on.
“From ’94 to Y2K was basically one thing,” says Taylor-Taylor, who says once drummer Eric Hedford left the band prior to the release of 13, and his cousin Brent DeBoer joined the Warhols, along with guitarist Peter Holmström and keyboardist Zia McCabe, there was a different dynamic in the band.
Before the band took a swerve into a new wave of Welcome to the Monkey House in 2003, there was 2000’s 13 Tales From Urban Bohemia. On a higher perch, 13 showcased the band’s versatility maneuvering through the pyschedelic haze of “Bohemian Like You,” a slower sludge of “Godless” or the mod motions of “Get Off.”
Now, 25 years later, everything seems more like a blip in time.
“It doesn’t even feel remotely like 25 years,” shares Taylor-Taylor. “It feels more like six or seven.”
Recalling another turning point in the Warhols’ history, the Odditorium record was a deeper shift as the band was becoming more detached from Capitol Records. “That’s a whole kind of dark experience, and very depressing,” says Taylor-Taylor. “We had one of those legendary record label executive experiences where we didn’t know how good we had it with the first regime of Capitol. They didn’t try very hard, but at least they were really good to us, and left us alone. They were like, ‘hey you guys are weirdos do your thing. Here’s some money.’”
Once the band exploded following 13, and the label’s reins shifted, things started falling apart. “The new president came in and he thought he was going to take us to the next level,” says Taylor-Taylor. “He virtually destroyed everything that we had built. There’s nothing like having artists be thought to be something they’re not. You just can’t do that.”
He adds, “If someone had taken Picasso’s work and said ‘it needs a little more flair, let me fix this up for you,’ you would have never heard of him. That kind of shit was done to us in a huge way.”
In the band’s revolt on against the changing tide, they released Odditorium or Warlords of Mars—replete with three tracks nearly hitting the 10-minute mark.
“We were told by that shitty, arrogant, not very cool president that we will never get off his label, so we turned in a record where the first song is almost 10 minutes long with two others just as long,” laughs Taylor-Taylor. “Then that president got fired, and the next one came in and said ‘these guys are assholes. Drop them,” so we never got to do our final record with Capitol.”
Through that experience, the band got a crash course in how much of a product they had become to the label. “There’s this shocking awareness of how much of a product your stuff really,” says Taylor-Taylor. “You think it’s just pure expression, and then after you hand it in, it can be totally remixed, and pictures of you that you have that have a cool look, you can be made to look tan and shiny, and cleaner than you are.”
Surviving the Capitol upheaval, the mid-2000s still marked a semi downfall for The Dandy Warhols. “That whole thing happening was good, because it erased us from being in the public eye all the time,” says Taylor-Taylor. “But it was still the old days when there was a lot of money in music, and you could just be a cool band. You didn’t have to be a pop star to make enough money where everyone could put a down payment on a house and live a nice life, get married and have nice cars. It worked out for the best for the band in the end.”
Ego, desire, success—all are the root of suffering says Taylor-Taylor. “You can’t be invested in how people are going to receive or interpret your stuff,” he says. You have to be interested in it, observe it and make changes that are necessary to be clearer about what you stand for, what you are, or want to be. You can listen to what people are interpreting you as, but you have to take it with a grain of salt.”
Revisiting 13 Tales From Urban Bohemia was a learning lesson when the band celebrated the album’s 13th anniversary, releasing their live recording from a 2013 performance. The 2014 release of Thirteen Tales From Bohemia Live From The Wonder marks the only time the band performed the album in its entirety. Filmed at the Wonderland Ballroom, and in conjunction with Danny Wimmer Presents, the Dec. 30 concert stream will also include a fan-driven Q&A with the band.
“We’re not a band that goes out and plays a whole record,” says Taylor-Taylor. “When we make a new record, we just play a handful of songs from it and off of every record so it’s a one-and-a-half to two-hour live gig. It was an amazing thing for us to do, an exercise to learn that record and tour the shit out of it.”
Another show he’d like to release is a recording of the band’s Melbourne, Australia show around their 10th anniversary. As Taylor-Taylor was walking on stage, a text message revealed that a very close friend had OD’d.
“I don’t remember it,” says Taylor-Taylor of the show. “That was a very weird night, because I went on stage just absolutely sick while we’re playing and being filmed.”
Taylor-Taylor can reflect on the band but some things are too difficult to revisit. Looking back is fine, but it’s dependent on how much it hurts, he says. “Nostalgia crushes me,” says Taylor-Taylor. “It hurts me physically.”
When the interview is over, he’ll begin his two-mile trek to work again. Wine always in tow, The Dandy Warhols have the basic structure of 10 songs for the next album, which Taylor-Taylor says should be ready by fall 2021. He’s also working on a video for the latest 30-second “Fasting Moving Friday” song he wrote, “Childhood Friends,” inspired by two childhood friends, Danny and Scott, who coincidentally both passed away several years ago from motorcycle accidents. He recently reconnected with another childhood friend who he hadn’t seen in more than 10 years, and says the singer in his first band, when he was 15 or 16, is now his lawyer.
“I did have great taste in friends as a kid when I lived with my parents,” says Taylor-Taylor. “Once I moved out, I was worrying about making music and making worse decisions about who my friends were.”
Portland, friends, and lineage of The Dandy Warhols are forever fused in Taylor-Taylor.
“I was never willing to move away from Portland once the band was up and running and traveling the world,” says Taylor-Taylor. “It was just easier and a much natural trajectory by staying in a city that was 360,000 people. Now it’s over two million. Our city changed, but we still have the same scene and group of friends we always did. Our world inside of Portland isn’t that different.”