The Dandy Warhols - Biography
The Dandy Warhols arrived at the height of the Portland, Oregon grunge movement, but defied their heritage from the start by releasing Velvet Underground-inspired psychedelic albums with musical nods to Ride and My Bloddy Valentine. At a time when licensing songs to television commercials was considered selling out, The Dandy’s bucked the trend and gained considerable mainstream exposure by lending their hit college radio track, “Bohemian Like You” to a Vodaphone commercial, inadvertently blazing a trail for future independent artists to use mass advertising mediums as a means of publicity. Over a decade after their inception, The Dandy’s still exist on the cusp a mainstream success which they simultaneously invite and disdain with equal measure. The Dandy’s march to the beat of their own drum whether that means marching into mainstream acceptance on one album and then away from it on the next.
Courtney Taylor formed The Dandy Warhols in 1994, shortly after his 80s mainstream pop band The Beauty Stab failed to make him the super star he lusted to be during his high school days in Beaverton, Oregon. With mutual friends Peter Holmstrom (guitars) and Eric Hedford (drums), they claimed the band wanted to make “music to drink to.” Despite meager musical expertise, multi-instrumentalist Zia McCabe was added to the lineup because she embodied the “hippy chick up for anything” aesthetic Taylor was looking for in a fourth member (i.e. a chick that would flash her tits endlessly and purposefully for gimmick driven attention). After signing to local indie label, Tim/Kerr, the band released their debut full length, Dandy’s Rule, OK? (1995) replete with allusions to their influences on song titles like “Ride” and “Lou Weed.” Dandy’s Rule, OK? made a large enough splash in the Pacific Northwest to attract the attention of Capitol Records, who signed the band later that year. The Dandy’s immediately re-entered the studio with producer Tony Lash to craft their major label debut. Much to their dismay, Capitol rejected the finished product citing no radio friendly singles. Undaunted, the band and Lash started from scratch and crafted the psychedelic Britpop inspired …Dandy Warhols Come Down (1997 Capitol). Ironically, the album became a hit in Europe on the strength of the music video for “Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth” featuring a chorus line of oversized dancing syringes. American audiences were less receptive, although The Dandy’s did earn a national college radio audience on the strength of subsequent singles like the hypnotic glam rocker “Boys Better” and “Everyday Is A Holiday.”
Upon completing an extensive European and North American tour, The Dandy Warhols returned to Portland as one of the biggest buzz bands of the year. Unfortunately, the nomadic rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle was too much for drummer Hedford, who exited the band shortly after and was replaced by Taylor’s cousin, Brent DeBoer. Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia (2000 Capitol) integrated the bands previous influences with garage rock, glam rock, and even Americana folk music. Considered to be The Dandy’s most eclectic offering, nearly very track on Thirteen Tales… represents a completely different genre of music while never straying from the Dandy’s signature alternative party sound, garnering an instant North American college radio audience and their strongest critical reviews to date. Seeking to widen their mainstream appeal, the band took a gamble and licensed the glam rock single, “Bohemian LikeYou” to Vodaphone commercials to air in Europe and Australia. The gamble paid off and it wasn’t long before the little band from Portland, Oregon was a sensation on both continents. North America was still slow to catch on but a hardcore following soon developed through The Dandy’s infectious, and sometimes intense, live shows often featuring prolonged improvisational jam sessions and on-stage nudity from all four members. The Dandy’s began licensing more material for use in television and film, despite the “sell out” taboo attached to such Hollywood dalliances. In an interesting turn of events, the band used the profits made from licensing deals to renovate a downtown Portland warehouse into a fully functional recording studio, art space, and live music venue called The Odditorium.
The Dandy’s kept a relatively low profile over the next several years as they wrote and recorded a follow up album. During this time Holmstrom married his longtime girlfriend and took her last name, Loew, while Taylor changed his name to Courtney Taylor-Taylor after a journalist misconstrued his surname during an interview. Largely produced by Duran Duran keyboardist Nick Rhodes, and featuring co-production by longtime David Bowie collaborator Tony Visconti, Welcome to the Monkey House (2003 Capitol) was a sleek yet anonymous 80’s synth pop album that bothered critics and fans alike. Where some saw it as a brave leap into a musical genre long thought dead, others found Welcome to the Monkey House self-indulgent and a little too ironic for its own good. Regardless, the album was not the mainstream breakthrough the band or their label had been hoping for, with initial sales sluggish at best. In another odd turn of events, The Dandy’s received an unexpected publicity push when the television show Veronica Mars used the sleezy single, “We Used to Be Friends” as the show’s theme song. Soon the music of The Dandy Warhols was being broadcast into living rooms around the world and the sluggish sales of Welcome to the Monkey House received a dramatic boost months after release. The following single, “You Were the Last High,” co-written with Lemonhead frontman Evan Dando, also became a college radio hit.
The following year The Dandy Warhols became the subject of a documentary film. Dig! (2004 Palm Pictures) culminated seven years of footage shot by director Ondi Timoner, and ultimately served as a portrait of the tumultuous love/hate relationship between The Dandy’s and fellow indie rockers, The Brian Jonestown Massacre. The intimate and brutally honest depiction of Taylor’s soured friendship with BJM’s drug-addled frontman, Anton Newcombe, served as the film’s centerpiece and subsequently incurred Newcombe’s wrath who denounced Dig! as a pack of lies, alleging many key scenes were taken out of context, in addition to cries of it's decidely calculated creation- the feud betwen the two men had been alt rock fanzine fodder since the late 90s, wher in it's suspected that the entire thing was designed for maximum publicity rather than a deep, emotional disconnection.
Odditorium or Warlords on Mars (2005 Capitol) was named after and entirely recorded in their Portland based studio and leaned heavily toward the band’s psychedelic/experimental live sound. Loud and packed with meandering guitar jams, often stretching past the ten minute mark, Odditorium…was a commercial and critical flop with fans and critics alike condemning the album for sacrificing songs for self-indulgence. Around this time, McCabe received a fair amount of publicity for posing nude and nearly 8 months pregnant on the Suicide Girls website.
The band has subsequently severed ties with Capitol Records and released their album, Earth to The Dandy Warhols, in 2008 on their own Beat The World label. In 2012 the band released thier latest Lp, This Machine.