INTERVIEW – PETER HOLMSTROM, DANDY WARHOLS – August 2014
The Dandy Warhols have spent the last twenty years traversing the world with effortless cool and a road case full of hook-filled minor indie rock classics. They’re playing The Astor Theatre on 21 and 22 August, and SHANE PINNEGAR got the lowdown from guitarist Peter Holmström.
Talking of the double decade anniversary of the band, Holmström doesn’t mince his words, saying “It’s been an amazing, amazing thing. It’s really sort of surprised me that it has gone on this long and I still don’t see an end in sight, which makes me happy.”
It’s been a long, strange trip, with the band racking up nine studio albums, multiple laps of the world, movie appearances and a clutch of cult indie hits. But have The Dandy Warhols achieved everything they hoped they would?
“There’s a few things left that we have not done…” Holmström pauses. “We have never played in Japan, and that’s kind of always been on our list, so hopefully that happens soon, and there’s a few other places we’ve never played before. I’ve kind of always wanted to play Russia, [but] now I’m not so sure I do.”
That’s a shock – if ever there was a band that exuded a natural style that would take Japan by storm, surely it was The Dandy Warhols?!?
“That’s what everybody tells us,” Holmström agrees, “and still, we have not been able to get over there.”
The Dandys, as they are affectionately known by their fans, released their first ever live album at the start of this year, recorded on their 2013 tour for the thirteenth anniversary of their Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia album. Holmström explains that the release was not engineered to tie in with the 20th anniversary.
“No, uh uh. That was purely because we were touring Thirteen Tales the year before and managed to capture a good show, and it worked, as opposed to, I think, the other eight or nine times we tried to do a live record and had sort of given up. It was too much hard work.”
Thirteen Tales…, the band’s third album, was their breakthrough, and whilst it didn’t chart as highly as its follow-up Welcome To The Monkey House did in its wake, it remains their most beloved record. Holmström has few answers as to why it remains such a favourite more than a dozen years later.
“I really don’t know,” he says, “I’m very happy that it did, and I wish we could figure out how to do it again, but I really think it was just the right time, right songs, right place. Courtney [Taylor-Taylor, singer & guitarist] was definitely writing songs about where he was in his life, and that’s seemed to connect with a lot of people at that time. Yeah, magic.
“[It] absolutely [changed the band’s trajectory], yeah. It sped us up to being able to – even without the supportive record label – have our own recording studio, and at least [be able] to keep making records without having to have huge budgets.”
Along the way The Dandys have earned a reputation for living the rock n’ roll life, while touring with some of the biggest names in the business. Holmström doesn’t cite smoking joints with Keith Richards or partying with supermodels as his highlights though.
“Playing shows with the Stones and Bowie and Tom Petty and all the other bands that we’ve played with over the years,” he says appreciatively, “have been some of my favourite things ever. It really comes down to the people that you get a chance to meet. I mean that’s the biggest sort of human connection, and put us in positions with some very, very interesting people constantly and I guess I didn’t really realise that before, and I’m definitely trying to take advantage of it now.”
Despite all the good times, Holmström insists there have been times the band’s future was uncertain.
“Yeah, of course,” he admits, “many times. I don’t know about everybody else – I don’t know if everybody has quit at least at one point or another, but I’m pretty sure everybody has, at least once.
“What’s pulled us through? I think it’s just the love of what we do and the realisation that we were very lucky in the fact that this group of people came together. This collection of personalities seems to work very well onstage and in the studio – and most of the time on a tour bus and elsewhere. It’s not an easy thing, and we’ve all tried it with other bands and projects, so to keep four or five people together doing [this] with a common goal… I know that’s what I’ve realised and what I won’t take for granted.”
Holmström says The Dandys will be premiering a couple of new songs on their Australian tour – great news to those waiting for a follow-up to 2012’s This Machine.
“There’s at least an album’s worth of songs that are slowly being put together into an album form,” the guitarist says. “We’re kind of doing it one song at a time, until we sort of feel like we got the right approach, and then we’ll finish everything up, hopefully quick, but you never know.
“We are going to be trying out a new song or two,” he continues, talking about the tour, “A lot of times when we come to Australia, we’re either starting [a tour] or we’ve had a break between where we’ve been in our touring cycle. At this point, we’re coming in very well rehearsed and that’s always good because then new things seem to happen, and the band gets excited about that, and we come up with more new things. It should be a really good show.”
This Machine was described by some critics as a darker record than their earlier work, a ‘hangover’ record even. The guitarist doesn’t see it that at all.
“No. It felt like a really good, kind of stripped down thing for us, especially after Earth To The Dandy Warhols [released in 2008], which was kind of expected, in the sounds and parts that we tried to cram into each song. It was sort of a fun little challenge to kind of limit myself to one guitar part, [and] just really keep it simple.
“Overall, I think it makes it easier to mix a record and have it feel phonically impressive. The more things you try to cram in there, the more you have to make things smaller to fit in. So if you have less things they can all be bigger.”
The foursome all have side projects they work on – Holmström leads Pete International Airport and has featured in acts Radis Noir and Rebel Drones, frontman Taylor-Taylor has released a music & graphic novel tie-in called One Model Nation, bassist Zia McCabe also performs in country back Brush Prairie, and drummer Brent DeBoer has several side bands and a solo career. Holmström says they’re good for allowing the musicians some time out from The Dandy Warhols to blow off some steam, and then come back recharged.
“Yes, I think so, as well as a place for musical ideas that don’t maybe fit with the whole band,” he explains, “or a chance to try out things and then come back and bring new ideas, fresh things to the band. I find that playing with other people allows you to improve, and to branch out from the usual rut that I find myself caught up in, at least artistically.”
Along with the ‘ultra-hip & cool’ tag that the band have always had, there’s a perception that they have all the grace in the world, that they would never be clumsy or awkward in social situations. Is it fair to burden them with that perception?
“Just because I envision all my musical heroes in that way, I’m glad,” Holmström admits, “but then having met a lot of my heroes, I’ve discovered that they’re humans, and some have disappointed… some haven’t. I’m glad there is that sort of image: that’s kind of what it’s about. There has to be some of that fantasy to you, the ‘bigger than reality’ thing. To me, it’s a part of the whole thing. I wanted my favourite bands to look just as amazing as they sounded, to be mysterious and cool, if possible. So, yes, I hope we’re achieving that.”
So, has the guitarist disappointed anyone who held him up as a hero?
“I don’t know,” he ponders a moment. “I’m usually the quiet one in the group, so I guess I have less to live up to… or maybe more – I’m not sure. I don’t know. For me, I always just try to at least give people the time of day, not to ignore them, not to just brush them off. Hopefully, they’re what allows us to still do this.”
Tour Dates Aug/Sep 2014
Thurs 21st Aug – Perth Astor Theatre
Fri 22nd Aug – Perth Astor Theatre SOLD OUT
Mon 25th Aug – Melbourne Corner Hotel SOLD OUT
Tues 26th Aug – Melbourne Corner Hotel SOLD OUT
Wed 27th Aug – Melbourne Corner Hotel SOLD OUT
Fri 29th Aug – Sydney Enmore Theatre SOLD OUT
Sat 30th Aug – Brisbane Tivoli Theatre SOLD OUT
Sun 31st Aug – Adelaide HQ
Tues 2nd Sep – Melbourne Corner Hotel SOLD OUT
Wed 3rd Sep – Melbourne Corner Hotel SOLD OUT
This interview was first published in edited form in X-Press Magazine’s 6th July 2014 issue
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