The Dandy Warhols :: Gothic Theatre :: December 9
Lovely Outcasts, the Dandy Warhols take control with their Odditorium
By Emily H. Lanigan
If you weren’t That Kid, you at least knew That Kid.
In 1995, That Kid had on a worn out polo shirt, a moth-eaten cardigan, Vans boat shoes, huge sunglasses and was never without a backpack. That Kid was smart at school, but it only really showed in art class. He was obsessed with Andy Warhol’s Factory and he read magazines that nobody ever heard of.
Best of all, That Kid was tapped into the indie scene from San Diego to Berlin and knew all the best bands. That Kid adored The Dandy Warhols.
For 10 years, the Dandy Warhols have been playing music for That Kid. They realized That Kid’s dream and built their own version of The Factory in their hometown of Portland, Ore. and christened it The Odditorium.
This fall they released Odditorium or Warlords of Mars, the first album recorded at The Odditorium.
As the Dandy Warhols were gearing up to set out on their 20-date national tour, The Marquee caught up with the Dandy’s lead singer and creative force, Courtney Taylor-Taylor.
The Dandy Warhol’s have moved toward having almost complete control of their band, including newspaper ads, posters, videos and most importantly, music. “You get yourself hurt if you don’t do it,” said Taylor-Taylor, referring to the importance of creative control.
The professional part of The Odditorium was built as production space for all things Dandy related. “It’s our job being a band so The Odditorium is our place to work,” said Taylor-Taylor. The facility includes two recording studios, a library and a screening room.
Similar to The Factory, The Odditorium is part studio and part clubhouse. However, Taylor-Taylor likes to refer to it as “an artist think tank.” It also includes an indoor basketball court and a professional kitchen where they often have Portland chefs come in to cater dinner parties. “A lot of things happen there,” he said. “Sometimes there’s a barbeque on the deck, sometimes there’s actual jock behavior. There’s a lot of making art and little films and web design and making records.” The band often bring in their slacker friends and put them to work editing film or whatever needs to be done. “It has everything you need, cause we’re right on,” said Taylor-Taylor.
Odditorium or The Warlords of Mars, the debut Odditorium release, has a raw, stripped-down production value that contrasts with much of the current musical vista. “This album was about how real are the sounds. We didn’t do a lot of mixing, we left it real organic but the orchestration is very sophisticated,” said Taylor-Taylor.
The band’s previous album, Welcome to the Monkey House, was very slick and more akin to bands of right now such as The Killers and Franz Ferdinand. “I didn’t want to go that way (on Odditorium),” said Taylor-Taylor. “With the horns and all it would end up sounding more like Air and less like The Doors.”
In terms of moving away from polished production, Taylor-Taylor said that he thinks it’s time The Dandy Warhols establish themselves as a psychedelic stoner band. “This album is kind and sweet and darling sounding,” he said. “And by doing that, we have made it so that our audience comes back to who we want it to be.”
For Taylor-Taylor, the creative process includes the two essential elements of art and entertainment. “Art seeks to get the damn feeling across — it seeks no congratulations, it just needs to exist. But entertainment is where you really iron it out and you work on it until you believe 200,000 people will go buy this,” he said.
He continued to explain that like anything profound, music has a somewhat shapeless beginning. “At the moment of conception, it’s only emotional, it’s just this thing that happens and it’s what you feel,” said Taylor-Taylor. “Giving it shape and growing it and exploring how many different ways you can take this thing, that’s the intellectual part.”
Finding a balance between emotion and intellect is a challenge. “That’s the trick, because you have to focus on the feeling. You’ve got to balance your craft and the intellectual part. If it starts to feel too smarty and too produced, then you’ve got to lay off until you feel those feelings again,” he said.
Last year, the Dandy Warhols, along with Brian Jonestown Massacre, were featured in the documentary Dig!, which won the Grand Jury Best Documentary prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Many bands would welcome the notoriety that comes with being part of an award-winning documentary, however, Taylor-Taylor and his band were less than pleased with the final product. “We exploded when we saw it. We were so pissed off,” he said. “There’s nothing about music, nothing about what music is and what art is. It’s like a Jerry Springer episode.”
Neither The Dandy’s nor Brian Jonestown Massacre had anything to do with the creative process of the film. “You’ve got to realize that you need to control your trip. Brian Jonestown Massacre was featured for one year out of an eight year relationship,” said Taylor-Taylor, explaining the false chronology of the film and how he thinks that the filmmakers warped the story’s time-line in order to focus on a short-lived feud between the two bands.
“I would have made it about a lot more than when they got really jealous and we were being dicks when we got signed,” he continued. “I would like to see it more about art and music and more about what artists are like. I would like it to be a little more graceful with something more beautiful than people badmouthing my band for two hours.”
Fame, in general, has not been a companion of The Dandy Warhols. “When you have a big hit you’re surrounded by the worst people,” said Taylor-Taylor. “Fame and success attracts the worst fucking people.”
That is, in part, why The Dandy Warhols created The Odditorium. “I think the best thing you can do in this world is to surround yourself with soft, lovely outcasts, similar to us, our people and protect them from the kinds of people they need to be protected from,” he said. “We need people who are into French New Wave Cinema.”
That Kid worships Jean-Luc Godard and knows exactly what Taylor-Taylor is talking about. The Dandys feel that for the first time in a long time, with Odditorium or The Warlords of Mars, That Kid is back, dominating their audience. “I can get into a car with fans and go to the next bar,” he said. “Our fans are really lovely and thoughtful — not bitter — hopeful and smart and not sitting around and bitching,” he said. “I can sit on the edge of the stage after a show and my fans are like, ‘Let’s go take come cool pictures, make a stupid little weird film.”
Courtney Taylor-Taylor was That Kid too.
The Dandy Warhols :: Gothic Theatre :: December 9
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