The Dandy Warhols - Bohemian Rhapsody
The Dandy Warhols are one of those bands that were born under a bad sign. Both indie-hipsters (signed early to Portland's flagship indie label Tim/Kerr) and potential major label superstars, they straddle the line between studious art band and flat-out partyhounds with little care for which side eventually claims them. Their latest release Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia channels the ghost of Lou Reed on the nod along with the lysergic emanations of Mercury Rev and the Flaming Lips. Singer and guitarist Courtney Taylor captures the headlines with his confrontational stage antics -- always ready to drop trou at a moments notice -- but their enduring legacy will be the records they make. Guitar.com caught up with guitarist Pete Holmstrom who is clearly the quiet, thoughtful member of this juggernaut.
Guitar.com: How do you see the band fitting into the major label world?
Pete Holmstrom: We just want to be able to keep putting out records and make enough money to keep going. Rent is being paid and we get to go on tour for at least the rest of the summer and hopefully to the end of the year. The goal is to keep doing that and keep growing the audience steadily.
Guitar.com: Enthusiasm at a major label can change, right?
Holmstrom: Yeah, after the first single ("Not if You Were the Last Junkie On Earth") kind of faded, they became unenthusiastic about it.
Guitar.com: Did you notice any change in audience with the MTV exposure?
Holmstrom: Yeah. More of a crowd that likes to jump on each other and hurt themselves which is a little frustrating since most of our songs aren't really that kind of music.
Guitar.com: The album seemed to have two approaches: the psychedelic sound that opens the record and then the breakdown into these Lou Reed-type talking tunes.
Holmstrom: That low voice thing, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed thing. Kinda sounds like Lloyd Cole. We just want to do everything. That's why there's the country thing, the pop stuff, the spaghetti western, extended psychedelic noise jam. We want to do everything. Maybe even a boy band thing. (Pause) Doubtful.
Guitar.com: What's the Portland scene like?
Holmstrom: There's a little scene here. I don't know if it's because of us or in spite of us. We're not here enough to be the focal point of any kind of scene. We're definitely included in it. There's tons of bands and some are good. Portland always seems to be the next big thing, the next Seattle, but it's not. Maybe next time.
Guitar.com: You recorded in Portland?
Holmstrom: Yeah and then ran everything through Pro-Tools at Dave Sardis (Barkmarket, Helmet) studio in Brooklyn.
Guitar.com: How do you feel about Pro-Tools?
Holmstrom: It's a frightening thing, but it's an incredible tool. Both Courtney and I have gotten Pro-Tools setups and we use it definitely as a writing tool. You can chop up your music and move it around. All the stuff I tend to write is long, kind of extended things with few changes and I never know how long to make 'em. I can record a little piece and keep adding more of them until it's perfect and then go and put a chorus in.
Guitar.com: You originally signed to Tim/Kerr Records in Portland?
Holmstrom: It was a logical choice for us since it was one of the biggest independent in Portland. Some of the guys from the label came down and saw us and then the president of the label came down and signed us. We signed for two records.
Guitar.com: What brought Capitol around?
Holmstrom: Just getting the first record done and sending it to radio stations and they just started playing one of the songs that caught everyone's attention (TV Theme Song). We had about half of them (major labels) taking us out to dinner and flying us around. Somebody told me some numbers that freaked me out. Something like five percent of all bands get signed to a major label and of that five percent only three percent put out a second album, so...we're defying some serious odds.
Guitar.com: Who writes the songs?
Holmstrom: Courtney tends to come in with them. I come in with chord changes and jams that get started in rehearsal. For the size band we are, our rehearsal equipment is pitiful. We recorded in our old rehearsal space. We had a really huge space with six rooms, one with concrete floors with a great natural reverb and another that was like a sauna with wood panels. There was no heat in the building and we recorded in the dead of winter. That was a nightmare. At one point, it was a parking lot, at another a gay man's gym. Now it's a workshop where they cut fine hardwoods for guitars. We had the whole building to ourselves.
Guitar.com: Are you able to cut corners because you record in your own rehearsal space?
Holmstrom: It was kinda the reason we did it, but then we spent it all mixing it. We used some expensive people and studios. It always goes away. We spent two weeks mixing it, like a song a day. I can't even imagine. Well, I guess I can since I was there.
Guitar.com: What do you think the trick to mixing is?
Holmstrom: Watching Dave Sardi. He pushes everything up one by one until he finds something he likes and then he tweaks it and mixes everything around that. What we did is go home, liking it, several weeks later freaking out because it wasn't quite what we wanted, having other people come in and screw around with it and remix it and rerecord it and then go back to the original mixes. It was different than the first two records because we approached that with a wall of sound where it was 20 different guitar tracks and who knows what else? Dave Sardi doesn't mix like that. Everything's just as big and massive but with so much less. The instruments can stand on their own. We werent used to that. We came to our senses.
Guitar.com: What's next, a concept album?
Holmstrom: Oh, no, we're not ready for that yet. Though one day I think we all want to do that just because it's a challenge. Anyone can write a song, but can you write a whole album about one theme. You can't do the same thing over and over, eventually you gotta go for the rock opera.