We know him as one quarter of indie rock band The Dandy Warhols. Tucked away in their own city block oasis in Portland, Oregon, Taylor describes a lifestyle that most can only dream of. They’ve set themselves up with their own clubhouse, and they’re not controlled by the time restrictions imposed by recording studios or record labels. Sometimes they even get chefs in to cook for them. After years of hard work and success, they’ve essentially attained creative freedom.
For the last two decades, The Dandy Warhols have solidified themselves as an alternative rock band that just keep on producing. Yet again they have delivered with their latest album, Distortland, which landed last weekend. It has the unmistakable Dandys’ sound, incorporating chuggy guitar riffs, pop hooks and occasional flashes of their earlier work.
The Dandys’ ninth studio record has left its own mark on Taylor, as he expresses a rare feeling of obsession with the material. “I can’t stop listening and smoking to it. I’ve never had this happen to me. Usually I need a year or at least nine months to leave it alone and not hear it. This one I seriously became a gothic teenager, I would just go and sit in my room with my headphones on and play this album three times in a row minimum. This has only really happened maybe on our first record [Dandys Rule OK, 1995]. I remember getting wasted with my friends and cranking it over and over again, but never on this level.”
Upon hearing the record for the first time, listeners won’t just be pleasantly surprised but also quite uplifted, as it exudes a sense of triumph. Across ten tracks, The Dandy Warhols take you on a journey through a twisted wonderland.
The Dandy Warhols enlisted the services of producer, mixer and Grammy-winning engineer Jim Lowe to record this album. Lowe is a master of his craft – he’s worked with the likes of Stereophonics, The Charlatans and Taylor Swift – and his presence led to the Dandys adopting a slightly different approach than on their other records.
“We’ve never really done it this way before,” Taylor says. “Normally I just fly out and do it. You email them, you get a mix, you listen to it and email it back and offer suggestions and then you go to bed. Then the next day you get an hour or two when you get up to check mixes, make a few adjustments and then he goes to bed. So you have fucking nothing to do. It’s crazy. It’s hard but it also gives you a little distance. And because you’ve had that distance and you haven’t heard that song in five days, when you listen to it again you’re a little blown away.”
In terms of the album content, Taylor expresses no favouritism towards any particular track. They’re all of equal significance to the band, each evocative of its own world, and with unique connections for everyone.
“Emotionally, it’s an interesting record,” Taylor says. “I can’t believe how it just turned out to be everything I wanted, I guess, or close enough that I just don’t care about any more details. I just love it. It makes me feel better.”
A struggle that many musicians face is that of attaining originality and avoiding repetition. However, Taylor says he’s constantly finding ways to scrub his memory when writing new material. “You can’t hear the same thing over and over. It changes subtly and it gains emotional power, whatever you may feel. It’s just a human condition of the brain; it’s the relationship music has with the brain. You have to scrub your memory somehow.”
The band’s latest single release, You Are Killing Me, might seem self-explanatory in its title, but it also opens a dialogue for its listeners. “People are big mistake makers and we are fucked in the head. It’s a phrase that is there to open a discussion. It’s about being open ended. Lyrically there are admissions of your own shortcomings, but without abusing yourself too much. It calls for admission to yourself.
“It really seems like, maybe it’s just me, but the idea of when you’re in a relationship and what is ruining it is not the shit you do, but the shit you don’t do – the shit you forget to do. That seems to be what’s intolerable about me. That and a lot of ill-considered jocularity.”
There are several songs on the album that work to open up a dialogue, which is a key point of difference that’s important to the Dandys. The lead single STYGGO (which stands for Some Things You Gotta Get Over) conveys a relaxed vibe, which seeps into the rest of the record. Taylor’s vocals are low and deep, guiding you through a galaxy of pop beats.
With the record finally released, Taylor is practically gagging to get on the road and promote this new record. Playing live is what the Dandys do best, and touring is Taylor’s greatest love. Every part of it, from the lack of sleep, to the partying, the long flights and of course, the shows.
“We haven’t toured since December. Three months is a really long time for us to have not been on the road, but I guess not for anyone else in the world. It’s too long for me. I should have been on tour two to three weeks ago. Touring is serious work, but it’s also a touch of vacation, which I like.”
There are North American and European dates locked in, and a visit to Australia is on the cards. “We love Australia. It’s part of our family. It’s part of our body. We do Australia and the UK as one tour with a 34-hour flight in between. I actually quite enjoy it. I love that floating in space jetlag feeling where your time is all distorted. I don’t know the time and then I can’t go to sleep. So you have to party. It’s the party plan. You have to drink a lot of water during the party plan. You could forget and you could ruin your life. It’s hard to remember shit when you’re drunk. That’s why we do it. Live in the moment, right?”
Right now Taylor is preparing for the start of the US tour. His days are filled with a little bit of rehearsal and a little bit of life admin, all whilst dreaming of the opportunity to chill out. He’s a guy you can’t help but love chatting to. Conversing with someone that has such care and love for his craft is enriching. You can’t mistake how proud Taylor is of the Dandys’ achievements.
“Every record is what we are. Every record is definitely a milestone. They are two-four years apart. Certainly no record is more valuable than others. They are an emotional, physiological document in a lot of ways, one that only the four of us can truly interpret the meaning of. And then of course they are also open for interpretation by everyone else. They’re all milestones for us. They might be big milestones or they might not be, it’s up to other people to make that decision. This one could be a huge record or it could be the flop that ended the Dandy Warhols. We don’t know but I guess we will wait and see, but at the end of the day I just put it on and it makes me fucking feel better.”
BY SARAH BRYANT