The Portland indie rock trailblazers survived a few tumultuous eras of rock and roll, first dodging major-label hoopla and hype in the mid- to late-’90s, weathering the storm of the new millennium’s 2000s shift towards internet culture, and in recent years, the ongoing quest to make sense of just what exactly happened over the past 15 years.
Last month, the Dandys returned to the scene with new album Distortland, an album that musically falls somewhere between 2003’s underrated Welcome to the Monkey House and 1997 masterpiece 13 Tales From Urban Bohemia. It’s a reserved, chilled out record that finds the band comfortable in their own skin; the sound of four people finally content with making music on their own terms.
Shortly after the Dandy Warhols played a sold-out Sinclair in Cambridge a few weeks back, we connected with guitarist Peter Holmström to ask about the new record, their mindset 20 years into their career, and just how they got here in the first place. We threw a bunch of questions at Holmstrom, rapid-fire style, and he was a good sport — there’s some sage advice below. The Dandys kick off the European leg of their Distortland tour this Friday in the Netherlands.
Michael Marotta: It might sound weird for a band with 10 albums in their catalogue, but Distortland sounds like a fresh start. Was there a template for this album or did just you start essentially from scratch?
Peter Holmström: We started this record as we start all our records with demos from CTT. Then we all add our parts.
Distortland, as a whole, reminds us of a nice mix between 13 Tales and Monkeyhouse — was there an effort to try and reclaim that “classic” Dandys sound?
Not really, we are always trying to make the best record we possibly can. To me it’s the continuation of [2012 record] This Machine, just mixed different.
At this point in the game, is there just an attitude of “Fuck what anyone thinks about us”?
There has always been that attitude. We have always been on a different tangent.
The final track on Distortland is called “The Grow Up Song” and its lyrics seem to be about just that — adulthood, parenthood, etc. How have these new roles and themes affected your songwriting?
Mostly with getting in the way of songwriting.
How has the Odditorium [The band’s personal studio] contributed to the creative process and has it helped shut out outside influences or demands?
Having our own studio allows us to make records the way we do. But, not having to worry about budget induced time constraints can cut both ways.
It seems like the Dandy Warhols never got its due credit for ushering it the 2000s guitar-band wave. Is there a sense of dread or pride in knowing you guys were the pioneers for what essentially became known as — sorry for this term — hipster music culture?
Neither, and we obviously have very different ideas of what hipster music culture is. And what’s wrong with hipster music culture. I’m pretty sure that in a couple decades people will look back at hipsters the same way we look back at hippies, punks, etc.
Would the internet as we know and use it today have helped or hurt the Dandys starting out in the mid-‘90s?
Both. We’d be better at the social media game. And we wouldn’t have sold the amount of records that we did.
If you wish the band knew one thing in 1995 that it knows now, what would it be?
Don’t be so bratty.
How has your perspective on your music and the industry changed since the band started?
My perspective on the music hasn’t changed, I’m still totally in awe of the whole process. My perspective on the industry is totally irrelevant since it has changed so much.
How has life on the road changed in your 20 years as a band?
It’s easier to eat healthy. Cell phones and computers help keep your relationships at home together, no more standing outside in the cold at a pay phone with a handful of quarters trying to stop your girlfriend from moving out.
Does indie rock have any sort of definition in 2016, and if so, what is it?
That’s not my job. I make music, other people come up with definitions and categories.
If someone wanted to move to Portland in 2016, what would you say to them?