There are many phrases that can be used to describe Courtney Taylor-Taylor and the band that he leads, successful American rock group The Dandy Warhols: hedonist is apt, as is swaggering and uninhibited. But despite the atmosphere of licentious abandon that frequents the group’s live shows and Taylor-Taylor’s public persona, there’s another more unexpected phrase that applies to the Portland, Oregon native: real estate mogul.
“When you’re getting successful in the music industry, people are always saying, ‘It doesn’t last, it doesn’t last’,” recalls Taylor-Taylor, “so 12 years ago I bought a quarter of a city block here and I still haven’t had to rent any part of it out, because I have no huge payments to make on it. It’s mine, and it’s worth four times what I paid for it.”
That’s a return on investment that would make any merchant banker happy, although the band has put the former machine shop in Portland’s northwest district to good use, renaming it the Odditorium and installing a recording studio, stage and kitchen, so that they could make albums, shoot movies, and host gatherings whenever they liked.
“We’ve partied hard in there,” adds Taylor-Taylor, and that’s the vibe – happily trashed, up for anything – that The Dandy Warhols have given out since their breakthrough singles – the glam-pop stomp of Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth and the Stonesy riffing of Bohemian Like You – made them a good time guitar alternative to the Spice Girls and N’Sync in the late 1990s.
The band – Taylor-Taylor, guitarist Peter Holmstrom, keyboardist Zia McCabe, and drummer Brent DeBoer – have let their excess come across as entertaining and engaging. Even though Taylor-Taylor will casually say things like, “we are the best live band I’ve ever seen in my life!” there’s never been anything elitist about the Dandy Warhols, which helps explain their durability as a live act which culminates in five Melbourne shows in the coming fortnight.
Taylor-Taylor speaks slowly but has a fast mind. At one point he compares growing up in Portland in the 1980s, before it became the hip destination that inspired the television series Portlandia, as being like, “growing up in Adelaide in the 1970s”.
And if you take a step back you’ll see that the elegantly wasted rock star is also a 47-year-old husband and father. Taylor-Taylor doesn’t discuss his real family, but then again his long-time bandmates and friends often appear to fit the bill.
“We don’t seem capable of growing up. That brings a lot of problems, but we’re also successful, so that makes problems go away,” admits Taylor-Taylor. “Our post-adolescence is frozen in time. We get healthy for a while, get all zesty, then go on some journey of self-discovery, and then become a party wreck for a while. It’s the same phases we always have, but the amazing thing is that we’re really good at all getting along.”
The group hasn’t had a line-up change since DeBoer, Taylor-Taylor’s cousin and a sometimes resident of Melbourne, joined in 1998, and they readily socialise with each other and fans in Portland. Recent initiatives include a tour by bicycle of Portland bars the Dandy Warhols used to play in their early days, complete with ghetto blaster playing their music, as well as a bus ride to the beach shared with fans and culminating in a gig on arrival. Forget social media, the Dandy Warhols are just very social.
“Everyone in the band is so funny, weird and eccentric,” Taylor-Taylor says, and he believes that it’s the funny, weird and eccentric kids who make the best musicians. “Rock stars have to come from the fringe. That’s what makes it rock music, and not just entertainment.”
The Dandy Warhols play the Corner Hotel, Richmond, August 25, 26, and 27, and September 2 and 3.