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"For me personally, I never even expected to put out an album at all," Holmstrom says. "We started in Portland when there was nothing else like us around. We were convinced that we would maybe find 20 people in town that liked us. And then we would play shows, and have parties with all of our friends after. We thought it was just going to be fun. And then it just blossomed into this huge thing that I certainly was not prepared for."
The Portland scene that delivered the Dandys to the world was laden with willful obscurity, the more original and obtuse the band, the better. The Dandys were--and still are--just four unpretentious kids looking to amuse themselves and their audience, to hear Holmstrom tell it.
"The music is actually very simple and just a reflection of the bands and people who inspire us," he says. "I went to art school in Portland before I entered the band. So if I was not doing this band thing, hopefully I would be painting, but probably not. I would probably be working in some coffee shop and painting on the side. Courtney was a drummer in numerous bands; he is the only person who has had a whole lot of band experience. Eric and I were in different bands in high school. So we had a little bit of experience. But before the Dandy Warhols, I had played in maybe two clubs."
Bassist/keyboardist Zia McCabe, potent with rock-chick beauty, is the only girl in an all-guy band. She was once a cigarette girl in a Portland bar, but, as Holmstrom says, "The girl got her wish," which was to play in a band.
"Zia loves being the only girl in the band; she loves the attention," he says. "She feeds off of it. Zia had never even played an instrument. She was just like, 'I want to be in a band.' Somehow our paths crossed.
"It is really incredible that Zia joined this band without ever picking up an instrument, and then the band is good and makes it. Now that is a long shot. She learned quickly how to play the keyboards. She picked up everything really fast. She has a really good sense of rhythm, so her picking up the percussion instruments like the tambourine and the shakers was great. It adds so much to the sound."
The Dandy Warhols have learned to thrive on chaos, with a management team that has never represented a band before, and that, according to Holmstrom, always seems to be scrambling to get things done. For a band that refuses to take either itself or its music particularly seriously, a touch of business amateurism doesn't sound like much of a liability.
"I think we are always one step behind what we should be," Holmstrom says. "Because there is always chaos, craziness and havoc, it is always frantic. We have no idea what we are doing, and we are just doing our best to keep up.
"The company is the largest music promoters of the Northwest, but they have never managed a band. So there are a lot of things they are still learning to do. It gets crazy--every tour starts out with us trying to do everything in the last week. Then we go out, and like a week into our tour, we realize that we do not have enough tee shirts or CDs to sell. We do some of our own distribution for our first album. We sell Rule OK at our shows, because it is an independent record-label release, so it does not get out everywhere."
But even if the band occasionally stumbles on the business front, the members can pride themselves on their musical achievements. The radio success of "Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth" should guarantee December airplay for their holiday-single offering, a cover of "The Little Drummer Boy." They'll also be featured in Gus Van Sant's next film release, set for early next year. And they've toiled hard on the road, opening for such notables as Oasis, Blur, the Charlatans UK, and Spiritualized.
"We stayed out a month and a half longer to play with these bands last year," Holmstrom says. "We had such a blast. The crowds really got into it, especially when we were playing with Blur. There were over 2,000 people screaming in each town. It was amazing."
The Dandy Warhols are scheduled to perform on Wednesday, December 10, at Nita's Hideaway in Tempe, with the Longpigs, and Treble Charger. Showtime is 9 p.m.