Some songs endure because of a catchy hook or a memorable chorus. And while the Dandy Warhols’ Bohemian Like You can certainly claim both, their breezy tune about working at a vegan restaurant, casual hookups and inconvenient roommates also has the rare distinction of being even more relevant today than when it was written.
Since it came out in 2000, hipsters went from being a punchline, particularly at the expense of the band’s hometown Portland, Oregon, to making beards a familiar sight in boardrooms. Many people and critics took the Dandys’ famously laid-back vibe as suburban ennui, with Consequence of Sound even describing Bohemian Like You as “a stinging indictment of bougie hipster culture.”
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As guitarist for the band since their first album in 1995, Dandys Rule OK, Peter Holmström says that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“Oh, it’s totally sincere,” he says of the sentiment behind the song. “It wasn’t hipster culture back then — it was just the sort of weird little neighborhood that [lead singer] Courtney [Taylor-Taylor] lived in that he was trying to write a song about.”
And for that matter, he adds, it’s worth remembering who’s doing the labeling: “Kids are always gonna be doing something, and the generation older is always gonna be calling them something.”
Fifteen years later, the Dandy Warhols are back with their 10th album, Distortland. Holmström sees it as a continuation of their most recent, darker effort This Machine, but longtime fans will be happy to hear it occasionally veers away from that vibe all the way back to the fun-in-the-sun feeling of their biggest hit, Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia, especially on the tracks “Catcher in the Rye” and “STYGGO.”
Holmström says they’ve known that one would resonate even before the album came out. “We’ve been playing that one for over a year now, and before people had ever heard it, when Courtney would start strumming those chords they’d cheer. They have no idea what’s gonna happen next, but they like it!”
Whatever it makes listeners feel, Holmström hopes it takes them a step out of the real world. “For me, music has always just been kind of an escape. You listen to something and just forget where you are, forget what’s going on around you and sort of just disappear,” he explains. “I always want our records to do that for people, ’cause it’s not that many other bands’ records that do that for me.”
Along the 20-plus years they’ve been a band, every member has dabbled in their own projects, but they keep coming back to the Dandy Warhols — and sold-out crowds, including a third NYC date at Rough Trade on Saturday night. (There’s also a “tiny chance” they’ll be playingDemocratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’Prospect Park rally on April 17. “We’re all pretty much for Bernie Sanders,” he says.
So what keeps them together?
“It’s the chemistry between all four of us onstage — that does not exist in the same way with other bands,” says Holmström. “With every other project I’m been involved in, it’s been way more of a struggle to have any sort of chemistry like we do. I know that’s what keeps me coming back.”