Zia McCabe ponders the mysteries of life, and The Dandy Warhols' new album
From performing naked, to releasing their own mixes of years-old records, to writing a “goth” album for their newest release, This Machine, The Dandy Warhols have become known for consistently doing whatever they want and making it work for them.
The Dandys’ flame-haired synth-mistress Zia McCabe said that’s what keeps the sparks flying, 18 years and 10 albums on, when I talked to her last Thursday from their tour bus, winding through San Francisco at the time.
“We're always trying to fill a gap, taste-wise. Not in a trying-to-be-different kind of way, but what needs do we have for music that aren’t being satisfied? We satisfy it for ourselves,” she said. “That's why you get so much diversity with our albums.”
McCabe had had a trying week, rescheduling our interview twice in two days. But the tour route beckons, and she’s eager to answer the call.
“It's gonna be a riot," she said."We've got bikes and barbecues—we're gonna have a good old time.”
This Machine Kills Boredom
This Machine is named after Woody Guthrie’s, and then Bob Dylan’s, much-homaged guitar label “This Machine Kills Fascists.” (“Someday there'll be a band who has a sticker that just says ‘This’,” McCabe joked.)
The title is reflective of the content, not in that it’s necessarily political: the closest the Dandys get to politics on This Machine is “Alternative Power to the People,” in which, tellingly, the vocals are indistinguishable from one another.
It’s reflective in that the album is individualistic as hell, no two songs sounding quite the same. The eldritch grind of “Sad Vacation” and “The Autumn Carnival” segues into the more Britpop-y soundscape of “Enjoy Yourself”. From then on, all bets are off, a saxed-up cover of “16 Tons” and the Sigur Ros-like “Don’t Shoot She Cried” some of what follows.
McCabe said the eclecticism comes from trying to keep from getting bored with each other and their sound. “As long as we keep inspired, I think everything's fine.”
As for the “goth” word, McCabe understands why friends and reviewers are describing the new album with the term. And it’s not just because David J. of Bauhaus and Love & Rockets fame produced a track.
“It's not like we were sitting around at Denny’s and were like, ‘Hey, I think we should make a goth record.’ It never happens like that, you always get an idea and then see what it turns into,” she said. “But we've entertained most genres, and doing something that's a little darker was natural for us [at this point].”
The Dandys have always made music they felt the world needed.
“When grunge was around, we were like, ‘Ugh, there's no trippy, drone-y lounge music being done.’ No band that you could sit having a cocktail to, wearing cool vintage clothes,” said McCabe. “It was all flannel and ripped jeans and parent-haters.”