Meet: We chat to Zia McCabe from The Dandy Warhols about sweeping things under the carpet, how the Dandies always get away scot-free and the new album and tour.

Feature Photograph: Chris Bergstrom

The Dandy Warhols have been together with much the same line up for a stunning 30 years and they are about to release their twelfth album ‘Rockmaker’, coinciding with a tour of the US and Australia.

I caught up with keyboard/bass player Zia McCabe to have a chat about the longevity of the band, the new album and the tour. I mentioned that I first saw the band way back in 2000 at the iconic Dingwalls in London – just before they exploded after featuring in a Vodafone advert. Zia remembers Dingwalls well – she had returned there recently to do a DJ set. I asked what the secret was to the band’s stability over thirty years and she laughs, saying:

We sweep everything under the carpet – I know it goes against every trendy communications advice that is out there right now, but there’s something to be said for unconditional acceptance. ‘Sweep it under the carpet’ is a funny way to put it, but it gets to a point where it’s not your job to tell somebody what their problem is. If you want to make music together and you know you have magic – which is obviously undeniable for us – we have that magic – you cannot sweat the small stuff and you cannot try to fix each other’s personality quirks.

Zia mentions as an example that she is always pathologically late to rehearsals – always between five to thirty minutes late – and everyone accepts that even though she tries to be on time. The band knows it’s never going to change and accepts this.

That sort of stuff can really pile up if you keep giving it importance and it accumulates and becomes more important than the music. We get on really well on stage and we know our lanes and we all work really well together, if there’s an area that causes friction we try not to mess with that part.

It’s really refreshing to hear this honesty in how to make a band work – I’m always puzzled when a successful band implodes in an industry where it is so hard to get ahead, but I say to Zia that her advice seems to go against professional doctrine in avoiding conflict. Zia laughs:

We’re not Metallica and we are not going into group therapy together. We decided a long time ago – did we want to fight and ultimately break up or did we want to keep on making music together? Because it’s either one or the other so let’s just stick and commit and stay together for a few years. Let’s stop bickering and make it about the music. So we’ve reached a collective agreement – I don’t say it’s perfect and that we don’t lose our tempers occasionally.

Zia adds that another important philosophy that operates in the band is a certain gallows humour and dark comedy:

We have a saying in the band that when it’s good it’s fun and when it’s bad, it’s funny. It reminds ourselves that life is absurd, it’s super hard a lot of the time and we are often going to be under fed, under rested, under exercised when we are out here trying to do this life. And now we’ve got family and all kinds of other responsibilities. We count on each other to see the funny side of it.

Zia mentions that there will always be someone amongst the band and their support crew of five (who have been with the band most of their existence) who will find a funny angle in a crisis.

In the band, Zia plays bass on a keyboard. I ask about her views on bass playing, influences and favourite bass lines and she laughs, saying she isn’t aware of other band’s bass lines. She notes that Peter Holmström wrote some of the bass for their recent single ‘I’d Like To Help You With Your Problem’ that she really loves – it’s like nothing I’d ever write because it was written on a guitar. It uses the D string on the bass whereas I only ever use the E string and the A string (laughs). So now I have to remember to tune the D string as well. It’s a really cool part and I feel really cool playing it.

She talks about getting into bass:

Brent wrote a really cool bass line for the track ‘Sad Vacation’ back in the day and that’s what started me playing bass. So my inspirations have always come from within the band.

We joke about her not being a nerdy bass player and she laughs, saying she is more of an oblivious bass player.

It’s the twentieth anniversary of the infamous film ‘Dig!’ by Ondi Timoner about the collision of art and commerce through the eyes of The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, focusing on the developing careers and the love-hate relationship of the bands’ respective frontmen Courtney Taylor-Taylor and Anton Newcombe. A new edition is being completed that includes the respective careers of the bands since the film was released in 2004. I ask Zia how she feels about the documentary and whether she has any regrets about taking part. Zia pauses before answering and sighs.

Well…there mixed feelings. I don’t feel bad about participating. I probably have one of the most room temperature feelings about participating than the rest of the band. Courtney probably has the strongest aversion to the film – we were just talking about it today and I hear what he is saying. It seems to really bother him more. It didn’t come out the way we thought it was going to come out. We were very naive, we over shared constantly, and that’s a lesson learned in some respects.

I just went out there (to the film’s recent press conference) as a diplomat to represent my band to be part of the 20th Anniversary showing at Sundance with Eric (Hedford – the former and occasional current drummer) and with people representing Jonestown and did a little acoustic set of three songs by each band and I wanted to see everyone and catch up and reminisce and be part of it. I can’t really speak to the new version because they are going to re-edit it.

Zia becomes more serious when she brings up the recent tour of Australia where The Brian Jonestown Massacre broke up mid way through and sadly reflects on the troubles prevailing the band, rueing the fact that this would become part of the narrative for the updated ‘Dig!’ film.

Now that’s in the film, and I wanted it to end with Levitation in Austin (the music festival) with Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Dandy Warhols and Black Angels all playing Velvet Underground’s ‘Sister Ray’, on stage together. Love and laughter and nostalgia and music. I just wanted that to be how it ended. Why Anton? Now it’s just that same sad ending, that tragic ending. The Dandy Warhols getting away scot free and the Brian Jonestown imploding one way or another. We do seem to get away with a lot and they do seem to fall apart at every turn.

We talk about the tragedy of BJM and how they write such good songs – Zia saying she is such a fan of the band:

Anton was a little bit of pain at Levitation but he was also very sweet and for the most part happy.

She laughs at the behaviour of the band members in their fifties who are all like children and should know when to go to bed – behaviour that causes this sort of disruption.

Everyone should at some point stop drinking and go to bed! Rock’n’Roll is the place to be if you never want to grow up and Peter Pan your way though – that’s what I’ve seen people do. Of course, I have my own levels of arrested development too – I’m not excluding myself from this low key insult!

We both agree that irrespective of age, we all still feel mentally arrested at the age of 18.

We turn from this Shakespearean tragedy to discussing the new album ‘Rockmaker’. I note that it is a lot darker and harder than previous material. Zia says that the development of the album is very much a Peter/Courtney area of expertise – this record was their baby and Brent contributed some of tracks.

I contributed very heavily in the percussion area, not as much bass as usual and very little synth because – well – hence the theme of the record. My impression of what these boys wanted was a rock record, really edgy, the hardest rock record we are probably ever going to make. But it does have the same sophistication. nuance, innovation and experimentation that we apply to our other more psychedelic albums over the years. I absolutely think that was accomplished. I wasn’t so much totally connected – I’m the tripper, the dreamer, the psychedelic girl so it wasn’t so much me – I’m ‘Welcome To The Monkey House’, ‘Odditorium or Warlords of Mars’ – that’s me, that’s Zia (laughs). When they get into ‘Distortland’ and ‘Rockmaker’, they lose me a little.

We talk a little about Zia’s work outside the band – her country band – and she jokes that she grew up in a log cabin and that style is suited to her singing voice – she has a heavy twang and so she doesn’t really have much choice. She has also been involved in experimental noise projects.

We return to the album and talk about the heavy weights that have contributed to tracks – Debbie Harry, Frank Black and Slash. I comment that this reflects the high esteem the band is held in. Zia lauds the role of Courtney who is so good at networking and making connections.

He is hilarious and great to talk to at a party and racks up all these amazing connections. I personally wouldn’t even have the nerve to approach these people. I should ask him who he asked and who said no! Did we get turned down? I love that Slash was all over it and Courtney was with the Mötley Crüe guys. He had glam rock bands in the eighties and so that’s his world. I’m a huge fan of Guns and Roses – their first two albums were the first albums I owned that were not part of my parent’s collection.

Zia is very humble that these luminaries would be interested in collaborating, but I point out that the Dandies were invited by Bowie to take part in his curated Meltdown Festival and she agreed that was an incredible honour.

One of my favourite memories of that was Brian Eno falling asleep in the audience while we were playing. I felt in my mind that it was because we were doing a fifteen minute song – we do deconstructed versions – and I felt like it was a victory – a job well done that we had made Eno fall asleep given his music – a psychedelic lullaby that he had given to me on many an occasion – here’s one back! (laughs)

We turn to the upcoming Australian tour and I wonder if there’s a special connection – especially given Brent lives in Melbourne.

Absolutely – you can love the places you visit and we have fallen in love with many places we’ve been to…but when they love you back, it’s something else! I’m sure there is some unrequited love in some markets, but the love in Australia is reciprocated most enthusiastically and wholeheartedly. What’s more compelling than to go where you’re going to be loved and accepted and embraced and cherished and celebrated. That’s where I want to be, and Australia has just been so generous with their affection and support and that just makes you feel welcome and so cool.

Zia makes mention of the high esteem Australian bands are held in the US, saying there is a real buzz.

When quizzed about her favourite songs to play live, she mentions the joy in playing extended versions of tracks like ‘And Then I Dreamed of Yes’ – that’s when she becomes a fan of her own band – beautiful and touching. ‘Holding Me Up’ and ‘I Love You’ are also favourites – when there are extended outros with improvisations. She mentions her love for the pretty psychedelic songs and we both profess a love for songs like ‘Godless’ and ‘Good Morning’. With this common bond, we end our trans Pacific Ocean zoom call.

Out on 15 March through Sunset Blvd. Records, you can pre order ‘Rockmaker’ here.

From personal experience: don’t miss the opportunity to catch the Dandies live.

The band is commencing an US tour – details below.

Spring 2024 U.S. Tour:
March 4 – Washington, DC @ 9:30
March 5 – Boston, MA @ Royale
March 6 – Philadelphia, PA @ Ardmore
March 7 – Hamden, CT @ Space Ballroom
March 9 – New York, NY @ Webster Hall
March 11 – Montreal, Qbc @ Le Studio TD
March 12 – Toronto, Ontario @ Danforth Music Hall
March 14 – Columbus, OH @ Newport Music Hall
March 15 – Indianapolis, IN @ Vogue
March 16 – St. Louis, MO @ Delmar Hall
March 18 – Denver, CO @ Gothic Theatre
March 19 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Fonda

The Dandy Warhols will return once again to Australia and New Zealand in April 2024 (tickets here):

Mon, April 22: Powerstation, Auckland
Thurs, April 25: The Tivoli, Brisbane
Fri, April 26: The Gov, Adelaide SOLD OUT
Sun, April 28: Forum, Melbourne SOLD OUT
Mon, April 29: Astor Theatre, Perth LOW TIX
Wed, May 1: Enmore Theatre, Sydney
Thurs, May 2: The Gov, Adelaide LOW TIX
Fri, May 3: Northcote Theatre, Melbourne

Feature Photograph: Chris Bergstrom

Previous News: 'Doesn't Matter' - the magnificent HighSchool announce new EP 'Accelerator!' and release haunting atmospheric single ahead of tour.
Next Live Review + Gallery: MONA FOMA festival – Mogwai, Kutcha Edwards & The Australian Art Orchestra and The Shruti Sessions MONA Lawns, 23.02.2024


  1. February 27, 2024

    There is a typo on Zia’s name in her introduction. Nice piece, though!

  2. Stuey Napes
    February 27, 2024

    Great interview!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.