Folkin’ Dandy

20 June 2012 | 11:32 am | Sevana Ohandjanian

From indie pop to country tunes, Dandy Warhols drummer Brent DeBoer speaks about his new band Immigrant Union’s foundation of beer, guitars and the country life.

When you think of a member of The Dandy Warhols moonlighting in another band, you wouldn't anticipate a folk/country group that has spent the last couple of years playing gigs around Melbourne. Yet that is exactly what Dandy Warhols' drummer Brent DeBoer has been busy doing. Born through a chance meeting between him and Lazy Sons' singer Bob Harrow at Melbourne's Cherry Bar, Immigrant Union have been honing their folk-tinged tunes with gigs around town for a while. Though DeBoer's interest in classic country and rock music stems from his childhood in Oregon, he can't put his finger on how it led to him starting Immigrant Union.

“I guess just growing up in Oregon and going to college in a hillbilly part of Oregon [influenced my love of country]. Plus my parents are way into music and had a massive record collection of mainly Stonesy stuff and Dylan, Byrds, Pete Seeger, Beatles and CCR. I was way into Buffalo Springfield records and when I first started to learn guitar, I think it was Neil Young singing Helpless and Simon & Garfunkel that got me wanting to learn to play. But really who knows, because I listen to a ton of hip hop and metal, and I haven't had the urge to start any groups like that. I went through about four cassettes of Straight Outta Compton and Appetite For Destruction as a kid.”

It was this broad love for music that saw DeBoer and Harrow bond in a bar and end up on a farm outside of Nagambie, drinking beer and playing music together. Despite their decidedly Australian roots, the band headed to Portland, Oregon to record their debut. The reasoning was pretty simple. “It's a very inspiring and musical town. We only had the three of us – Bob, Peter [Lubulwa, ex-The Galvatrons] and myself – in the band at that time and we needed a lot of musicians to play slide, pedal steel, violin and such. It's my hometown so I put the word out and we got it done.”

Immigrant Union are now a six-piece band and the process of finding the perfect bandmates was all about chemistry, according to DeBoer. “We just little by little played gigs around town with different people until it just suddenly gelled. We played with amazing and talented people, but there is so much more than that when it comes to getting the proper gang together. A band is a lot like a family but, unlike a family, you get to choose who is in it – and whether or not you yourself would like to stay in it.”

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To date the six-piece have only spent time playing in Australia, including a month-long residency at The Tote in Melbourne, the value of which is not lost on DeBoer. “When we played The Tote we had such a different sound. It is ever-evolving but at that early time our sound was changing by the day.” As for going from being in a chart-topping, festival-headlining music act to a new band, DeBoer's enthusiasm is evident, saying that playing in Melbourne's smaller venues has been “more fun than I could have ever imagined. I play the drums in The Dandys, so it's all so new and fresh playing guitar and singing without a drum kit to hide behind. The venues and staff and scene in Melbourne are a blast. I love this place.”

And despite having just released their debut, the band are already hard at work on another recording. “We are recording at Hothouse Studios and we don't know yet if it will be a demo or an EP or a full-length. One step at a time. It's sounding cool though. We have the whole record written and I think these songs are the best yet.”