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For a rock star mom, life's Dandy

by: Vern Uyetake, Uplands Elementary teacher Carol DeBoer and her husband, Justin DeBoer, show their collection of albums by The Dandy Warhols. Their son, Brent, is the band’s drummer.

The first thing everyone notices about Brent DeBoer is the amount of curly hair he proudly grows out in all its frizzy, afro-like glory.

While any other mother might beg him to get a haircut (in order to be presentable, of course), Carol DeBoer has always felt completely amused by her son's unconventional dress and hair, which earned him the nickname 'Fathead.'

'He's just so interesting and, oh, he just tells the most amazing stories,' said Carol, a teacher at Uplands Elementary who raised Brent and his sister in Lake Oswego.

It's no wonder - Brent is a full-fledged rock 'n' roller who spends his days jet-setting around the world with his alternative rock band, The Dandy Warhols.

The DeBoers, who moved to West Linn two years ago, monitor their son's career as closely as possible with the help of a hour-by-hour schedule provided by the tour manager. Brent, who could not be reached, is currently in Greece and then on to Spain, where the 'Dandies' are performing in front of thousands in Barcelona and Madrid.

The band has opened shows for David Bowie and rubbed elbows with The Polyphonic Spree and The Shins. On their Web site, photos show them having dinner with The Strokes, The Vines and Jet.

Not a shabby gig whatsoever.

'He's a great kid ... (our relationship) has evolved and I have to trust his decisions,' Carol said. 'He has a good value system and he's living in a crazy world.'

At Uplands, Carol keeps her desk adorned with photos of her son and posters of his band, which got its start in Portland and draws comparisons to the Velvet Underground and Love and Rockets.

Sometimes, her students get wind of her son's celebrity and ask for an autograph.

'They love it when he stops in and takes pictures of them,' Carol said.

Those moments don't come too often. For about 30 weeks each year, Brent, 31, tours as a drummer and backup vocalist with the Dandies, whose outspoken lead singer, Courtney Taylor-Taylor, is his second cousin through his father's side of the family.

His infatuation with music began early, at age five, when Carol and her husband, Justin, bought him his first drum set.

'He couldn't reach the bass pedal, so it was nice and quiet,' Carol said.

In third grade, he played a Beach Boys' song in the school talent show.

'He used to tell me, 'Don't worry about it mom, I'm going to be a rock star,' said Carol, referring to times when she fussed over his schoolwork. In one old baseball team photo, Brent can be seen giving the 'rock on' hand gesture.

'He had a photographic memory for lyrics and music,' said Justin. 'He really had a hard time learning stuff until it was put to music at school.'

When Brent hit his teen years at Lakeridge High School, he sang and danced with Company under choral director Steve Ticen and played with his own local band.

In 1998, when the Dandies' first drummer left to become a club DJ, Taylor-Taylor called DeBoer and asked him if he would like to fill-in.

At the time, DeBoer was attending Western Oregon University with four credits left to earn degrees in psychology and philosophy.

His parents thought he should take the practical approach. 'We said, 'That's nice, but we want to see you walk,'' Justin said.

Yet, the opportunity 'was really like getting hit by lightening,' Justin added. 'There are just so many good musicians out there.'

Brent, a self-taught drummer and guitar player, put college on pause and joined the Dandies at the height of their popularity, after they had signed a deal with Capitol Records.

Two years later, they gained even more recognition with their third full-length album, 'Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia.' The song 'Bohemian Like You' became an instant hit in the United Kingdom and was used in a Vodafone TV commercial in 2001. Justin and Carol keep all of the Dandies' music videos and footage on tape at home.

'It's kind of an archive,' Carol said. 'We don't often show it, but we enjoy it any time we do.'

Despite their widespread fame, Brent and the rest of the Dandies stayed true to their local ties by buying a quarter city block in Portland, where they built the 'Odditorium,' a studio and hangout space (it's now the name of their newest release).

They also filmed a music video at McMenamin's St. John's Theatre and Pub.

'The kids enjoy each other so much that when they get off tour and come home, they have barbeques and hang out again,' Carol said.

Brent bought a house in Multnomah, where he lives when he's not on the road.

'Here, they can be relatively obscure and no one knows them,' Justin said.

Across the globe, it's a different story.

Though stateside commercial success still eludes the band - save for 'Bohemian,' a hit on college radio - they have a large cult following in Australia and Europe, where the group became the toast of the critics and sells out large festivals to this day..

'People just have different tastes over there,' Justin said. 'Some of these American bands couldn't draw flies over in Europe.'

And though the Dandies have remained relatively quiet in the past couple of years, the documentary DiG! brought them back to public attention.

The film chronicles the love-hate relationship between Taylor-Taylor (a self-proclaimed narcissist) and Anton Newcombe, the lead singer of the Brian Jonestown Massacre.

Interestingly enough, the Dandies and the Massacre will perform September 7 at Portland's Crystal Ballroom.

The DeBoers will be there, probably in the VIP section.

'Everybody's always happy to have him home,' Carol said.