Interview with Evan Dando by Simon Cosyns
From The Sun October 6th 2006
SORRY, Take That, but for me THIS is the comeback of the year - The Lemonheads.
It’s ten years since the band imploded after previous studio album Car Button Cloth, it’s leader Evan Dando battling booze and drugs.
The band’s self-titled new album effort finds Evan rekindling the fire. It’s typically concise - 11 songs clocking in at just over half an hour, delivered in that familiar warm, engaging voice.
He’s happily married to Geordie supermodel Elisabeth Moses of Calvin Klein fame and I found him chilled and charming when we chatted about the revival.
“I always planned to do it. I left it open after the Best Of The Atlantic Years came out in ’98,” he says. “Just enough time has passed when I haven’t felt hassled by the whole thing. I started writing and things started happening. Time has made it all fine.”
If you had to pick the poster boy of American post-punk in the late Eighties-early Nineties, most would take a nanosecond to come up with Kurt Cobain.
But if forced to choose his main rival, a good few would suggest Evan.
The Lemonheads played fast and loud. The frontman’s dashing good looks saw him emerge as an unlikely heart-throb.
Evan says they took their cue from bands such as Black Flag, Black Sabbath, The Modern Lovers, The Dickies, Hüsker Dü and The Replacements. He also retains huge affection for the great country maverick Gram Parsons, once recording a stunning version of $1000 Wedding.
Albums like 1992’s masterpiece It’s A Shame About Ray and the fine follow-up, Come On Feel The Lemonheads, were peerless exercises in less ultimately being more. Short, pin-sharp albums packed with thrilling power riffs and bags of style.
Evan’s popularity grew. He hung out with the Gallaghers. But, by the mid-Nineties, his booze and drug-fuelled lifestyle was taking its toll. He needed a way out.
His lowest point probably came at Glastonbury in 1995 when he turned up late and received volleys of abuse from the audience.
“I don’t care about it now,” he says. “I just missed a gig. They put us on when all my fans had left and Portishead were supposed to be playing. It was an interesting experience to say the least. You learn from mistakes like that.”
“I wanted it to end at that time. I was ready to step aside. It was the perfect moment as pop was getting huge... Britney and the Backstreet Boys and so on. Right now, there’s a lot of different stuff going on.” He says he still keeps in touch with his old mates from Oasis but “we’ve all chilled out since then. We just try to keep things in perspective”.
Now he’s back where he wants to be and thrilled to be playing with some great musicians on the new album, including:
Bill Stevenson, the Black Flag drummer who also played in All and Descendents. “The guitars are only as good as the drums underneath. It helped a lot having Bill. He was part of the first new wave of hardcore.”
J Mascis, the Dinosaur Jr guitarist. “We have a connection through skiing. We were in the same studio and he saw I had a ski pass on. He invited me up to Vermont after that.”
Garth Hudson of The Band. “He was great and plays on the first and last songs. His biggest part is in the long jam on December. I met him at a reading of Edgar Allen Poe poems in this beautiful old church in Brooklyn. He was playing the church organ.”
Evan explains: “Basically, I found the guys I wanted for the kind of stuff I was writing but I don’t want to abandon the quieter stuff either.
“It was when we recorded the song Pittsburgh that I knew I had a Lemonheads record.
“I used other people from other bands on my last record so it wouldn’t have been fair to call them Lemonheads.
“This time I had a chance to do it with people willing to take the name.”
Footnote: Before the interview I had reminded Evan’s PR of a little- known part of the singer’s music history.
In 1991, he toured as part of Fruit Child Large. He was the “Fruit” as in Lemonheads. His good mate Juliana Hatfield of Blake Babies was the “Child”. Howe Gelb and John Convertino of alt-country rockers Giant Sand were “Large”.
As the interview began, Evan’s first words were “Fruit Child Large. That was fun!”
He was smiling back then. He’s smiling again now.