Interview with Evan Dando by Andrew Murfett
From The Age, 29th September 2006
Dando detoxes with Lemons
Evan Dando was a mess. EG's Jo Roberts wrote that Dando's performance at the Hi-Fi Bar on August 2, 2003 was "one of the most shambolic and unprofessional ever staged by an international artist in Melbourne".
"The only thing I regret now is that everybody remembers it," Dando slurred recently from a rehearsal studio in Indianapolis, where he is preparing to take his most celebrated project, the Lemonheads, back on the road.
The 2003 tour, which featured local names such as Missy Higgins and You Am I's Davey Lane, created a furore among local music fans while also spawning deep concerns for Dando's health.
The infamous show also gave Dando a reputation as a washed-up druggie. A less volatile return show with Tim Rogers six months later failed to undo much of the damage.
"Life is like that," Dando says. "I'm a happy person. I guess other people have gone through more problems than I have with my drug problem. People just keep writing about it, and I really can't believe people are interested in that shit. You shouldn't talk about your personal life ... I was stupid at one point and that's one too many times."
This week Dando is preparing to release his first Lemonheads album since the excellent Car Button Cloth from 1996. Since he formed the Lemonheads 20 years ago in a Boston high school, the band has had a revolving cast of musical characters. "There's never been the same line-up," he says. "It's been me and whoever else is around."
Apart from a two-year stretch in the late-1990s, Dando has continued to play Lemonheads songs at his solo shows. But it was a Brazilian festival a couple of years ago and young South American bands performing Lemonheads songs that motivated him to find a new line-up.
Bill Stevenson and Karl Alvarez, former members of the Descendents, were drafted for a South American tour. It was in Chile that Dando and Alvarez hatched the concept for the album.
"If it was going to be the Lemonheads, I knew the musicianship had to be better than in the past," Dando says. "We did the album in short bursts. It took us about a year and a half to do it."
One of the album's tracks, Rule of Three, came to Dando three years ago. He says it felt like a Lemonheads song from the start. The opening track, Black Gown, came to him in Melbourne while he was touring as part of the band MC5.
Dando says that despite the chaotic gigs of a few years ago, he still feels a strong affinity with Australia. A Lemonheads tour is tentatively planned for next February.
"I've been to Australia over 20 times," he says. "I love Melbourne. The last night I was in Australia, I was at Wally from the Meanies' house until five in the morning. I want my wife to come with me out there and try and talk her into living there."
When it's suggested that a night out until 5am is perhaps not the ideal selling point for a family, Dando, who lives in an apartment on Broadway, says that he is a long way from the haze of alcohol and drugs that plagued the Lemonheads through the 1990s, and which eventually led him to rehabilitation therapy.
"My wife likes to come on tour when she can," he says. "Falling in love is always a good thing. I don't go out to clubs every night ... I don't have to. We just hang out together and amuse ourselves. It's a very healthy influence."
Dando is even philosophical about his 1992 Simon and Garfunkel cover Mrs Robinson, which unwittingly became his band's biggest hit. "They asked us to do a film clip for the 25th anniversary of The Graduate on VHS and, yeah, it really got out of control because that wasn't what we wanted people to think of as our music. A lot of people eventually listened to the rest of the record. We got lucky."