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Interview with Evan Dando by Everett True

From Melody Maker 13th April 1991

 

They're not doing themselves any favours, putting out another cover version. As fine as their last two singles might have been (both their sensitive reading of Suzanne Vega's "Luka" and a storming version of Michael Nesmith's "Different Drum" made Maker Singles Of The Week), as jaunty and bouncy and throwaway as this new one (the Fifties chestnut, "Gonna Get Along Without Ya Now") might be, really, Evan Dando's Lemonheads are tempting fate in one big way. Especially when one considers this is their first single since signing a major record label deal.

Live, they can still flail the hair with the best of them, while on record they can still write those sort of confused, love-struck paeans to the opposite sex which American college boys excel at (witness the two self-compositions, "Half TheTime" and the original version of "Stove", sandwiched between the two covers on the new EP). But hey Evan, d'ya think anyone's gonna care about that once they realise your new single obviously got knocked out in about half-a-day when you were bored and had nothing better to do?

If Lemonheads don' t watch their backs very carefully, theyre gonna quickly find themselves overtaken by every man-lack two-bit no-hoper on the block.

It's a shame. Really. It's not that I'm so much against their predilection for covers, as that this one ain't really very good. Of the four songs on the "Patience And Prudence" EP (and we're also talking about a kickin' version of New Kids' "Step By Step" which has Evan imitating each of the five vocal leads in turn, plus the obligatory Manson sample and prototypical Lemonheads girl screaming over the fade-out), it's easily the weakest.

What gives? Are my fifth Favourite Boston band turning into a covers group?

"No. Yeah. I don't know why I did that song," Evan says, as we sit above Stuttgart's Country & Western club for American GIs, The Longhorn, waiting for tonight's show to begin. "It's a very between-the-albums thing. I figured people could ust dismiss it as a fun sort ofthing."

Yeah, well you might find they're shortly gonna be dismissing Lemonheads the same way, if you're not careful.

"Well, I know I've written songs that I'm proud of, and that's what counts," Evan replies, taking a sip of mineral water (he's off alcohol: doctor's orders).

"I try not to feel bad about what people might think of us as. I love that song - I just wanted to get it out of the way, I guess. It's just a promotional item to help support the tour, anyway."

Whose version do you know - Trini Lopez?

"Who is this Lopez character? The one I know is by Patience And Prudence from the Fifties, the most schlocky thing ever. I like it cos it has that proud sparrow feel to it - the sparrow puffing out its chest. It's very punk, actually: 'You told everybody that we were friends/Well, this is where our friendship ends'. 'Different Drum' has it too. Right Jesse?"

Now that's confused me. Y'see, both Jesse and David (who also turns out to be present) were meant to have left Lemonheads after last summer's tour. What the hell are they doing sitting here in a dressing room in Stuttgart, waiting to play the first date of a new European tour? C'mon, what's going on - I thought you'd gotten in a new rhythm section from Kentucky.

"Oh I did," Evan replies. "But they were weird, way too weird. They didn't take it seriously, which wasn't the main thing, as I don't take it too seriously either, but they made outrageous play of the whole thing and made goofy faces the whole time. Plus the bass player had a beard, which was unacceptable."

So, basically, what you're telling me is that Evan went to Jesse and David on his knees and begged them to come back.

"We came to each other on our knees!" Evan jokes.

Anyhow, now everyone is a lot clearer about what Lemonheads are all about - that it's Evan's thing. Jesse can play bass again, despite the fact he's got his heart set on making films, because he knows it's not forever and likewisewith David, the affable drummer. Sorted.

So why the hell did Jesse and David leave in the first place if you get along together so well now? Turns out to be girl trouble. They had a female tour manager who was way too possessive, or something.

"There was definitely a pernicious element to our relationship and Jesse wouldn't agree," David explains.

Sounds fascinating. I adore stuff like this. So it was that old standby. How appropriate for a band whose songs all seem to be aimed directly at coping with the same. Evan took his girlfriend along because he was falling head-over-heels at the time, and this created even more friction.

"At one point," he claims, 'Tina (the tour manager) called my girlfriend a'f***ing c*** of a whore' and she punched her!"

Well. There you go. Before I left London for this interview, I picked out a quote which I thought had some relevance on Lemonheads and now definitely seems to. Let me run it past you.

'When in love, the sight of the beloved has a completeness that no words and no embrace can match: a completeness which only the actof making love can temporarily accommodate.'

I don't wanna get too outrageously pretentious here, but it does seem that what you guys are attempting to approximate through your music is some kind of non-verbal understanding of that self-same completeness.

David: "Yeah, it's a visceral thing, it's something that can't be translated except in ones intestines."

(Did I mention that both David and Jesse are Harvard graduates? No? Well, now I did!)

Evan: "In the words of Miss Venezuela, can you repeat the question?"

I oblige.

Evan: "But it fluctuates so much. I feel like there are these moments in one's life when you're in a relationship with somebody when it's a full moment, but it doesn't always happen just because you've consummated it."

Jesse: "But the act of making love can also satisfy pure hormonal needs, desperation."

Still, Lemonheads write love songs, right? Hence the quote.

Evan: "Yeah, but they're also just confusion songs."

David: "My impression of Lemonheads lyrics is they can be really tricky. They might sound a certain way, but they don't necessarily mean it."

Yeah, right. Ifs this confusion, this ambivalence, this extreme angst that gives Lemonheads their edge, their particular individuality which lifts them above the norm. Oh, and Evan's pure singing voice. Check out either their latest album ("Lovey") or '89's "Lick" For further examples.

Where do your ideas for your songs come from?

Evan: "Well, for example, with 'Stove' I was hanging out with Polly Noonan, the girl who does the rap at the end of our 'Lovey' album. I was playing with this stove out on the sidewalk that I'd helped this guy take out the day before. I was like: 'Oh, I'm really bummed out about that, I think I'll write a song about it'. So then I feel
obliged, for her."

So you tell people you're gonna write a song...

"Yeah, and that's how I motivate myself. And then I get a whole bunch of riffs together and start playing around with them. Usually it comes together in one day, I don't spend any longer on it than that."

"Patience And Prudence" EP is out now on Atlantic.

 

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