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Interview with Evan Dando by Leslie Gray Streeter

From Palm Beach Post, January 2007

 

Back in the early 1990s, The Lemonheads were among the most visible bands on the scene, with a couple of quirky, catchy albums (It's A Shame About Ray and Come On Feel The Lemonheads), an eclectic mixture of cool names making cameos (Juliana Hatfield, Belinda Carlisle, Rick James) and a solid following.

They also had a lead singer and musical mastermind named Evan Dando, whose pretty hair and casually scruffy sexiness delighted some fans and royally annoyed many others, including some critics. For the critical, other things overshadowed Dando's songcraft on Into Your Arms and My Drug Buddy. There was the light but inescapable cover of Simon and Garfunkel's Mrs. Robinson, Dando's wry cameo in the Gen-X yarn Reality Bites, an appearance as one of People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People."

And no one understands that more than Evan Dando.

"I know what (they) mean. Look, I don't know if I saw this guy on People's 50 Most Beautiful People list that I'd listen to his record, either," Dando says. "But now I'm out of the running and married and old and stuff."

Whether or not 39 is all that old is in the eye of beholder. But for Evan Dando, it seems to be at least old enough to put the demons of his past, like his former heartthrob rep and drug problems, behind him. His current focus is, again, The Lemonheads, whose current, well-reviewed self-titled album finds him back in a scruffy post-punk pop mood, and back on tour, including a stop Thursday at Fort Lauderdale's Culture Room.

"This is like a reconstitution of the whole idea of The Lemonheads," says Dando, acknowledging that naming an album after your band sort of amounts to a mission statement. "It's like I'm Martin Luther and I'm nailing the thesis to the door there. It's got everything in there — some screaming and yelling, a little Buzzcocks, a little jamming, some of that 1978 kind of punk energy. Yeah, it's a weird one."

The album's punk energy has a lot to do with its lineup of Lemonheads. You might be aware that Dando is the only permanent member of the band, with drummers and bassists rotating in and out. The most recent recorded incarnation featured former Descendents drummer Bill Stevenson and bassist Karl Alvarez (bassist Vess Ruthenberg and drummer Devon Ashley are filling in for the tour.)

"I think that basically, I wanted to make a (freaking) loud rock record, and I think that's what I did," Dando says. "I wanted to do the full-on (Black) Sabbath parts with the styling, the long jamming piano intros, to have fun with it. Bill Stevenson is the best drummer in the world. I don't want to insult Devon, but Bill, I grew up listening to. When I was 16, I used to play along with (The Descendents') Milo Goes To College. I learned how to play drums, playing along with him on the headphone. He had all those fast kicks. So playing with him was a treat for me."

So far, touring's been a treat — "We had a show in Rome where I threw a chair," Dando reports. "I tossed it out (into the crowd) like a towel. But it didn't hit anybody. It was 2 1/2 months that didn't stop. In England we were sold out for most of the shows."

When he's not stirring up the crowd, Dando's writing the next Lemonheads album on the tour bus — "I like working. It doesn't suit me not to work," he says. "I was thinking earlier about (how to improve his songwriting). I think it's just more of the same. I wanna get really great chord progression and melody. The fun part is writing the words. The music is the hard part."

While he's working on the perfect song, he's no longer worried about his image, having made peace with Evan Dando, grunge-era beautiful person.

"I should have said no to (People magazine) but it was too funny. My love of the absurd got the best of me," he says. "But I don't have any complaints. We sold records. We made that one cover version. But I think things went really well for us. People are gonna get it or not."

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