Interview with Evan Dando
from Select Magazine February 1993
"So obviously, yeah, I mean most people, I suppose the main thing they know about Boston is, like, Cheers so, yeah, I _ mean what have you got to say about that?"
"Well ...uh...did you ever hear of a band called the Pixies?"
"Why, have they split
(Puzzled): "No, why?"
Yes, it's The Word, the show where they don't just die on air, they make you go through it as well. Evan Dando and his two Lemonhead compadres Nic Dalton and David Ryan are seated round a table in the bar of the Wembley studio where all this garbage is filmed every Friday, while breakfast time comic and noted Boston scene oracle Mark Lamarr puts them through the perils of an Access All Areas interview. The weather, you could say, is heavy.
Fortunately, Evan is in a great mood, still buzzing from his solo acoustic appearance at Ronnie Scott's a few hours earlier. Rarely has an atmosphere for a gig been so warm. His shaggy, instantly likeable personality swung him through brave versions of `$1,000 Wedding' by Gram Parsons (a current hero) and `Barstool Blues' by Neil Young, and a big chunk of those great groovy short love songs off `It's A Shame About Ray. He endeared himself even more by dashing back on at the end when the album started to blare out over the PA, and demanding that someone turn it off and play "filing-out music" instead.
For tonight on The Word, though, it'll be the Lemonheads' punked-up cover of Simon & Garfunkel's `Mrs Robinson'.
"It's just a weird little vehicle to reach some more people," explains Evan as the Access All Areas gang disperse. People know that I write OK songs, so y'know... I like to sing, y'know? I love writing songs, but it's worth it for me just to get up and sing any old song." He grins fatalistically.
"It's gonna be over. I'm never gonna play it again in a couple of months. It was just a fluke. We recorded it because these people bought the rights to The Graduate and wanted to get the movie to some flannel-ripped-jeans-wearing people," he laughs, scrutinising his own extraordinary strides, a scruffy miasma of lovingly-applied pan-cultural patchwork stream of consciousness.
He looks happily tired. as you'd expect from a guy who's been touring relentlessly since 1989: seven tours of Europe, four tours of the States and three tours of Australia all in the last three years. "I've just been trying to hit as much as I can hit." And with `It's A Shame About Ray' it all paid off: a marvellous 29 minute semi-acoustic hike through the magic and tragic aspects of falling in love and falling apart. You scarcely need to ask if the break-up of a relationship was involved somewhere along the line. But it goes deeper, and further back, than that for Evan.
"I was really messed over when I was little," he says. "When I was eleven my parents got divorced, and that song `Confetti' was like a weird exorcism of all that anger that I had, finally getting it totally out of my system. It took a while, man. Y'know, I'm an American, I analyse myself too much..."
Some sort of belated wisdom manifested itself during the writing of the song; he was thinking up ways to describe why he was torching his relationship with his girlfriend - and specifically that feeling of just knowing it's not happening - when he suddenly realised that was exactly what his Dad had felt 14 years ago.
Evan Dando's come a long way since he wrote a song called `Hate Your Friends' as an 18-year-old. In the late '80s the Lemonheads were the best-educated hardcore band around (Evan was the only one not attending Harvard) and Evan mostly played drums. As friction increased between him and singer Ben Deily, the onus shifted to Evan to wrestle some sort of melodic control of the band, and Deily bailed out after `Lick' in 1989. (He's since sniped back at Evan with a record pisstakingly titled `It's A Bummer About Borbie', Evan's old nickname.)
Evan still plays drums in a band called Godstar (named after Psychic TV's infamous Brian Jones tribute) who are fronted by Lemonheads bassist Nic Dalton whenever the pair of them touch down in Australia - Nic's Australian and Evan is semi-based there. Evan's life, it seems, is an international network of cool, easy-going friends, all of whom have girlfriends who are equally if not more cool and easy-going than they are. Hence you get a song like the gorgeous `My Drug Buddy', written about a night exploring Sydney on speed with the girlfriend of a friend. Or `Alison's Starting To Happen', a phrase Evan blurted out while coming up on Ecstasy with another girlfriend of another friend. So many girls, so many friends.
"You know that weird vertigo feeling? And she went woo-oooh, and I was like, Alison's starting to happen. So I turned it into a love song, because it's a good way of describing when you fall in love, it's like something's crystallising."
Australia, America, Europe. Evan Dando's got pockets of friends everywhere. He even wears his memories on his jeans: the various patches come from each pitstop. "I like to try and keep some record of my travels," he says, rubbing his hands over them.
When they finally get to play `Mrs Robinson' live on The Word, the silly blonde one of course gets the name of the song wrong (`Purity' is by The Aloof, dear) and it could be the drink but Evan suddenly looks manic and strange in his big red coat; with the hood up he's worryingly reminiscent of the psycho dwarf at the end of Don't Look Now. Suddenly they slam into the chorus: yeeaaahhh!
Meanwhile Nic on bass goes completely insane, lurching around ripping all sorts of cavernous, discordant growls from his strings. Evan slots in the obligatory expletive ("either way you look at it we're fucked"), the whole thing disintegrates into chaos and the main man is left singing a few lines of `Mrs Robinson"s other side, `Being Around'. Wow. Even Terry Christian comes up with the goods by urging the viewing dozens to "make sure you check out the LP", possibly the first decent point the man has made in his entire career.
Evan has to split at once; inevitably, he's on his travels again, this time back to Boston, hopefully to take some time off and write. And maybe along the way he'll hit an emotional sentence just right, and cap it with a great chord change. At 25 you get the feeling he's just getting into his stride. A great songwriter could be peeking out from under all that floppy hair; God knows he has the lineage - he's a descendant of Dubose Heyward, who wrote the lyrics to `Summertime'.
"It means a lot to me," he enthuses. "It's everything. Just trying to describe my experiences, trying to work it out for myself and anyone else who wants to listen. Because it's weird to be a human being, it's like your eyes are here, and...it's a weird thing, all you can do is to try to describe it."
He laughs, and gives his jeans another stroke. "I was a very angry teenager. That's why I got into hardcore and stuff. But good comes out of bad and I'm starting to get more together, I think. I'll be ready in like a year or two to meet a really nice girl and get married or something, and have kids."
He laughs. As one of the handsomest men in rock he already gets plenty of girls coming up to him after shows.
"I just give them a hug, y'know, and send them on their way."
"Ha ha. Yeah. Just like Morrissey."