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Interview with Evan Dando by Mark Hinson

From Tallahassee.com, 2nd February 2007

 

If you want to chart the rise, fall and resurrection of Evan Dando's music career just consider his past three concerts in Tallahassee during the last 14 years.

Dando is coming back to the city Saturday night for a fourth go-around, this time featuring a newly revamped lineup of his band the Lemonheads at the Beta Bar. But more about that in a minute.

 

In 1993, Dando and the Lemonheads came to the Moon when the photogenic singer-guitarist was the darling of the international media. It was the same year People magazine tagged Dando one of the "Sexiest Men Alive." He'd appeared on the "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee" chat show as the poster boy for user-friendly alt-pop rock.

The Lemonheads' critically acclaimed 1992 album, "It's a Shame About Ray," was providing the soundtrack for the generation that flocked to see Cameron Crowe's Gen-X film "Singles."

"I remember we played that show (at the Moon) with Red Kross," said Dando, 39, recently from his apartment in Manhattan. "That was back when you could pick which band you wanted go on tour with, and I jumped at the chance to get Red Kross. We had a really good time."

Things weren't going so swimmingly when the Lemonheads returned to the Moon in 1997 to promote the sputtering "Car Button Cloth" album. A Dando backlash was in full swing, most notably typified by a fanzine called, simply, Die Evan Dando, Die. And life as a handsome rock star had taken Dando down the well-marked path of drinking, drugs and self-destruction.

"I was kind of running amok in New York," Dando told the Democrat in '97, the same year he announced onstage during a music festival in England that the Lemonheads was dead.

By the time Dando made it to the Beta Bar for a solo show in 2002, he was putting things back together. The singer-songwriter was working on a batch of new, more mature songs that would eventually end up on his solo album "Baby I'm Bored" (2003).

"The photo on the back cover of 'Baby I'm Bored' was taken backstage at the Beta Bar," Dando said. "I love playing in Tallahassee. I know Pat Puckett. His band is one of my favorites. I like it there. It's a great music scene."

Dando's wake-up call arrived on a date you might recognize - Sept. 11, 2001.

On that infamous Tuesday morning, Dando and his wife, the English fashion model Elizabeth Moses, were at home in their apartment. Their 22-story building was two blocks from the Twin Towers. After the first hijacked jet hit, Dando and Moses ran to the rooftop to see what was going on. The second plane flew right over their heads.

"It was like being on the bottom of the ocean and looking up at something large way above you," Dando said. "That's the only way to describe it. It looked real later on TV, but it didn't look real from where we were standing. . . . We all thought the towers were going to topple over and fall, not collapse the way they did. If they'd fallen over sideways, we'd been crunched."

After that, Dando decided to clean up his act - which was probably a good idea considering he used to drink a 12-pack of beer before noon each day. His Jim Morrison-style boozing had led to trouble in sometimes ridiculous, public ways.

During a concert at Cornell University in the late summer of 2001, Dando said, he angered a police officer after he dragged a bale of hay onstage. Dando removed the twine and tossed the straw about in what he described as "a celebration of the coming fall." The unamused policeman ordered Dando to pick up every piece of hay.

"He was really being a jerk about it," Dando said. "So I told him to (expletive) off one too many times - which turned out to be once. It was not the smartest thing. I was taken downtown and booked (for drunk and disorderly conduct). I was drinking way too much in those days."

A court date was set for Dando to appear in Ithaca, N.Y., on Sept. 12, 2001.

"The court called on Sept. 12 and said, 'Uh, sir, you're exonerated. You don't have to come,' ” Dando said. "It was weird. It was just another part of my wake-up call."

After hearing about a music festival in Brazil with bands that played nothing but songs by the Lemonheads, Dando considered reconstituting his band.

"It's always been my band and no one else's," Dando said. "Members have always come and gone. On the records, I would scrub over their (the other musician's) parts anyway."

Making a fresh start, a clear-eyed Dando approached the punk-rock label Vagrant with the idea of making a new Lemonheads album, titled plainly enough "The Lemonheads." He recruited some old friends from the under-rated hardcore-pop band the Descendents - drummer Bill Stevenson and bass player Karl Alvarez - and headed into a studio in the mountains of temptation-lite Colorado.

"I'm a slow writer so it took a while, maybe a year and a half," Dando said. "We had to do it in pieces over a stretch, but I think it has a nice immediacy."

The critics thought so, too, when it was released in 2006. Many scribes who had written Dando off, praised the new disc and admitted they still dragged out the near-perfect "It's A Shame About Ray" during parties. Expect to hear a mix of old and the new stuff during Dando show No. 4 this weekend.

"We're playing stuff from as far back as 'Hate Your Friends,' which I did when I was a teenager," Dando said.

One piece of advice, though: Do not holler out requests for the Lemonheads' cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson." Dando still cringes when asked about his "Mrs. Robinson," which the Lemonheads knocked off as a lark, but the record company and MTV pounced on in 1992 when the band was first making it big.

"We never play that at our shows," Dando said.

"I don't like it. It was all just a weird coincidence anyway. The Dickies did a version of 'Mrs. Robinson' that's much better. I don't know why that one never caught on and ours did. I'll never live that one down."

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