Interview with Evan Dando by Brian Remick
from Daily Bruin 19th November 1996
After braving everything from hit albums and groupies to drug rehab, Evan Dando is finally in control of his life and his career
No, Evan Dando hasn't given up on the Lemonheads.
In fact, the lead singer is back from his two-year vacation with a brand new album, a brand new tour, and a brand new outlook on music.
"Car Button Cloth" is the latest creation from Dando's sometimes-insane imagination, featuring some of the best material the band has ever released.
To say "the band" is deceiving, however, since the Lemonheads is just Evan Dando himself. That is he and various musicians who rotate through the years. Current guitarist John Strohm has been a member of the Lemonheads three different times as both guitarist and drummer.
"People say, 'Why don't you just call this record an Evan Dando record?'" says Dando from Seattle, where he is currently on tour. "The Lemonheads [records] are Evan Dando records, basically everybody knows that."
Recognition aside, the success that comprised the Lemonheads' existence from '91 to '94 has had its costs. The release of "Come On Feel the Lemonheads" in '93 and "It's A Shame About Ray" in '92, both of which have now gone gold, brought with them relentless touring and media promotions that took their toll on Dando, both musically and otherwise. The singer rented a summer home at majestic Martha's Vineyard and took a well-deserved break from the music industry.
"When I first took the break I wasn't even sure if I was ever going to play music again," Dando says. "I was just ready to quit."
Not to say that Dando has been sitting around for two years. His hiatus included a solo acoustic tour, a couple of movie roles ("Heavy" and "Reality Bites"), and even a duet on Tony Bennett's "MTV Unplugged" album.
"I took some really nice time off and I got the urge to start writing songs again. I got reconnected with the feeling of why I started the band in the first place," Dando says. "Playing rock is fun, and I'd forgotten that."
His extended holiday also included a stop at drug rehab, where too many musicians have inadvertently found themselves in recent months. Dando's experience, though, was quite different.
"I came back to the United States when all the touring was over and I was looking down the barrel of nothing," says Dando. "It was a big wake-up call."
With his family's insistence, Dando reluctantly agreed to try a rehab clinic. He stayed all of 10 days.
"All recovery comes from you getting in touch with the shit that brought you there in the first place," says Dando. "A 12-step (program) is really just shifting your addiction over to another addiction, like NA or AA."
Though it has helped him, Dando admits that the self-diagnosis method may not be for everyone.
"I'm not going to knock [rehabilitation], because it does work for some people," he says. "Whatever works is good."
Dando's time away from music has given him a new vantage point for song writing something which comes through clearly on "Car Button Cloth."
"The big difference about 'Car Button Cloth' from 'Come On Feel the Lemonheads' is that I could reach into that dark period of my life that was going on and pull experiences out of that with 20/20 vision, which I really couldn't do before."
Songs like "It's All True" show a definite darker side of the Lemonheads that isn't as obvious on previous albums: "Sorry 'bout dropping that lude/ it just seemed like the best thing to do/ it's all true ..."
"Car Button Cloth" isn't all about drugs and depression, though. Harmless tunes like "The Outdoor Type" give the album the feel of the Lemonheads of old: "I never slept out underneath the stars/ the closest I ever came to that was one time my car broke down for an hour in the suburbs at night ..."
"I had a great time making the record," says Dando, who completed the 13-track album in only three months. "I worked with a great producer, Bryce Goggin. He's an amazing guy."
It's hard to believe that the country-style melodies on "Car Button Cloth" and earlier Lemonheads' albums comes from the same mind who loves Black Sabbath.
"I still listen to Sabbath every day. It's undeniably perfect," Dando says. "Every time I listen to them it's like I'm hearing them for the first time."
Dando's interest in other bands isn't limited to the past, however. Following the Lemonheads' "Come On Feel" tour, Dando hopped aboard the Oasis bus and played roadie for awhile.
A song called "Purple Parallelogram," penned by Dando and Noel Gallagher in a spontaneous if not drunken jam session, came out of the time with Oasis and actually was very close to appearing on "Car Button Cloth."
"Initially, I put it in the sequence, then both Noel and I decided that it wasn't really record-quality," says Dando. "It was just really goofy I'm actually very happy that it didn't make it on the record."
Dando appreciates the creative control it has taken him nearly a decade to acquire.
"I'm just really going at my own pace. I'm telling the label what I think my pace is and they're being really respectful about that," says the singer. "I'm having fun for the first time in five years."