Interview with Evan Dando by Sarah Rodman

From The Boston Herald 18th April 2003


"In my ideal world I would be a singer in a heavy-metal band," says Evan Dando, "but I just don't have that kind of a voice."

Thousands of fans are likely grateful that the former Lemonheads frontman was unable to access his inner Rob Halford. Because of that shortcoming, Dando says, "I ended up listening to a lot of Gram Parsons and learning how to relax and find my own voice eventually."

The 36-year-old Dando, who plays Brookline's Coolidge Corner Theatre on Wednesday, took that beautifully relaxed voice and made a handful of winsome yet incisive pop records in the late '80s and early '90s with the Boston-based Lemonheads.

The last of these, "Car Button Cloth," was released in 1996. Dando releases his first all-new studio album, "Baby, I'm Bored," on Tuesday. That day he also will be at the Newbury Comics at Alewife giving an in-store performance and signing copies of "Baby."

Although he has admittedly struggled with drugs and alcohol - he quit drinking last year - Dando says the real culprit behind his lengthy hiatus was basic sloth. To illustrate, he points out that he's been trying to read "In Praise of Idleness," Bertrand Russell's treatise on leisure, "for a few years, but I can't find it." 
"I am lazy," says Dando with a laugh, on the phone from Miami, during a truly eccentric conversation that wanders aimlessly from the beauty of Fred Astaire's singing to the merits of early-'90s pop-metal band Nelson.

The cure for Dando's laziness came from collaborations with such people as producer-songwriter Jon Brion, the members of Giant Sand and Aussie pop songwriter Ben Lee. All contribute to the lovely folk and country-rocking "Baby." 
"I did need a kick in the ass, basically," says Dando of the collaborations, which took place during the past four years. 
Lemonheads fans will find plenty to enjoy on "Baby." And those who have seen the singer-songwriter at one of his numerous local performances during the past three years will recognize several songs, including the pensive Lee ballad "All My Life" and the jangly, Beatles-esque "The Same Thing You Thought Hard About, Is the Same Thing I Can Live Without." 
The latter tune, like several on the record, contains lyrics such as "I can't believe how far I slid" that some listeners may interpret as allusions to his substance-abuse struggles. Dando is unconcerned.

"However someone interprets something is correct," he says, "even if they mishear it. That's the way that they hear it and whatever conclusions they draw about the song, they're all correct. It's really the only option I have, I'm just putting it out there."

He says his fans can expect he will be putting out records at a more brisk clip: "My plan is to make one a year." He's also planning a European tour with one in the States to follow in June. "I need to get working a little harder."

Someone who HAS worked very hard - touring nonstop for two years - is former Dando opening act Ben Kweller. 
"I see (Kweller) as a major talent," Dando says. "He's real young and supertalented, and I don't see anything in his path, but I certainly don't want to see it happen all of a sudden, because that's not good for people. Have a look at Christina Aguilera's outfits sometime - you don't want Ben dressing like that."

"He doesn't have to worry about that," Kweller says with a laugh via cellphone.

The 21-year-old Texan, who plays Axis in Boston tomorrow night, completes the mutual admiration society circle by declaring Dando "one of the best singers in my generation, and he's got the sweetest soul and it comes out through his music."

Cherubic alt-pop phenom Kweller recently hit the road in Australia with two likeminded and identically monikered friends, Ben Lee (him again) and piano rocker Ben Folds. Their ingenious group name? The Bens.

"We made an EP," Kweller says of the trio. "We recorded four songs in three days down in Nashville at the old RCA studios, and it will probably be available on our Web sites." 
The Bens expect to tour the United States after Kweller and Folds complete their next albums. Ben Harper reportedly is on speed dial.

Suggested album title: "It's All About the Benjamins." 
Rodman recommends: You won't believe just how good it can get when you go see the Wallflowers at the Paradise on Monday . . . The Flaming Lips bring inimitable stage antics and dreamy psychedelic pop to Boston's Roxy on Wednesday.