Interview with Evan Dando by Richard Cromelin

From Los Angeles Times 25th July 1992


When Evan Dando came to L. A. to record the latest album with his two partners in the sort of Boston-based band, the Lemonheads, the city gave them quite a show.

"My God, I mean it was biblical," Dando said. "We got there and it flooded, and then there were earthquakes, and then it burned and we left. It was everything L.A. should be."

And the album, "It's a Shame About Ray," is everything a pure pop, post-punk record should be: a collection of quirky, tender, personal, evocative, funny, mysterious songs that mark Dando as heir apparent to ex-Replacement Paul Westerberg as rock's All-American vulnerable boy.

The album went to the top of the college/alternative charts, culminating the Lemonheads' six-year rise from small to major cult popularity. Dando thinks one reason for the album's acceptance is the consistent musical tone that he credits to its co-producers, music-biz veterans the Robb Brothers.

"I think that's what the Lemonheads needed for their records," Dando, 25, said during a phone interview from a tour stop in Minneapolis. "I was always just into the idea of going from one extreme to the other really jarringly, but now I'm really into having some coherence. I could go from one extreme to the next on a record and I could understand it and get a kick out of it. But stepping back a bit is what I was trying to do, and I felt it was better for a record of songs to have more of a thread in it."

Dando, who brings his group to the Whisky on Wednesday (followed by shows in Long Beach, Riverside and San Diego), started in music as a teenager playing with friends and emulating hardcore punk bands such as Black Flag, the Angry Samoans and Minor Threat - quite a stretch from the reflective, almost folk-rock music on the "Ray" album.

Why the change?

"It has something to do with me getting back to all the music I was into when I was a kid, which is strangely enough mostly soul - Marvin Gaye and Al Green, early Stevie Wonder," Dando said.

"And I started getting heavily into country about four years ago, and now it's started to seep into my stuff. I let down my guard about rock 'n' roll more-like (I used to think) it has to be really fast and it has to be played really badly. I didn't worry about the fast and sloppy virtues.

"Westerberg was a major influence, and Dinosaur Jr., sure, sure. Those guys did a lot to tell everyone they can relax and try to make it sound cool and '60s-y. You don't have to worry about being angry all the time."

Dando has all but left the Lemonheads' former home base of Boston, spending most of his time traveling. He's a rare character, navigating through the music business with a childlike openness.

"I'm just really grateful to be able to travel around and play and have enough money to eat," he said. "That's fine. . . . I can't really do anything else. I can't like build cabinets or anything. I can't cook. I always wanted to make something. This is all I can make.

"Fun is the most important thing. I'm glad we haven't been real successful, because it seems like whenever you get successful you start to suck."