Interview with Evan Dando by David Wild

From Rolling Stone issue 666, 30th September 1993


The Return of Dr. Feelgood

Come on feel Evan Dando

"Oh, man, I always thought that Slade was cool," says head Lemonhead Evan Dando, by way of explaining the title of the band's upcoming album, Come On Feel the Lemonheads, which is set to be released October 5th. Excitedly, Dando tells of getting an audience with Noddy Holder of Slade -- the British rock outfit best known here for "Cum On Feel the Noize" -- while the band was on tour last year: "I also like the title because of that word feel. A lot of the songs on the album are about feelings."

It's early afternoon on the day before mixing's to begin on the new album, and despite being recently awakened, Dando -- wearing ripped jeans and a Bullet LaVolta T-shirt with a duck hand-painted on it -- certainly seems to be feeling pretty good himself. A mock-up of the cover art for the album, jokingly defaced to read COME ON SUCK THE LEMONHEADS sits on the console alongside a vinyl copy of the Rolling Stones' Out of Our Heads.

Like the Lemonheads' 1992 breakthrough effort, It's a Shame About Ray, the new album was recorded at Cherokee Studios, in Los Angeles, with Dando and the Robb Brothers producing. The album took twelve weeks to make, more than enough time to spend in L.A. for Dando. "I'd prefer to be just about anywhere else," he says. "But I wouldn't want to work with anybody but the Robbs, and this is their place. So here I am."

The admiration between the alterna-hunk and the veteran producers is clearly mutual. "Evan's readily taken the band to the next step," says Bruce Robb. "He reminds me of what was best about the '60s, but he's completely contemporary. And the band sounds fantastic after all the touring they did."

"My only goal for this album was to have enough songs," says Dando with a laugh. Certainly, the album has enough interesting musical guests, with the Lemonheads -- Dando, drummer David Ryan and new bassist Nic Dalton -- joined not only by longtime associate Juliana Hatfield but also by Belinda Carlisle, Flying Burrito Brother Sneaky Pete Kleinow and, most surprisingly, the embattled funkster Rick James.

"Rick knows the Robbs, and I always wanted to get him on the record because he's such a great singer," says Dando. Indeed, Dando even titled one of two versions of the song "Style" that appears on the album Rick James's Style. James also appears on the faster version of "Style," chiming in with Hatfield. "What could be better than those two together?" asks Dando.

Another track likely to get attention is "Big Gay Heart," a provocative and lovely country-tinged number that Dando says he wrote to protest gay bashing. Dando also engages in a little gender bending on "I'll Do It Anyway," a song he wrote for Carlisle's upcoming album. "I tried to write her a punk hymn," he says. "When she ended up not doing it, I figured I should do it anyway."

Dando wrote all the songs on Come On Feel the Lemonheads, either alone or with collaborator Tom Morgan, except for the first single, an infectious, romantic rocker called "Into Your Arms," written by Robyn St. Clair of the Australian band Hummingbirds. "She's got a baby, so she could probably use the money," says Dando. A likely follow-up is "Great Big No," a thrashy and melodic gem that's one of the four tracks on which Hatfield makes an appearance.

The album's most unusual track is the concluding jazzy piano instrumental "The Jello Fund," a reference to money Dando earned doing a TV commercial for Jell-O in his youth. More Thelonious Monk than Thelonious Monster, the track's a bit of a one-off by Dando. "I don't really play piano," he says, "so I don't think I could play that one the same way again."

Dando says that success hasn't spoiled the Lemonheads, though "Paid to Smile" reflects the pressure of all the meeting and greeting he did while promoting It's a Shame About Ray. Still, he insists he has no problem with mainstream sales. "Despite my reputation, I want a lot of people to hear the music," says Dando. "Last time it wasn't like I had the record company looking at me, waiting. Now I do. I don't mind giving them something good to sell."