Australian Guitar - - Feature -

The re­la­tion­ship be­tween Evan Dando and Aus­tralia – more specif­i­cally, the in­ner-west of Syd­ney – is a long and sto­ried one. First up, the Lemonheads’ 1992 mas­ter­piece It’sA

ShameAboutRay is ba­si­cally one big love let­ter to the Syd­ney mu­sic com­mu­nity that Dando fell into af­ter re­treat­ing from the US fol­low­ing yet an­other band dis­so­lu­tion. When he and Ju­liana Hat­field sing ,“As the cars fly up King Street, it’ s

enough to star­tle us” in a nar­cotic un­der­tone on “My Drug Buddy”, they’re re­fer­ring to New­town’s main drag (although as an in­ner-west res­i­dent, I can ver­ify that cars don’t “fly up” King Street so much as “crawl along”).

Want more? Two of the The Lemonheads’ for­mer bassists – Plun­der­ers/Sneeze/God­star main­stay Nic Dal­ton and The Eastern Dark’s Bill Gib­son – were Aus­tralians. Smudge’s Tom Mor­gan co-wrote It’ s A Shame About Ray’ s ti­tle track( and his band­mate Ali­son Gal­loway is sup­pos­edly the sub­ject of “Ali­son’s Start­ing to Hap­pen”), be­fore co-writ­ing just about all of 1993’s ComeOnFeel TheLe­mon­heads.

Not enough? Fine: “Into Your Arms”, one of the band’s big­gest hits, was writ­ten by for­mer Hum­ming­birds bassist Robyn St Clare for her old band Love Po­si­tions (her duo with the afore­men­tioned Dal­ton), while It’sAShameAbout

Ray’s spir­ited opener, “Rockin’ Stroll”, was about Milo, St Clare’s son with Hum­ming­birds front­man Si­mon Holmes, while Ben Lee col­lab­o­rated on Dando’s 2003’s solo al­bum, BabyI’mBored. But per­haps even bet­ter known than Dando’s love of Aus­tralia is his love of he­do­nism. He’s spo­ken candidly about his strug­gles with drugs and self-de­struc­tive be­hav­iour in the past, and the way that every break­through – their in­ter­na­tional hit ver­sion of Si­mon & Gar­funkel’s “Mrs. Robin­son” in 1993, the crit­i­cal plau­dits for 1996’s CarBut­ton

Cloth – seems to be fol­lowed by a plunge into ad­dic­tion and the dis­in­te­gra­tion of yet an­other Lemonheads lineup. So what has this leg­endary hell­raiser been up to over the past week­end? “We just laid low. – We watched this new show,

The End of theF***ing World. It’s re­ally good! It’s based on a graphic novel, I think. I liked it a lot – there’s way too much good TV these days, it’s been re­ally dan­ger­ous. There’s al­ways a new one to de­mand your at­ten­tion.”

Yes, even as so­ci­ety crum­bles around us, we live in a golden age of tele­vi­sion. “That’s true! Well put.”

He will, how­ever, be un­plug­ging Net­flix for the up­com­ing Day On The Green shows with fel­low ‘90s alt-rock stars Veruca Salt and con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous Aus­tralian in­die heavy­weights The Fauves, Tum­ble­weed, Spi­der­bait and The Liv­ing End. It seems like a pretty sweet ex­cuse to tour, even if Dando does pop down with some de­gree of reg­u­lar­ity.

“I do so with alacrity!” he laughs. “I do tend to come to Aus­tralia a lot, although I don’t al­ways play. But this time we’re do­ing this fun thing – some sort of win­ery thing? I just know we’re play­ing some cool shows. I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to it. I re­mem­ber a cou­ple of years back, we were play­ing the Cor­ner Ho­tel [in Mel­bourne] and Chrissie Hynde [singer/song­writer and gui­tarist of The Pre­tenders] came by with [Blondie drum­mer] Clem Burke, and they were do­ing the same thing, so it’s good to be a part of that tra­di­tion. It sounds civilised – that’s the theme of this in­ter­view, isn’t it?”

In fact, Dando cred­its Aus­tralia with be­ing the rea­son there’s still a Lemonheads to be tour­ing with. When the orig­i­nal punk-in­fused lineup (fea­tur­ing film­maker Jesse Peretz) ac­ri­mo­niously fell apart in the late ‘80s, Dando man­fully con­tin­ued un­der the band name to di­min­ish­ing re­turns, be­fore de­camp­ing to Aus­tralia to lick his wounds. The re­sult was It’ s A Shame About Ray.

“There’s quite a bit of ro­mance on that record, which is not nec­es­sar­ily al­ways a good thing. But it’s an Aus­tralian record; there’s lots of Aus­tralia in there. It was ba­si­cally my re­sponse to be­ing there: it was so in­spir­ing, as were the peo­ple I met and worked with, like Tom Mor­gan and Nic Dal­ton. They were re­spon­si­ble for get­ting me into the band, re­ally. They were a breath of fresh air.”

The cur­rent lineup of The Lemonheads has a cou­ple of other fig­ures of ‘90 salt-rock roy­alty: along with bassist Far­ley Glavin, the band sports gui­tarist Chris Brokaw, late of Come and Codeine, and drum­mer Todd Philips of The Ju­liana Hat­field Three. Ba­si­cally, it’s early ‘90s com­mu­nity ra­dio come to life.

“And it’s a great lineup,” Dando adds. “I mean, two gui­tars, bass and drums – you can’t go wrong. I mean, you can, but it’s a tried and true for­mula.”«

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