For a band that’s been around for more than 30 years, The Lemonheads are still known best for two things: their covers and their frontman, Evan Dando.
The alt-rockers hit the height of their fame in the early-to-mid 90s, but their cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Mrs. Robinson’ from their fifth record It’s a Shame About Ray (1992) remains one of their most popular tracks (thank you, Wayne’s World II). But despite not having released any original music since 2006, The Lemonheads have maintained a cult following.
The band has also taken on many forms, with almost a revolving door of recording and touring members joining the lineup. Although singer and guitarist Dando has remained one of the few constant variables in The Lemonheads, his substance abuse issues in the past have caused a few hiatuses to dot their long history.
So now more than 20 bandmates, 5 labels and 3 decades in, Dando remains the sole member and continues to tour the world with a hybrid setlist of The Lemonheads and his own solo work. Most recently, this included a stint down under to celebrate the 14th anniversary of his solo LP Baby I’m Bored in 2017.
And he’s not slowing down any time soon. The now 50-year-old is joining the likes of The Living End and Spiderbait for the Almighty Monster line-up for A Day On The Green. An extravaganza of 90’s indie-rock, the tour consists of six shows that’ll make its way around some of the nation’s greatest wineries, including the Hunter Valley and Rothbury. In between those tour dates, Dando will also join Jebediah for the Twilight at Taronga series at Sydney’s iconic zoo. And if that wasn’t enough, he’ll cap off the tour with a bunch of intimate bar gigs in Wollongong, Richmond and Hindmarsh.
Just a few days ahead of his Australian tour kicks off, we had a chat with the Boston local about the ethical dilemma of playing at a zoo, 90’s nostalgia and his next cover album.
Music Feeds: You toured down under in 2017, what are you looking forward to the most about coming back?
Evan Dando: I always like coming back to Australia to see friends and I just really like it there. It hasn’t even been a year since I was last there.
It was sort of a lone-man, solo tour, whereas this will be a full band tour so it will be real different. It’ll be fun. It’s just a really different experience travelling solo than with a band. So I’m excited to come down and play with my friends.
I think we’re playing quite a few gigs on this tour. I think we’re playing 12 or 13 gigs, which is tonnes for Australia.
MF: Yeah, and you’re playing a bit of a throwback tour at a bunch of wineries with the likes of The Living End and Veruca Salt, which should be sick.
ED: Yeah, we’re playing some cool gigs with some other bands from our era, like Spiderbait. Is Jet playing? I remember when they were setting this up they were saying Jet was going to be playing. I remember those kids.
MF: Oh, well, they didn’t make the final cut on the lineup.
ED: Oh, so they’re not playing it? They were going to. They were all set to do it…but I guess they’re not doing it anymore. They were in the same circle of friends as a few of my guys when I met them when they were just starting out. They did well for themselves.
MF: Yeah, the final line-up is: you, The Living End, Spiderbait, Veruca Salt and Tumbleweed.
ED: Ohh, I didn’t know Tumbleweed were playing. I love Tumbleweed!
MF: I feel bad. I feel like I’ve spoiled a potential surprise by revealing the lineup. I just thought you already knew!
ED: You can’t spoil anything for me. Even if you tell me the plot about something, I don’t consider it spoiled (laughs). It doesn’t ruin things for me.
MF: When you go on those sorts of tours, do you try to make time to hang out or watch the bands you’re playing with?
ED: Well, you just do what you feel like doing. I tend be either really get into it or just not at all. I’ve been doing this my whole life, well since I was 18. So, I’m still enthusiastic about it but only if I’m up for it, I will. My friend Chris will be down, he’s a guitarist and I’m sure we’ll check some stuff out.
MF: That tour is taking place at wineries which brings out a different kind of crowd, have you ever played a tour like that?
ED: No, I haven’t. Actually, we were on tour in 2010 and we were visited by people who were doing that tour like Chrissie Hynde came because The Pretenders and Blondie were doing it, so we knew it was a nostalgia sort of thing which is kinda cool. It’s good to be part of that kind of thing and playing with people from that kind of era.
It’s so funny when people talk about the 90’s. My friends always tease me and say I missed the 90’s (laughs). But it’s fun to look back, so I’m looking forward to playing.
MD: Yeah, plus wine and rock n’ roll. What could go wrong?
ED: Yeah, exactly. Well, actually, a lot could go wrong (laughs).
MF: Australians love these rural nostalgia tours as well, because it’s not that often that a band tours more than the major cities on the east coast.
ED: Yeah, for sure. I’ll never forget first coming there. We went because we were touring with Screaming Trees and there were like 10 people coming every night. We did a tour of the east coast and I was talking to Dan Peters who was playing drums in the Screaming Trees and I was telling him “we’ve been offered this tour in Australia, should we go? I don’t know, Australia?” and he was like “Definitely go!”. So that’s why I went, because of Dan Peters. And he was right because it was a lot of fun and there’s a lot of really good musicians down there.
MF: Speaking of unconventional rock venues, you’re also playing the Twilight at Taronga series in Sydney which is exciting.
ED: Oh, yeah! Isn’t that a zoo?!
MF: (Laughs) Yes, it’s a zoo! You didn’t know that?
ED: Actually, yeah. Someone said we were playing at a zoo and I was like “what?” (laughs). Yeah, I heard about that. That’s funny. I never go to zoos, it’s good for me. It’s like punishment.
MF: Why do you say that?
ED: Zoos always freak me out. But is it a nice one?
MF: As far as zoos go, I think it’s a pretty nice one. Why do they freak you out?
ED: I guess I’m like an animal rights person deep down but I’m not at all vocal about it all. But the idea of zoos is kind of a sad idea. I’m sure there are humane zoos or whatever that means, you know? (laughs). Are there elephants?
MF: Yeah, there are elephants (laughs). A baby elephant was born there last year as well, so maybe you can visit him while you’re there.
ED: Ohh, that’s cool. Well hopefully I can go see him.
MF: As well as the winery tours and Twilight at Taronga, you’re also playing a bunch of small shows at smaller bars in Wollongong, Richmond and Hindmarsh. Do you like having such a different mix of venues and vibes on one tour?
ED: Yeah, Tumbleweed are from Wollongong, right? In 1993, one of the best tours we ever did was us, Tumbleweed and this New Zealand band and we played Wollongong. And it was really fun.
MF: Last year when you came to Australia, you were doing a bit of an anniversary tour for your solo Baby I’m Bored LP. What was it like revisiting that almost 15 years later?
ED: Yeah, it was fun. It’s a funny thing to relive it because a solo album isn’t anything that’s usually a very nostalgic thing. It’s not anything like that usually. But it was a really good record for me and I was proud of it. But it was like the 13th year anniversary or something, it wasn’t even planned right, really. But whatever, it was fun and I like those songs.
I don’t even have that many songs, so I always play all of my songs.
MF: So can we expect a similar set list this time around?
ED: Yeah, well I’m actually doing another covers record just for the hell of it. So, I’m just recording that now. We did a Lou Reed song. It’s real obscure stuff, so I think I might play some of those songs.
MF: That’s awesome! On your last covers album Varshons (2009), you collaborated with a lot of other interesting people including Liv Tyler, Kate Moss and John Perry. Are you doing any collabs on this record?
ED: This time I just sort of worked with my girlfriend and her sister and people like that actually. And have you ever heard of Willy Mason? Well, he plays guitar on it. So yeah, that should be out soon. I think in May.
MF: Awesome! Hopefully that means you’ll have a reason to return to Australia for another tour soon.
ED: Yeah, definitely!
To learn more about Taronga Zoo and Twilight at Taronga’s conservation efforts, here here. And while you’re at it, check out the Wildlife Witness App, a global community action app that fights against illegal wildlife trade.
The Lemonheads 2018 Australian Tour Dates
Thursday, 1st March
Taronga Zoo, Sydney
Tickets: Handsome Tours
Friday, 2nd March
Rad Bar, Wollongong
Tickets: Handsome Tours
Saturday, 3rd March
Red Hill Auditorium, Red Hill
Tickets: Red Hill Auditorium
Wednesday, 7th March
Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Tickets: Handsome Tours
Thursday, 8th March
The Gov, Adelaide
Tickets: Handsome Tours
Saturday, 10th March
Josef Chromy Wines, Launceston
Sunday, 11th March
Mt Duneed Estate, Geelong