Evan Dando's model work ethic

The Lemonheads' frontman asked Kate Moss and Liv Tyler to sing on his new album. He tells James McNair why

Some musicians conduct their interviews in pristine, un-slept-in hotel rooms, but only a TV-set-shaped hole in the window could make Evan Dando's West London suite look more lived-in. The Lucky Strike ciggies that someone has purposefully disembowelled; the beer-soaked bed sheets and randomly strewn personal effects; these and other details make you wonder what went down in his room the previous night.

The likeable ball of amiability before me is the leader of 1980s and 1990s indie darlings The Lemonheads. He is breakfasting on vodka and orange. Despite retaining the Lemonheads moniker, the good-looking, Boston, Massachusetts-born singer/guitarist is effectively solo. Today, we have met to talk about his new album, Varshons, a skewed cover-versions collection that features Liv Tyler and Kate Moss on guest vocals.

Covers – witness The Lemonheads' grungy 1992 take on Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs Robinson" – have long augmented Dando's fine originals, but on Varshons he tackles obscure and (for him) unlikely material, as well as obvious crowd-pleasers such as Gram Parsons' "I Just Can't Take It Anymore". The Christina Aguilera hit "Beautiful" is re-invented à la Led Zeppelin's "Thank You", and there is a trippy take on "Yesterlove", a song by Motörhead's Lemmy's pre-Hawkwind band, Sam Gopal.

"People are too hung up on trying to write new songs when there are so many great ones out there already", says Dando. "Patsy Cline and Elvis Presley probably wrote about three songs between them, but it didn't do them any harm. A lot of the material I've chosen here came from mix-tapes – or mix CDs, actually – that my friend Gibby [Haynes] of the Butthole Surfers made for me. He's really generous that way – he'll fill an iPod with songs and give it to people."

Dando and the aforementioned Liv Tyler go back a bit. He first met the actress in 1994 when he played her demanding boyfriend in the 1995 film Heavy. The pair became firm friends, Dando famously co-writing the song "C'mon Daddy" for her with the late Kevin Paul Godfrey, aka UK indie act Epic Soundtracks. "C'mon Daddy" addressed Tyler's paternity; specifically her discovering, aged nine, that her father was Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler, and not – as her famous model mother Bebe Buell had maintained – Todd Rundgren.

On Varshons, Tyler duets with Dando on his version of Leonard Cohen's "Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye". "I think Liv sounds really bounteous and American" says Dando, "kinda like Marilyn Monroe singing 'Happy Birthday" to JFK. She has a great voice. Liv came down and sang that song in the only six-hour window she had available."

Elsewhere, Kate Moss sexes up Dando's take on "Dirty Robot", a song by Belgian dance duo Arling and Cameron. "I think it sounds better than a lot of the stuff she's done before", says my host. "It was great to hear her sing in that cold, clinical way."

Dando occasionally strums his battered Gibson acoustic as we chat. Its front is decorated with photos: a shot of his goddaughter and one of his English fashion-model wife, Elizabeth Moses. The guitar's headstock has a little sticker depicting cartoon character Roadrunner. "That was a present from a girl called Estelle", says the singer. "She also gave me that dress I wore at Reading in 1993."

The previous year's It's A Shame About Ray album saw The Lemonheads go stratospheric, but their effortlessly charming leader was using crack cocaine and God knows what else. Adrift, yet still game, he befriended Oasis and squandered his talent on tambourine on their 1994 UK tour. Something had to give, and the story of "Hospital", from The Lemonheads 1996 album Car Button Cloth, is telling: Dando wrote it at Boston's Silver Hill Hospital after an acid-induced breakdown in Sydney, Australia.

The singer tells me he's working on a new album, and kindly strums me a few bars of a work in progress. The chords and guitar melodies are beautiful, but there are no lyrics yet. Dando says a piano at home would help, as would a change of scenery.

He and Elizabeth live in Manhattan "just two blocks from where the Twin Towers were", but he doesn't want to stay to see The Freedom Tower go up. He wants to move to Red Brook, Brooklyn, where he can smell the ocean. "I love fishing for bass and skipjack tuna" says the singer. "My pop's got a boat on Martha's Vineyard that I can go to. I caught a big striped bass there once. Twenty pounds. A keeper. Latin name morone saxatilis. Unfortunately he twitched his head and the hook went through my finger. I drove to the emergency ward with the fishing rod stuck to my hand; Elizabeth was freaking out."

Would he still be happy if he wasn't able to do music professionally? "What, like if I was doing drugs and I messed up my tendons? I've thought about that, believe me." He adds, "Right now I'm doing a book with a friend of mine who does these amazing drawings, and we're using the letters of the word 'pesto' as the basis for 35 acronyms. We've got some great ones like 'Pearl emerges shining, thanks, oysters!' The visuals should be great."

"Varshons" is out on Cooking Vinyl

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
    Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

    That's a bit rich

    The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
    Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
    Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

    Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

    Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests