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



Dermot O'Leary attends the X Factor Wembley Arena auditions at Wembley on August 1, 2014 in London, England.


Arts and Entertainment
At this year's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas

Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing
    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower