By Graeme Wiggins
Ending a 10-year hiatus with an album of covers is one way to shrug off any expectations. It’s certainly in keeping with The Lemonheads’ Evan Dando’s way of doing things.
The Lemonheads seemed poised for greatness in the mid-90s; the combination of Dando’s model looks, musical hooks and slacker charm seemed destined to take the world by storm. But a combination of constant touring, drugs and off-stage antics made for a slim discography. They took a nine year hiatus starting in 1997, then released two albums between 2006 and 2009, the latter all covers. Ten years later, they’re back with a sequel: Varshons II.
“I’m competing for the most slacker of all time because I haven’t finished my own record yet,” says Dando. “I like other people’s songs. It’s kind of a cool thing to do.”
It was also a nice way to get his feet wet back in the studio after a long break. “Been writing a bunch, but don’t really have enough for a new album so I went in to record a bunch of covers as something to tour on until I get my album done. I like going into the studio and letting it inspire me. It was fun.”
The first Varshons album came about from trading mixtapes with album producer (and Butthole Surfers frontman) Gibby Haines. It was an eclectic assortment of songs that avoided clichéd choices. The new one is also diverse with a brilliant Lucinda Williams cover (“Abandoned”) alongside punks The Eyes and Nick Cave.
“A lot of them I’ve been doing for years. Wouldn’t do something like ‘Pale Blue Eyes’ or something classic of all time, just songs that I really like.”
There were some sacred songs that couldn’t be touched, to keep the album fresh. “No Velvet, no Stooges, no Modern Lovers. No Hendrix.” But there is an Eagles song (“Take It Easy”) on there, and “Round Here” by country superstars the Florida Georgia Line, which seems delightfully out of character. “I like that song. It’s a hard one to like. It’s a little overblown, a little over-produced. But it’s a great song.”
After this tour, Dando hints at the possibility of a new record.
“Going to start recording a new album. I have a bunch of songs, and we’ll hit the studio soon. Like a back to school thing. Get a new record out.”
As much as he might be construed as a slacker king, his perfectionist streak is really the only hold up: “It’s not easy. I don’t want to do it until it’s really good and I haven’t got there yet. I’m trying. I’ve done a lot of records I’m really proud of so I don’t want to do one until I’ll be really proud of it. I should be ready soon.”
Until then we have some great covers and a tour of the hits. Hopefully the recent hiatus will be the last and The Lemonheads will be back in full.
The Lemonheads perform Thursday, May 18 at the Rickshaw TheatreRickshaw Theatre, The Lemonheads