THE DRUGS DON’T WORK “It was a bad day,” says Dando (here with Hatfield) of the New York magazine story. “But drugs are something I’m trying to get away from, and I’m taking steps now to get out of it.”
Evan Dando and Juliana Hatfield were never a serious couple, and they never played music together for very long. Yet the pair have always embodied a certain romantic image, as intimate friends held together by love, music, and dysfunction.
As collaborators, they've tended to find each other at the most important times. Dando was one of Hatfield's first inspirations, and he joined her in the formative days with the Blake Babies. Hatfield then joined Dando in the Lemonheads long enough to record that band's definitive album, 1992's It's a Shame About Ray. The pair's attachment has also found its way into their songs: Dando not only addressed the playful sexual come-on "It's About Time" to Hatfield but got her to sing on it. More recently, she declared her affection in "Evan," the sweetest song on this year's Peace & Love (Ye Olde Records).
Their current mini-tour, which hits Great Scott in Allston for two nights this week (Monday is sold out), marks their debut as an acoustic duo. And once again it comes at a loaded time. Hatfield has been disenchanted with the music business, and she was intending Peace & Love to be her final album. Dando's been dealing with dry spells — both personal (he and his wife recently split) and musical (he hasn't written any songs since the new Lemonheads line-up's homonymous album in 2006).
Hatfield's song was one of the things that got them together; she wrote it last year after meeting up with him at a Lemonheads show. "We had just re-established contact after a few years of estrangement," she says from her parents' home in Duxbury. "I didn't know what to expect after not seeing him for a long time — you never know if you're going to get the up Evan or the down Evan. When I wrote about 'shafts of light that dart down between the trees,' that's the part of Evan I was describing. Being his friend can be hard, and it's only lately that I've come to accept him as he is and not want to change him."
It's the up Evan who answers the phone when I call him in New York. "I never knew I could be part of a nostalgia trip, but this is really fun," he says of the tour. "This is the one friendship that's managed to last all the years. She was feeling disillusioned and bored with music, and I said, 'Hey, before you go ahead and not play ever again, let's play together.' " He says they've already started planning an album together, with her putting words to musical bits he's come up with.
But the dysfunction side of the equation has also reared its head. Two weeks ago, New York magazine did an interview story that basically outed Dando as a still-active junkie, or at least as someone who keeps burnt spoons and cotton wads on his coffee table. "That really pissed me off," he says. "Okay, she caught me in the middle of a relapse. It was a bad day, but drugs are something I'm trying to get away from, and I'm taking steps now to get out of it. I'm bored with drugs — it's not like some alchemy anymore where you stay up for four days. That's good enough reason to stop."