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Nineties grunge groove returns
Nineties grunge groove returns

Evan Dando and Juliana Hatfield were to the 90s what Bob Dylan and Joan Baez were to the 60s, or Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez were to five minutes ago.

When the unglamorous couple of the grunge era announced they would do an acoustic tour of Australia together later this year, thoughts immediately turned back to the sweet, sweet music they made on the Lemonheads' classic 1992 album, It's a Shame About Ray.

And the news also conjured up rumours of a rekindled romance, something the pair emphatically deny. "No, no, no, no, no," Dando and Hatfield chimed in unison during a recent interview.

But there's no doubt the pair have rediscovered their chemistry, on stage and off. At times the conference call felt like the Evan and Juliana Show, minus alt-rock classics such as Confetti, It's About Time and Rudderless.

Dando says that they started playing together again in 2010 when he talked Hatfield out of an imminent retirement. "She was gonna quit doing music and I was like 'Ah, come on, before you quit doing music why don't you come on tour with me again, so you really wanna quit'," the 45-year-old perpetual teenager drawls from Los Angeles in the few minutes before Hatfield joins the conversation. "I've managed to cajole her into some touring and here we come to Australia, which should be really fun."

The mostly acoustic gigs see the duo play each other's songs and plenty of Lemonheads classics, as well as tell tales from the glorious 90s.

"I have a problem with stage patter," Dando says. "I never really do it, but it just happens with Jules and I. We have little tiffs on stage and it seems to work. It's a natural kind of thing, the rapport you get with people you've known since you were 18."

The pair met in 1986, when Hatfield, who had just formed alternative rock outfit Blake Babies, introduced herself to Dando in a pizza shop in their native Boston, Massachusetts the evening after she caught a Lemonheads gig. "Here's Juliana Hatfield comin' at you, live," Dando exclaims as she joins the interview from her hometown.

Once she had been talked into the tour, Hatfield says she really enjoyed reconnecting with the Lemonheads canon. "They're great songs and they have aged really well," she says. "They don't sound dated at all in the way that I think some of my songs are. The Lemonheads songs are ageless and classic."

"That's just because they're yours, you know," Dando says reassuringly. "You have that perspective on your own stuff and I have that same perspective on some of my stuff."

Fans have flocked to shows across the US to get a dose of 90s nostalgia, something Dando is not entirely comfortable with. "We were hoping it wouldn't be, but that's what it is," he says. "You've got to call a spade a spade and see it for what it is."

They do dip into some newer material, such as the song Evan off Hatfield's 2010 album Peace and Love. Yes, it's a torch song from her to him. "It's strangely not awkward at all to play that song," Hatfield insists.

The Australian tour winds up in Perth on December 22. While Hatfield will return home, Dando will spend Christmas and New Year with his Aussie mates. He'll try to write some new songs with Smudge mainstay Tom Morgan, whose new band Bambino Koresh will play support slots on the tour.

"I want Evan to write lots of new songs because I don't think he's written enough for me," Hatfield says. "I wanna hear more Evan songs."

And we may hear some new Lemonheads songs soon, with Dando letting slip that they'll head into an LA studio before the Australian tour. The other newsflash is that Hatfield is, once again, a Lemonhead.

"We can say we're trying to write new songs," Dando says sheepishly. "We might as well allow ourselves to say we're going to try to do something, but maybe not put any definitive labels on what it's going to be. It's in the early stages but it's going to happen really soon."

Evan Dando and Juliana Hatfield play the Rosemount Hotel on December 22, supported by Bambino Koresh. Tickets from the usual outlets.