Interview with Art Alexakis of Everclear
If you came of age in the mid 1990’s to the early naughts, then you undoubtedly know the band ‘Everclear’. Their hits like ‘Santa Monica’, ‘Father of Mine’, ‘So Much For The Afterglow’, and ‘I Will Buy You a New Life’, were radio staples whose content truly spoke to their audience.
Their music connected with young fans so strongly that in recent years they have put together a Summer tour with other notable rock bands from that era.
We spoke with their front man, Art Alexakis, just before the Summerland Tour hit the road on June 11th.
Independent Philly: You just released your latest album ‘Black Is The New Black’ back in April. How has the fan response been so far?
Art Alexakis: The fan response has been phenomenal. Most reviews have been great. I’ve seen a few questionable ones but even those are three stars out of four. Everything else has been four stars out of five or even five out of five. It’s weird that this late in my career I’m getting the best reviews I’ve ever gotten. It’s not a hip record, but it’s timely. It’s the heart and soul of an Everclear record; we’ve contemporized the sound a bit and people are picking up on it, which is cool.
IP: Everclear has been around for over 20 years. If you could go back in time to 1993, what advice would you give yourself?
AA: I would have told myself to not take it all so seriously, and to just have more fun with it through the whole process. I think that back in the day, when I was working so hard, I put the blinders on and I didn’t allow myself to enjoy the success, you know? I just kept working. I think I should have had more fun and just lightened up on everybody around me.
IP: What do you consider to be the biggest ‘Rock Star’ moment of your career?
AA: I don’t really think too much about rock star moments. I guess it would be playing Woodstock ’99 and hearing a couple hundred thousand people singing my words back to me while we were playing ‘Santa Monica’.
IP: That sounds pretty rock star to me.
AA: Yeah, it was pretty cool.
IP: Your ‘Summerland Tour’ is heading into it’s fourth year of pairing Everclear with other bands who also gained a lot of notoriety in the 90’s. This year you’ll be touring with ‘The Toadies’, ‘Fuel’, and ‘American Hi-Fi’. If you could bring back any three bands from the 90’s for the Summerland Tour 2016, who would they be?
AA: Dead or alive?
IP: Either one, it’s hypothetical.
AA: Well ‘Nirvana’ of course. I think ‘Stone Temple Pilots’ back in the day were an amazing rock band. I’d love to see them with Scott [Weiland], if Scott could ever get his act back together again. They are doing really great again now, I think the version now is really cool. That’s two… and I love ‘Cake’, I’d really love to have Cake on it. ‘Presidents of the United States [of America]’ too.
IP: Why did you choose to name the band after a potent brand of alcohol?
AA: Because we are pretty innocuous looking little white boys that played pretty serious music. When we came up, the sound was a lot of feedback and big guitars and ballads. I liked the dichotomy 0f Everclear, that it looks like water but it’s really just pure evil. It’s got very little water in it, I think it’s 190 proof, or 180 proof.
IP: Yeah, 190.
AA: Yeah so I liked that dichotomy of looking innocent but packing a punch and I just thought the word would roll off the tongue really well. I was amazed that there had been no big band named Everclear, I thought it was the perfect name for a band. I thought that one night when I was super drunk on Everclear when I was like 14 (laughs).
IP: Many of your songs deal with personal and often difficult life events. Do fans often reach out to you about their live events that are similar to those you sing about? If so, is there one of those interactions that has been especially rewarding for you?
AA: I’d say everyday, and I’m not saying that lightly. Everyday someone writes to me or comes up and tells me some story about how a particular song, or my music in general, has helped them. I think it’s because I write from the first person, I write very intensely, and I write about things that a lot of people don’t want to talk about, and I think that really connects with some people. I guess the one that really sticks out in my mind is this girl who lives in Australia had written me, I guess since she is 12 years old she’s gone through troubles and problems, and she found my email and wrote me. I usually don’t respond to people who write me on my personal email, but it was such an intense letter from a little girl who was considering suicide. I just wrote her back like a dad, like I would to my own daughter, and just told her that it gets better. That’s just a rough time, being that age, going through all of those hormonal changes, and I just told her that it was gonna be okay. She writes now and she wrote a piece about it on a blog, I can’t recall the name of it, but I read it a few weeks ago. She’s doing really well and went to college and she remembers that incident very well.
IP: If you woke up tomorrow morning as a Zombie, who is the first musician you would eat?
AA: (laughs) Probably myself. Don’t most Zombies tend to cannibalize themselves first? Figuratively and literally. Whomever I could get my hands on I guess if I was a Zombie. You’re talking about a very intelligent, pointed, directed Zombie who’s just looking for musicians…I’m not going to take the bait dude (laughs).
IP: Okay well then let’s say you already have this stomach full of whomever it was that you’ve just eaten, and your next task is to bring back some deceased musicians to comprise the new Zombie All-Star version of Everclear (being that your current band mates split when you tried to eat them at rehearsal). Who are you bringing back to rock the stage with you?
AA: (laughs) Man, where’d you come up with these? These are good. I don’t know. Everclear huh? Because if I was going to bring back dead musicians it wouldn’t sound like Everclear.
IP: If the Zombie version of you doesn’t want to reprise Everclear, it could be a completely new Zombie band.
AA: I would bring back Al Jackson, the original drummer with Otis Redding, Booker T., and the M.G.’s because he’s one of the best drummers of all time. All I can think of is drummers. If I could play with a young Levon Helm zombie, that’d be awesome. Bass player? Hmmm, well he’s not dead yet but he’s going to be dead sometime in the next 10-15 years, Paul McCartney, as a bass player and co-writer, that’d be pretty awesome. Guitar player? I don’t know, my favorite guitar players are still alive. I’m like a Joe Santiago, Marc Ribot guy; I’m a minimalist. Chuck Berry, is still alive? He might be. I don’t know, have you talked to him recently?
IP: I have not.
AA: You never know. Why am I blanking on guitar players? All of my favorites are still alive.
IP: Tell us something about yourself that would surprise or even shock our readers…
AA: I’m a total, just 100%, spaz in life. I don’t think people get that about me and they probably think I’m drunk or something. I trip over everything (laughs). I also don’t think people realize how much of a band Everclear is. They think it’s just me but it is more of a band now than it ever was and I play with such talented musicians.
Fans in the area who want to check out the Summerland Tour can catch them in Morristown, NJ on June 21st (Mayo Performing Arts Center), in New York on June 23rd (Irving Plaza), and in Bethlehem, PA on June 25th at the Sands Bethlehem Event Center.
[Interview by David Miller]