ARCHIVES: Everclear vocalist Art Alexakis basks in ‘Afterglow’ before Mt. Airy Casino show in the Poconos
“When I was four years old, I asked for an electric guitar and an organ and a drum set. Even then, I was a control freak.”
He believes that every young boy growing up in the suburbs of Los Angeles in the 1960s shared that same dream, but few got to live it. After hearing The Beatles on the radio, “there was just no going back” for the ambitious singer and guitarist.
Alexakis leaned towards “heavy, hard, fast, and melodic” punk rock and new wave music, but he also had an affinity for twangy country music from his mother, so after playing in some alternative country bands, the San Francisco cowpunk scene inspired Colorfinger. While the group didn’t last long, some of its songs evolved into the foundations of Everclear after Alexakis moved to Portland, Oregon.
Focused on getting signed to a major label and “never saying no” to a gig, Everclear was picked up by Capitol Records in 1994 for their second full-length album, “Sparkle and Fade,” producing the singles “Santa Monica” and “Heroin Girl.” It was their next record, however, 1997’s “So Much for the Afterglow,” that made Everclear more than just a brand of grain alcohol with radio hits “I Will Buy You a New Life,” “Father of Mine,” and “Everything to Everyone.”
Alexakis’ bold, honest lyrics made those alternative power pop songs instantly relatable, so rather than hide from his family history of drug use, suicide, and a deadbeat dad, he shared it with the world.
“I think it kind of comes natural. I learned a long time ago from watching other people that if you have a checkered past, which I do, the more you try to hide it, the more people are trying to use that against you, so to me it’s just like, ‘Fuck it, man, just live it.’ Put it out there. Be honest – be what it is. Don’t lie about anything,” he advised, though he emphasized that not every song he writes is autobiographical.
“‘Father of Mine’ is, for sure, but you know, I dig into myself and take things that are there, but I take stuff from other places. A lot of times I’ll build composites from different places.
“Something that shows humanity and shows a light at the end of the tunnel – those tend to be reoccurring themes in my writing. I like to build characters that breathe and make mistakes and do great things and miss and fail sometimes and win sometimes. I think life itself is way more interesting than most fiction.”
Taking bits of life “when people aren’t watching,” the bleach blonde, tattooed rocker not only wanted to write authentically, but he also aimed to spark emotion, no matter what it would be.
“What I get from people as far as the lyrics go is that they feel like I talk about things that make them feel like they’re not so weird or not so alone, that someone else has gone through those situations before. That’s huge,” he noted.
“When I was writing ‘Father of Mine,’ I knew that it was going to connect with some people and piss some people off… but I love the idea of pissing people off. If you’re not pissing somebody off, you’re not doing something right.”
He must have pleased more than he angered, however, as Everclear’s songs are still played regularly on rock radio today; Art laughs whenever someone tells him the band is overplayed.
“I’m on the radio, dude. What are you talking about? ‘Yeah, but you’re played too much.’ I don’t think I’m played too much. My bills are paid! What are you talking about ‘played too much?’ People are singing my songs. People are paying for tickets to see my shows. How is that played too much?” he emphasized with a laugh.
Only growing more observant and self-effacing with age, Alexakis has continued on through several incarnations of Everclear, most recently releasing 2012’s “Invisible Stars” on a shoestring budget as if only a year or two had passed between his third and eighth album.
“It just sounds like it’s written by a guy who’s 50 years old that’s been in bands for 25… 30 years… Oh God, 35 years! I’m getting depressed now. I’m going to go have some chocolate,” he joked.
Sober for almost 24 years, his keen eye and dark sense of humor are still as sharp as ever on songs like “Be Careful What You Ask For.”
“You want to be free? You want to act like a teenager your whole life? Be careful what you ask for. You want to be rich and famous? You want to be in a huge band? Be careful what you ask for, because rarely does life turn out the way it looks on paper,” he observed.
“I think that that’s a good thing. I think that that’s part of the human experience.”
Songs from an American decade
Even though Everclear has released five full-length records since 2000, the band may always be considered part of that 1990s experience, though it’s a designation Alexakis fully embraces.
Forming the successful Summerland Tour of ’90s acts like Gin Blossoms, Marcy Playground, and Lit with Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath last year, he is getting ready to announce his own nostalgic tour soon once all the acts are signed.
“There were some really great songs, and people love those songs. Why not go out and play them for people who want to hear them? I don’t think there’s any defeat in that; I don’t think there’s any failure in that. I’m proud to have had hit songs. Do you know how hard it is to have a hit song and how rare it is to have more than one hit song in one band? We have five flat-out hit songs. I’m proud of them, and I will always play them,” Alexakis acknowledged.
“People get wrapped up in that because I think managers and writers and agents and stuff like that say, ‘You don’t want to be pigeonholed into being a ’90s band.’ You are a ’90s band. That’s when you were big. That was the time when your songs were contemporarily on the radio. Own it. That doesn’t define you.”
Instead, as he looks forward to his upcoming show at Mount Airy Casino Resort in Mount Pocono on Saturday, March 2, he continues to define himself as a fiercely independent individual, looking to tackle producing, writing books, experimenting with other bands, but always touring as Everclear.
“My whole thing is really simple – I want to do what makes me excited, that’s fun to do. If it isn’t fun to do, I don’t want to do it. If I’m touring with people that I don’t like, I don’t do it. It’s not fun! I’ve done it. I did it for years,” he stated.
“I’ve always been that way; I’m just to a point now where I put up with a lot less shit. Look, I’ve got to go home and get yelled at by a 5-year-old. I’m not going to get yelled at by you. I’ll take it from my daughters and my wife – I ain’t taking it from anybody else.”
Location: Mount Airy Casino Resort (312 Woodland Rd., Mt. Pocono)
Date: Saturday, March 2
Time: 8 p.m.