Learning How to Smile with Everclear’s Art Alexakis (Interview)

Learning How to Smile with Everclear’s Art Alexakis (Interview)

art twitter picSinger/songwriter Art Alexakis has fronted the alternative/rock band Everclear for more than twenty years, achieving huge mainstream success with singles such as Father of Mine, Wonderful, Santa Monica, Rock Star, and I Will Buy You a New Life.

Despite the band’s success, it hasn’t always been an easy path for Alexakis – feuds with record labels, frequent lineup changes and other obstacles have sprung up as potential detours.

Despite those bumps in the road, Alexakis remains committed – Everclear (and its new lineup) is preparing to release a new album and embark on another successful summer tour.

For the next couple of months, Alexakis and the band are back out on the road for the second annual Summerland Tour – pitting them alongside Soul Asylum, Eve 6 and Spacehog for a night of classic 1990s hits.

Enjoy a new interview with Alexakis below – he spent some time speaking with Rock Cellar Magazine about the tour, the current state of the music industry, his hobbies outside Everclear and much more.

Rock Cellar Magazine: Tell us about this year’s Summerland Tour. What are you looking forward to out on the road for the next couple of months?

Art Alexakis: Fans should expect a whole lot of rock & roll. I go in and out of different types of genres that I like, but it always comes back to guitar, bass & drums – rock & roll. And I think the alternative music of the 1990s was a bunch of kids like me that grew up listening to rock radio back in the ‘70s – Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, KISS, stuff like that.

And then it evolved through punk rock, New Wave, the ‘80s indie stuff like the Replacements, Husker Du, the Pixies, Jane’s Addiction…and I think that’s what helped create the sound of the ’90s. Because that’s basically what we are – singer/songwriters playing big, heavy guitar songs. But with melody and a little bit of noise for good measure.

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So with that in mind, what you’re going to hear is a bunch of ’90s bands, I mean – my criteria has always been to have bands from the ’90s that had huge, iconic hits but at the same time are still real bands. These bands are bands that still tour and put out records, there’s none of those bands coming out of retirement to play this tour and make enough money to pay their mortgage. That’s not what’s going on.

Rock Cellar Magazine: It’s great that you got Spacehog on the tour this time around, they’ve been doing their thing for a while and are still pretty much under-the-radar since the ‘90s.

Art Alexakis: They’ve been a band, they just didn’t tour for a while. They’re putting out records, they’re touring a little bit. This is their first national tour in I think 11 years.

Rock Cellar Magazine: On a larger scale, what is it about the music of that era that makes this tour successful? There are a few other versions of the same type of tour – some of them are the type of tours with bands obviously just reuniting to pay the bills, but then there are also tours with bands that have never stopped doing their thing since the ‘90s.

Art Alexakis: You know, it’s weird. We’re a band that never went away. We toured and put out records, we’ve been playing. There are people who just know us from radio, and they think “Oh, if I don’t hear ‘em on the radio then they must not be around anymore”. They’re fair-weather radio fans, and that’s cool. I’ve got no problem with that. Those are people that buy a lot of tickets to Summerland, because they’re fans not just of that band but of the era, of that music. There is a certain level of nostalgia that I don’t think is such a bad thing – I think it’s a healthy, good thing and part of the human condition.

But there’s a difference between nostalgia bands that go out year after year after year after year playing the same old songs and never put new songs into the set, never really treat it like a band, you know? That’s why I say: all these bands on Summerland are real bands, and I am super stoked to have Soul Asylum – who I grew up with in the ‘80s listening to them when they were like the stepchild of the Minneapolis scene, they were so punk-y and nasty. Dave Pirner wrote all those great songs, even back when they were super loud.

And Eve 6 has been – I’ve been a huge fan of their since they were in high school. We took Spacehog on tour back in ’96 and have always been friends and fans of those guys, too.

Getting all of these bands together for a three-hour show, short sets, everybody plays the hits and a couple of new songs, fan favorites, and boom you get out of the way. Even us, being the headliner, our set’s like 40-45 minutes. But that gives you three hours – with really quick ten or fifteen-minute changeovers – of hits, of songs that you know.

It’s like a three-hour singalong.

Rock Cellar Magazine: How’s the new Everclear album coming along?

Art Alexakis: Well, it’s done. I was just listening to it when you called, actually. It’s probably the biggest guitar record we’ve ever made, especially since Sparkle & Fade and World of Noise.

The difference between this one and (2012’s) Invisible Stars is that one was a return to a lot of, like, classic sounds for Everclear – as far as rock goes. But I still recorded that with all five members of the band. Whereas the new one was recorded mainly as a three-piece – me and Freddy my bass player and Sean my drummer.

We worked the songs out then went in the studio to record them. I did most of the guitar overdubs and then I brought my guitar player Davey to put some sparkle on just about every song since he’s such a killer guitar player. My keyboard player came in to do the same, and then everybody sang background vocals together, that sort of thing.

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This is pretty much how I did my old school records. I kind of just wanted to go back to what I knew, and make this an old punk rock record. Three guys in a room, recording. Very little overdubs, very little Pro-Tooling.

It sounds big, and contemporary, and heavy as hell.

It’s funny – Chad Taylor from Live, those guys own the studio we were recording at in New York. He was in Studio B with a producer friend of his, and I guess the door to Studio A had opened up. And he was like “Wow, man. Whoever’s in there right now sounds like Everclear. But like heavy, new Everclear.”

And Chad goes “Really? You know that song?”

The producer said “No, it just sounds like Everclear, like Art on guitar.” – which it was (laughs).

So that’s kind of my point, we have a sound that…whether it’s good or not – I’m obviously not the best guitar player, or the best singer in the world, but when I play and sing on my songs, it sounds like Everclear. It sounds like me.

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2 Responses to "Learning How to Smile with Everclear’s Art Alexakis (Interview)"

  1. Paolo   June 25, 2014 at 7:41 am

    Elizabeth-probably part of why I like Everclear so much is they are Portland based… the SONG refers to ‘buying a cloupa bags down in old town’–and the vision called up is SO CLEAR to me, but they definitely walked the Grungeline, which I love. (Oregon also sells Everclear–illegal in all the other states I’ve lived)DiscConnected–Welcome! You listen to Everclear, too? YAY! My daughter scratched our CD badly, so Heroine Girl cuts off mid song, but most of it is in tact.Kimberly-Sparkle and Fade is Everclear’s first CD, but being in Portland, they were the local boys, so we got them early.Lee–Yup–Pat Benatar on 8 track! I think the other one was the Guess Who or something–older. And I LOVED the Sonny and Cher show… Cher, the smart alec with her belly always showing… one of my early inspirations I think (if only I could sing!)

    Reply
  2. Sam   August 8, 2014 at 10:07 am

    Sparkle and Fade is not Everclear’s first cd; World of Noise is, and though technically not a full cd, White Trash Hell was before even that.

    Reply

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