We chat with Everclear
It has been 14 years since Everclear’s last disaster-plagued Australian tour. Stolen instruments, explosives, and a shoe to the face, coupled with escalating tensions between lead singer Art Alexakis and former members Craig Montoya and Greg Eklund saw the tour abandoned.
Thankfully, the singer bears no residual ill will towards the land down under, “Melbourne’s one of my favourite places in the world. Every time I go there I almost don’t come home. If it was just my wife and I, we would probably stay, but we’re bringing the babies so we have to come home,” Alexakis gushes.
“It just hasn’t been the perfect storm of having the right record, the right promoter, the right band. It was like ‘wow, it has been 14 years since we have been there.’ I knew it had been a while but I didn’t realise it had been that long. It was like ‘this is terrible’ but I really have no excuse” he laughs, “but that is why we’re coming back now.”
In the decade or so since Everclear were last on our shores, the band has undergone a drastic overhaul. Originally a three piece, Everclear return as a five piece with Alexakis being the only original member still in the mix.
“We have been a five piece since, God, 2000?” recalls Alexakis, “I just like having an extra guitar player and an extra keyboard player” he explains. “When we’re live we can recreate the records a little bit more. I don’t like using tracks, I don’t like using Pro Tools and stuff like that. I like it all to be real, I like playing with musicians.”
When asked about the new Everclear offering, Invisible Stars which at the time of publishing did not have an Australian release date, the vocalist is cryptic and vague on details: “It is a rock n roll record. I don’t know when it is coming out in Australia; we haven’t made a choice of record label in Australia yet. We have had a couple of offers and we are talking about it so we are still trying to figure out what we are going to do there. We will definitely figure it out before the tour.”
Almost as an afterthought Alexakis muses aloud “I realised a couple of months ago that the 20 year anniversary of World Of Noise is coming up,” the band’s official debut album – recorded in a friends basement and released in 1993. “I think I’m going to put out a 20th anniversary of that because I own that record.”
After some gentle prodding he relents and admits Invisible Stars is more aggressive than the Everclear of recent times. Though he can acknowledge the renewed aggression in his music, Alexakis is at a bit of a loss as to explain where exactly it comes from. “I’ve moved back to California where it is all sunshine-y and I don’t know, I’m happy in my life but I’m pissed off when I’m writing. I don’t think you have to make everything bad; some things are good in your life, some things are not so good, you just talk about it.”
The current state of popular music however is something that strikes a nerve with Alexakis. “It is kind of reminding me of the time right before Nirvana hit and there was all this horrible pop music… I think every 20-30 years music needs a kick in butt, culture needs a kick in the butt and I am waiting for something that is going to do that. Like punk rock did, like hip hop did, like Nirvana and a lot of the alternative bands did. We are in need of a big kick in the butt.”
With a back catalogue that is steeped in heartache, death and sadness; when asked, any Everclear fan is quick to point out Alexakis’ humour and love for a silver lining.
When asked about the hint of redemption that can be found in even his darkest songs, the 50- year-old is philosophical, “I think it is just indicative of my personality. I always believe that in any situation there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.”
“There are dark things in life sometimes,” the singer philosophises, “and I like to express that but there is always a form of light at the end of the tunnel… Life is a rollercoaster, man, it goes up and down. You can always count on it – if you’re up, you can always count on it going down but it will always come back up so you got to hang in there.”
“My music is always very upbeat and melodic but my lyrics are always depressing” he concedes with a chuckle, “it’s kind of my thing, it’s what I do”
As the conversation inevitably turns to ‘Santa Monica’, arguably Everclear’s biggest hit and now a cover band staple, the question must be asked – does he ever get sick of singing it? Alexakis simply answers “No” before elaborating “I don’t because it is important to people. I have a problem with bands that don’t play their hits. Every night when I play ‘Father Of Mine’ I have to get in that mode, I have to get angry, I have to get in touch with that 8-year-old that I wrote that song for. All of the damage, all of the hurt, all of the abuse that went on; I have to get in touch with that every night.”
Even now, nearly 20 years since Everclear first formed, Alexakis’ voice is soaked with adoration for being able to do what he loves most and he happily concludes ; “you connect with people and that is why I do what I do. I love playing music; I love all of the things that come with it. I’m not a great guitar player, I’m not a great singer, I think I’m a good songwriter and when you put all three together with the right band you can connect with people and that is what it’s all about.”