Exclusive Interview with Everclear’s Art Alexakis
Before his show with Everclear and Collective Soul at The Soaring Eagle Casino in Mt. Pleasant, Everclear frontman Art Alexakis spoke with me over phone on all things rock.
The year is 1995. Sparkle and Fade was just released by alternative rock band Everclear. Their second album, So Much for the Afterglow follows two years later, and along comes Songs from an American Movie: Vol. One. The late nineties brought Everclear platinum albums and commercial success.
Their deeply personal narrative songs told a story of drugs, suicide, sex, and deadbeat dads. Everclear brought these dark topics to light, and in return, gained the hearts and ears of millions of listeners across the globe.
Art Alexakis, lead singer of Everclear, spoke about his reaction to their surprised success. “I just write things I know,” Alexakis said. “I was surprised that anything I had done had become so successful. Because I had never been successful before. I grew up very poor and I’ve been fighting my whole life, so when I became popular as a songwriter and singer, and my band became popular, that was weird.”
All this success didn’t bring happiness, however. Though night after night, town after town, Alexakis was under a spotlight as a lead singer, he felt far from a leading man. “Everyone I’ve ever talked to feels the exact same way,” Alexakis said. “When they were just taking off, they were miserable. Miserable. And it just makes no sense.”
“And I kind of feel like you’re a deer caught in the headlights. You don’t really know what’s going on. Especially, if you come from a place like most artists, where you struggle your whole life and then all of a sudden, it seems like you’re having sudden success,” Alexakis said. “But it’s not sudden success.”
But the band’s success was nowhere near overnight. “I had been playing in bands for almost 20 years when I got success,” Alexakis said. “We got our first platinum record when I was 34. That’s 18 years of playing in bands. It’s a hard road of hope. People do it because they love it.”
Years later, Everclear continues to put out the hits. The band just finished their ninth studio album. While music will always be a consistent part of Alexakis’ life, he now has something less familiar to him. Happiness.
“I’m in a great marriage, I’ve got great kids. Everybody’s healthy,” Alexakis said. “I’m not rich, my bills are paid, I’m not in trouble with the IRS or anybody like that. I’m just in a good place right now. I work hard, I live hard, and I can sleep well at night. It’s good stuff.”
While the band became a mainstay in alternative radio airwaves alongside Lit, Collective Soul, The Cranberries, Eve6 and Incubus, in the late nineties and early 2000’s, frontman Alexakis still laughs at the label.
“What people called alternative music in the 90s was just another name for melodic guitar rock, that everybody was playing,” Alexakis said.
“Because all of us guys that were in bands, guys and gals, grew up in the seventies listening to Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and Cheap Trick and bands like that. And then as we got older, we got into punk rock and then the new wave and Jane’s Addiction and The Pixies, and all that stuff. That helped, along with other things, helped make each band, that’s what was happening in the 90s.”
“I always laugh when people call it alternative rock, because it’s not really an alternative to anything. It’s commercial rock’n’roll. It’s great guitar songs on the radio. I loved it,” Alexakis said.
“I loved it then. I’m hoping it will come back in some way, shape or form. It will be different. I know there’s a lot of young rock bands coming up.
“While current bands like The Pretty Reckless and The Lumineers are on Alexakis’ radar, his ties to the similar 90s bands are never far away. The Summerland Tour goes from town to town every summer. Previous lineups have included Everclear, Eve 6, Soul Asylum, Spacehog, LIVE, Filter, and Sponge. And the 2015 lineup is already in the works, hoping to be announced by the first of November, according to Alexakis.
But before that, there will be a smaller string of shows. “It’s just Songs and Stories by Art Alexakis. I’m just doing a solo tour,” Alexakis said.
“It’s just me playing songs, some hits, a lot of fan favorites, a couple of new songs. Telling stories about them; the story behind it, what was going on, maybe some pictures. But it’s just going to be intimate, small…people singing songs, laughing and telling jokes. Maybe people coming up on stage being dorks. It will be fun. That’s how we do things,” Alexakis said.
While the 52 year old rocker continues to put on the live shows, including a Michigan stop Friday, Oct. 3 at Soaring Eagle Casino in Mt. Pleasant, MI with Collective Soul, the frontman says it’s all about good fun.
“If you’re not having fun … you need to get a new job. That’s gonna be on my headstone I think,” said Alexakis.