“It’s a perfect time to come back now, I’ve got a killer band, most of us have been together for nine years, this is the right time, this is the right record and we’re coming back to a pretty much sold out tour, it’s gonna be great, it’s gonna be awesome.”
Everclear are back, even though they never went away. You may of course know of Everclear from songs like ‘Santa Monica’, ‘Volvo Driving Soccer Mom’, ‘Father Of Mine’, ‘Wonderful’ and many more but the sudden 90’s music resurgence has come at a perfect time for Everclear who in case you didn’t know, have released a new album this year and also founded and been part of the hugely successful ‘Summerland’ tour in the USA along with Sugar Ray, LIT, The Gin Blossoms and Marcy Playground.
About to embark on their first Australian tour in fourteen years, we had a great chat with Art Alexakis , the musical genius behind Everclear about their upcoming Australian tour, their new album ‘Invisible Stars’, reworking old songs and a great story about their most well-known hit ‘Santa Monica’…
Over to you Art.
It’s been a long time between visits to Australia and your last trip here I’m sure you want to forget about, so thank you for coming back some fourteen years later, what was it that finally got you back here?
Well I’ve always wanted to come back I think we pissed off our promoter because we cancelled shows and yeah that whole tour, I was having a good time but certain people they just wanted to go home, the whole thing blew over two weeks later, we got back together and toured and did the ‘Father Of Mine’ video and everything was groovy. It was just case of people being together too many shows, too little days and just when you get four guys together it’s like seeing America with four people , it just kinda sucks. It’s a perfect time to come back now, I’ve got a killer band, most of us have been together for nine years, this is the right time, this is the right record and we’re coming back to a pretty much sold out tour, it’s gonna be great, it’s gonna be awesome.
What can we expect to hear set wise at the shows down here?
You’ll hear mostly older songs and some new songs off ‘Invisible Stars’ our new album and some obscure songs, one song that we’re definitely going to play when we’re down there is a song called ‘Local God’ which was a big hit for us there as it was on the soundtrack for ‘Romeo and Juliet’ but up here it just never got played on the radio, so we went down there and the president of EMI was looking at the set list and said “Hey mate, where’s ‘Local God’?” I say, “I don’t play that song, that was a soundtrack song…” he said “You better play it, they’re playing it on the radio” so I was like “ooh…” So we’ve been playing it at shows here and it’s going over well but I know when we play it down there it’ll be a lot of fun. We’ll play all the hits and we’ll play some new songs and we’ll play a lot of songs that haven’t seen the light of day for a while, it’s gonna be awesome.
Speaking of your new album ‘Invisible Stars’ it’s great, we loved it, now it was six years between full studio albums, was this a planned length of time or did it just end up playing out that way?
It ended up playing out that way; I wasn’t ready to make a record. I think bands get in the cycle of writing, recording, touring, writing, recording, touring you don’t take time off to actually get some living done and have something to write about, some perspective to write about and it wasn’t even a conscious thing like that, in reality I just wasn’t ready to make a record. I had a new baby, my Mom passed away, my daughter graduated High School, there was just a lot of live being lived and it was really cool, played a bunch of shows with Everclear, but for the most part just writing and concentrating on my family. Then about two years ago I started writing songs to get buzz in my belly and to go make a record, that’s why you’ve got a band (laughs). I love the record, I’m glad you like it too, it’s a rocker.
Song wise, I know you just mentioned you had a lot going on, but was there a specific inspiration that allowed you to write what became Invisible Stars?
I think the band just started to gel a few years ago, and I really wanted to take them in the studio, like when we’re playing the old songs there’s so much energy and passion there that I thought would fully translate to a record really well. There were songs I’d started writing and sort of playing the guitar more downstairs at my Dad’s and set up a little amp and headphone and just jamming with myself, playing on an electric guitar and not writing on an acoustic, I think that really helped push the record in that direction.
In putting the album together with the band line up as it is now, how did that process feel compared to the making of previous albums and is this the quintessential line up of exactly how you want it to be?
Oh yeah, for sure, I mean two of the guys that are in the band now were on the last record back in ’06 and they’ve been in the band for eight or nine years and one guy for four years but we’ve been friends for fifteen, and I’ve been trying to get him in my band for fifteen years and the drummer has been in the band for three and a half years, he’s a hell of a guy, a phenomenal drummer. So when we’re in the studio man it’s such a tight regiment, there was no time for experimentation we had to go in for two or three tracks a day and everything on top of and the guys totally brought it, everybody brought it, I think the songs brought it, I think the performances brought it as well. So what you’re hearing is not like the old days when we had a budget to go in and make things exactly right, this is like, well we’ve played a couple of shows and we’ve got money so I want to go in and record vocals for these songs (laughs) basically that’s what it was, like we’ve got to redo the bass so let me make some more money and we’ll go in and redo the bass on these two songs, that kind of stuff. Seriously!
What I love about the album is it’s still instantly identifiable as Everclear, where many bands have ‘changed their sounds’ to suit the times. It seems you adapted more than changed, was this what you consciously wanted to do which is stay true to the sound of the band?
I absolutely did. I really wanted to make an Everclear record, and I think bands sometimes to be fair try too hard to sound different and I think like you said, an adaptation is exactly what I wanted, I wanted that classic Everclear sound, I’m not saying all our songs are classic but you know what I mean? What I do, but contemporise both in production and instrumentation and I think I hit it, I got pretty close to it.
Oh yeah, to me some of the songs sound like they could’ve come straight off ‘Sparkle and Fade’ from back in the day…
Thanks man, I mean there’s definitely that fire to it for sure, it gets better and we got the fire back now.
Last year and along the way you’ve reworked some of your biggest songs, what was it like to go back and revisit these tracks and release them in that manner?
Really, really bizarre but I think really helpful because it made me sing songs in a different light. I think when you play songs for fourteen years they evolve and through our years of staying true to it there are different inflections and different guitar parts and I had to go back and relearn some stuff and I guess that really helped me with perspective of where I was then and where I am now. It was bizarre but it was very helpful and I think they came out cool.
Now, you have no idea how jealous many of us down here were of the Summerland tour, what an amazing line-up that was! How much fun was that to be a part of?
It was so much fun man, I have some good ideas and I have some bad ideas and that was definitely one of my better ideas doing that tour. Doing it with Mark McGrath and all the other boys from all the other bands was just a blast, great friends and the fans were just digging it man, if you like 90’s music that was the place to be this Summer for sure.
Can you do us a favour and put in a good word with Lit, Sugar Ray and The Gin Blossoms to come down and see us too please?
I definitely will, as a matter of fact when you called I was just getting off the phone with Jeremy from LIT, I’ll tell them that you guys want them to come down for sure.
Looking back at probably your biggest hit, namely ‘Santa Monica’ that still gets a spin today, what do you think it was about this song specifically that people attached to?
I don’t know, it was just a song I think that was the right place at the right time, I don’t think we sounded like everybody else at the time, we sounded enough like alternative music at the time to get played on the radio, get played on MTV, not just nationally but internationally. At the same time I think that there was a uniqueness to it and a lot in it that appealed to people, I don’t know I just remember playing that song for my label guy and he was like “Oh yeah, that song right there, that’s the hit, seriously, it’s not quite right yet” and I was like screw you, you don’t know what you’re talking about, fine wait until I record it, you’ll get it. Then I recorded it and played it for him and he was like “Man, I’m convinced it’s a mass hit song but I’m also convinced it’s not done yet…” I’m like man, you don’t know what you’re talking about, do it yourself but here I’ll remix, I mixed it, he listened to it and said again “Man, I’m convinced it’s a mass hit song but I’m also convinced it’s not done yet…” so I was like screw you, I had full creative control, I wasn’t going to let anyone tell me what to do and then because of it I joked with him and said “OK, well so you know, just because of that, because of here, I wrote a new song called ‘You Make Me Feel Like A Whore’ how about that?” I was just joking and then I wrote the song (laughs) and then I went back in to the studio and made the song longer and extended it by one more chorus and he was like “Perfect” and I’m like OK, and we put it out. Whoever knows if he was wrong or right, but what are you gonna do?
The rest is history…
Pretty much yeah… we’ve had songs that have gotten played more, like ‘Father of Mine’ and ‘Wonderful’ was a big radio song that sold a lot of records too, so we’ve had a few hits, some sort of success. That first one though, there’s no repeating it, it’s like your first love, man, you can never get over it, and it’s always there.
And I guess you’ll be playing it until the day you die…
Absolutely, I even make jokes about it, I got a baby at forty five, I got a horrible five year old plus I’ve got a twenty year old in college and I’m going to be playing that damn song until I’m ninety (laughs).
Back to Australia, do you have any fond memories of previous tours down here?
I have pretty much nothing but fond memories like the time I went to play golf and almost got beat up by a Kangaroo (laughs) in the bush. We went to Fremantle and went and saw Bon Scott’s grave, that was pretty cool, and just the time we showed up at the airport in Sydney the first time we came to Australia and there was almost 1,000 people waiting for us with banners and I’m like so this is what it feels like to be a Beatle, this is cool. That never happened in the States, I’m sure it’s not going to happen now, but that was a really special thing and I just love it down there. Australians are the one people that like Americans, the one place you can go in the world and be American and not necessarily get beat up (laughs), all joking aside, it’s just a great culture and you like your rock and roll, man.
Looking back at the last 20 years, in your career is there anything you would’ve or could’ve done differently?
Well… I don’t know if I would’ve done it differently, but I wasn’t very good at playing the game, still not, I didn’t got to big parties, I got invited to them but it wasn’t my thing man, still isn’t, I don’t know if I would’ve done it differently but I think I would’ve had a different career if I’d been more political about it, but I don’t know, I am who I am.
And we love you for it…
Thanks man. (laughs)
Catch Everclear in Australia at the following dates:
Wednesday 10 October Cooly Hotel. Coolangatta
With Special Guests Strangers
Sunday 14 October Capitol. Perth
From: Portland, OR, USA
Band members: Art Alexakis – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Davey French – Guitar, Vox, Freddy Herrera – Bass, Vox, Josh Crawley – Keyboards, Vox, Sean Winchester – Drums, Percussion, Vox
Latest release: Invisible Stars (eOne music) check out our review here