Interview: Art Alexakis – Everclear Returns With A New Album And A Road Trip To Summerland

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I first met Art Alexakis around 1995 when I was Music Director at WHFS in DC.

Everclear was in studio to perform “Santa Monica” from their million plus selling Sparkle and Fade. Their follow up, So much for the Afterglow, went on to sell millions more and earned them a Grammy nomination.

Everclear is back with Invisible Stars, their first new album in six years- to be released June 26th. It’s a return to their vintage sound just in time for the Summerland Tour which features a line-up of hit-packed 90’s bands. We spoke with Art from his home in LA before the band was leaving to play for U.S. troops in Japan.

Weeping Elvis– It’s good to hear your voice. I wanted to start with asking you about The Other F Word – the documentary about punk dads which featured you and that recently aired on Showtime. How do you balance your life  with playing in a band and having a family?

Art Alexakis– Well, you’ve gotta pay the bills. I’m kind of old school like that. I was taught how to be a man by my mother.  That’s happening more and more. At the time I think I was kind of a beta test for divorce with kids because no one was really doing it until the late 60’s or early 70’s when families started exploding because women started figuring that if they didn’t like a situation and didn’t want that situation and they wanted something better for them and their kids, they could do it.  It’s what my mom did and I think I learned from that. I think what it comes to is I’ve tried to do what I think is right. I’ve been pretty good. (Laughs) If you talk to my ex-wives they’d probably tell you I didn’t do so good, but if you talk to my youngest daughter she thinks daddy is pretty awesome.  My oldest daughter is in college and doesn’t really talk to me at all but she still wants money. To be fair the money is for school, she’s doing really well in school and that’s kind of her deal right now. I’m just hoping things will come around.

WE– It sounds complicated.

AA– It’s super complicated but it’s simple in a way. I realized when my eldest daughter was born, the day she was born- I had an epiphany.  It had nothing to do with me it was more like life explained what is was about to me.  The day she was born I went home to get some clothes and I was just feeling overwhelmed in a way I’d never felt before. I literally felt like I had an elephant sitting on top of me, sitting on the couch.  It just came to my mind “I’m not first anymore.”  Once I realized that, once I embraced that, the pressure just went away. That didn’t mean I was going to stop doing music or do a job that I hate. I was going to try even harder to do that because I had a better chance to give her a better life by doing that. I felt deep inside I had the ability to do that.

WE Invisible Stars is out on June 26th, it’s the first album of all new material in six years. What were you up to during the break?

AA– The break was just, well I didn’t feel like writing a record. I didn’t feel like getting into that cycle.  A lot of things went on in my life, my mom passed away, I’d gone through a bankruptcy the year before, and a big divorce the year before that.  A mentor of mine, who was a therapist and someone I loved and who I really looked up to, died of a brain tumor- 04’ and 05’ were just crazy years for me.  I met the woman who would be my wife. In 07’ she got pregnant. I was living in Portland but I knew I wanted to get back to LA I was raising a kid who was in high school and who was getting ready for college and trying to do that dance. To be honest with you it just wasn’t coming out of me. In 09’ and 10’ though I started to write songs and they started sounding like songs on a record and I told the guys in the band- “we need to make a record.” By late 10’ my daughter was in college, my wife and I wanted to live somewhere warmer than Portland so we moved back to LA in January of 2011. We went into the studio around that time and started to record the beginnings of this record.  It took awhile to finish it. (Laughs) It always takes me awhile.

WE– Well, that makes sense though since you write, produce and do pretty much everything.

AA– In this case there’s a couple co-writes on the record, which I’d never done before. I sat down with people that had been suggested to me. Not big name people but just really great people and songwriters I had good chemistry with.

WE– You put the Summerland Tour together featuring: Sugar Ray, Lit, Marcy Playground, Gin Blossoms and of course Everclear.  You guys were all close to that last generation of bands that sold millions of albums. What are some of the biggest changes (positive or negative) that you’ve seen in the record industry?

AA– I don’t know whether it’s a positive or a negative but I’ll tell you it’s changed from when we first came up at the tail end of the golden era of the music industry when I like to say “money was just shooting out of the ground.” If you didn’t have anything, if you weren’t anybody you had no access to it. I would make jokes to people that we were going to mix our record in Barbados and it got approved. (Laughs).  I was just joking and the record company approved it and I wrote back to the record company: “are you crazy?” I would never get anything done and I would get divorced.  No.  We’re going to mix in some back woods studio. I always tried to not work in LA; there are so many distractions.

To answer your question in a long winded way one of the differences is back in the day when you would get into that record/tour cycle you’d make a record and you’d tour on it. The general belief was that you toured to support your record. Nowadays you make a record to support your tour. The difference seems subtle but it’s not, it’s huge.  You’re not really going to make any money off of making records- advances are ridiculously low. Labels are smarter about it. They’re still trying to make the profit they used to make but only on a smaller basis. They know they’re not going to sell a million records so they try to make more profit off 50,000 or 100,000 records. That whole attitude is changing. The model for labels is changing for the better- it’s just taking awhile.

The positives of it are social media. I think the access for people in bands and fans and just music lovers is incredible.

The whole idea behind the Summerland Tour, when I thought about it last year and I called Mark McGrath, and I said, “hey let’s do this” was to get bands with huge hits and huge presence at radio back in the 90’s. One of things that happened back in the 90’s was the radio show. That was a phenomena I’d never seen before and really haven’t again. You’d have bands that came out and played short sets, with all their hits and another band would come on and do the same thing. The end result was fans got to see incredible hits and great music that they connected with and their sense of value was huge. They walked away from it going: “Oh my god I can’t believe I saw all those bands and heard all that music.” That’s what I want people to walk away from with Summerland. I want people to hear all these iconic bands from the 90’s and the average price across the country is 40 bucks.

WE– it’s an election year and I know in the past you’ve been political supporting John Kerry in his bid for the Presidency. Do you think President Obama can win reelection?

AA– I think he’s going to win again. I don’t think it’s an option. It’s going to get weird for a while. I knew with the advent of Citizens United it was going to even the tails a little bit more. Conservatives and arch-conservatives in this country and the people who control the Republican party basically the corporations, the multi-billion multi-national corporations that want a party in there that’s more friendly to them, are going to throw everything they can at the liberal- and he’s really not that liberal for a Democrat. I think he’s been a pretty great President. He kept us for going over the brink of disaster. I couldn’t imagine if there had been a Republican that got elected in 2008 with the economic crisis we had. It would be like 1928 all over again. I am supporting him. I haven’t been asked to do anything for him but I’m a huge fan. I give what I can. I’ve got the bumper sticker on the car and the whole nine yards. Like anyone, if people ask me I tell them who and I why and to me it’s not even a question because I am a parent and I am a human being who worries about his community.


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Pat Ferrise grew up loving ”the punk rock” and “new wave.” His years at one of the nation’s top college radio stations ultimately led him to a 15-year run as music director of alternative music icon WHFS Washington/Baltimore. Rolling Stone magazine named him of the most influential programmers of the 90s. He’s recorded two albums under the moniker Trampoline for the now defunct SpinArt label. He lives in Baltimore and takes no credit for writing this bio.