The AU Interview: Art Alexakis of Everclear (US)

When I was 13 my Dad gave me $20 to spend during a day out at the Salamanca markets. I quickly pocketed the cash and once our father-daughter bonding was complete I rushed to the record store as I had a big decision to make. $20 was enough to buy one CD and I’d been hanging out to hear the newbies from both Everclear and Hanson (they were pretty and blonde – don’t judge me).

After an agonising hour I left with a copy of So Much For The Afterglow in my hands and when I got home I cranked that record on my stereo, danced around my room, ripped all of the Hanson posters off my wall and have never strayed far from the hallowed path of rock and roll again.

This is just one of the many occasions over the past 17 years that the music of Art Alexakis has saved my life. So it was with great nervousness and fan girl excitement that I took a call from the man himself to discuss the latest incarnation of Everclear and their up coming Australian tour. Enjoy.

Tell me about the new record Invisible Stars – what stage are you at with it?

Invisible Stars is our first record in six years. It’s a rock record – there’s a lot of big guitar. It’s the first lot of new songs we’ve made in a long time. I didn’t make new records for a long time because I just didn’t have it in me. Finally I started writing songs and feeling like I wanted to make a record. So we made this record last year and it comes out here on June 26th. We don’t have a label yet in Australia, but we’ll pick one pretty soon and the record’s all ready to go. We plan on releasing it in Australia before we come on tour in October.

What does Everclear sound like in 2012?

Like I said before it’s a pretty big guitar record. I think it’s a throwback in a lot of ways to Sparkle and Fade and So Much For The Afterglow and that era but a little bit more contemporised. We don’t use a lot of organ or piano but there’s a little bit of synthesiser on it that is pretty noisy. For most part it’s bass, drums and guitar and vocal. It’s got the fire of Sparkle and Fade definitely. I do a lot of screaming on the record as opposed to singing. I’d say if you like the old stuff than I think you might like it.

As you mentioned it’s been a good 6 years since you released new tunes as Everclear – what has inspired you to keep going with the band?

Well it still feels good doing it. I love the guys that play with me. Most of them have been with me for about 10 years, the other guys have been around for about 4 years. We’ve been together a long time and have played a lot of shows. When we made this record it came really easy and rational and was a lot of fun and that’s what really inspired me – playing music is fun and recording it is fun. Even though it’s hard work it’s still fun and results in something good. If what you’re doing isn’t fun then you need to get a new job you know? You’re wasting your time.

Are you looking forward to returning to Oz?

Last time we were in Australia was 1998. Of course we’re excited – we’ve been trying to come back for years. Now we’ve got a promoter who has asked us to come back and booked in some shows in Australia. I am very excited. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

I was too young to see your show last time you toured and I remember watching you play on Hey Hey It’s Saturday and they would never let bands play live on air, and you guys played a different song to the one you were supposed to and it was very exciting for me to see you openly defying Daryl Sommers on the television.

(Laughs) Wow I can’t believe you remember that. Yeah that’s one of the things I love about playing is that we get to do cool t.v shows like Recovery. Do you remember Recovery?

Yes I have many fond high school memories of that show.

Yeah I think we played twice on there or may it have been three times on two different shows and we had a great time. I love Australia. I love how laid back everybody is. We had a great time last time we were there and we’re looking forward to having more fun.

It’s really getting me down that I’ll be in backpacking through South East Asia while you’re here in October. I’m missing your show again.

Oh really? You’re going to be Asia while we’re in Australia in October? Well it sounds like you’re never gonna see Everclear (laughs).

Yeah I almost cried when I found out you were touring while I’m away.

Yep sorry to tell you Kat but you are destined to never see Everclear live unfortunately.

Speaking of which – what do you enjoy most about the live shows?

I love how immediate it is. It can never be repeated. I try to make every show different. I think we sound different each time we play. I work on improving every show. We’re fortunate that we get along well and have fun and push the sound up and down and the intensity and I think that that’s exciting to watch. That’s what a live show’s all about. People who play with tracks and recorded things those are really cool sounding and have a lot of energy live.

Everclear have been around for close to 20 years now and have managed to maintain a presence in the media here – what do you think it is about your music that keeps people returning to it?

Really? That’s cool. Well the tickets are selling well so I guess that means that people want us back and that’s good. I don’t know why people like what we do. I’m a storyteller and I think that’s something people can connect with. We’ll always connect with people. That’s what it’s about.

Exactly. When I was growing up listening to your music was like talking with an old friend because of the stories that you told. It was very comforting. I still love listening to your records.

You know I agree with that. Music to me is like an old friend. Be it books, movies, records – when I love something I love it forever. I still love the music I loved when I was 13. I still love the music I loved when I was 5 and I still dislike the music I disliked then as well. Maybe I’m just not growing enough as a person (laughs). I think when you fall in love with something you never let go of it. It never goes away.

It becomes a part of you – the music – it really does.

I agree. For sure.

What music are you listening to these days?

When I’m really enjoying music I listen to the radio a lot, so whether it’s pop or rock or whatever, what they play is what I’m listening to. I really enjoy The Black Keys, but I’ve liked them for 7 or 8 years now. I own I think most of their records. Up until finishing this record all I was doing was listening to Everclear so now I’m just listening to the radio. I like a lot of the pop, I like a lot of the rock, I like hip hop I like everything. There’s a lot of stuff that I don’t like but I can never remember what it is cos I don’t listen to it properly you know? (laughs)

You’ve had a long career in the music industry – do you have any advice for up & coming musicians to keep themselves afloat?

Well I try not to give advice when its not asked for but the advice I try to give people is if you believe in what you’re doing then do it and don’t let anybody tell you to stop and don’t quit. Cos if you quit than someone else will do it. Now if you don’t quit then you still might not succeed but if you do quit then you won’t get to . It sounds simple enough but when times get hard and you feel like quitting that’s when you can’t quit. You have to try harder. Keep inventing new things, reinventing yourself and try harder. If people in your band are dragging you down then find new people. Find people who want the same things that you do and go and get it.

Everclear will be hitting our shores this Spring and playing the following venues:

Wednesday 10 October – Cooly Hotel,Coolangatta
W/ Special Guests Strangers

Thursday 11 October – HiFi Brisbane
With Special Guests Strangers

Friday 12 – October HiFi, Sydney
W/ Special Guests Strangers

Saturday 13 October – HiFi, Melbourne
W/Special Guests Strangers

Sunday 14 October – Capitol, Perth