If you were growing up in the 1990s, you were a fan of Everclear. Its songs were all over the radio, and they just had that classic alternative, post-grunge ’90s vibe. The band formed in 1991, led by songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Art Alexakis. Everclear’s first three albums with Capital Records were Sparkle and Fade, So Much for the Afterglow and Songs from an American Movie Vol. One: Learning to Smile—all went platinum. Although band members have changed over the years, Alexakis has stayed the driving force and creativity behind the band. Every year since 2012, they have led the popular Summerland Tour, a 1990s nostalgia tour featuring many other favorite alternative era bands, such as Lit, Sugar Ray and Sponge. The band has just recently finished a special New Years Eve show in Portland at Alberta Rose, and is prepping for a show this month at Apache Gold Casino Pavilion in San Carlos, Arizona. Alexakis has always been forthcoming about his tumultuous past; he has lost loved ones to drugs and suicide and nearly lost himself in both, at one point. Through his music he has been able to confront his demons and get past the darkest moments of his life. This journey is evident through hits such as “Heroin Girl,” from the band’s commercial breakthrough Sparkle and Fade and “I Will Buy You a New Life,” as well as “Father of Mine” from So Much for the Afterglow.
“There are a lot of referendums here in California. They had the whole medical marijuana thing here, and now it’s going to be fully legal. With the support of the state legislature and the governor, I think legal marijuana is going to go really well.”
Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, Alexakis appreciates the supportive and fruitful cannabis culture that has grown there, and now living in California, he is excited for California’s legal future. Although he does not use cannabis himself and maintains a strong straight-edge lifestyle for himself and his band, he is understanding and supportive about the healing and helpful benefits of cannabis for many.
In 2015, Everclear released their ninth studio album entitled Black is the New Black. The band has been touring across the country, with Alexakis making some recent solo stops in Australia. When he’s not living the rockstar life, Alexakis opens up about his important role of being a father to his two daughters. Recently, we got to sit down with the lead singer, guitarist and genius behind the band, Art Alexakis.
Having just gotten back from playing all over the world, spending a good portion of the fall in Australia, do you still enjoy playing the PNW, your home for nearly 20 years?
I love it. I moved to L.A. about five years ago because my eldest daughter went to college and I just needed a break from the rain. We try to go up there at least once a year; it’s kind of like home still. If I could afford to I’d have a place up there.
Has your life changed a lot since you moved out of the Portland area?
I’m working more, I’m happier in the sunshine. I’m working with a lot of different talented people and keeping busy, so it’s a lot of fun. We live closer to my daughter’s grandmother down here, so it’s much easier for us to visit. It was a good move.
A lot has happened to Portland since you moved down south. What do you think about the passing of Measure 91 in Oregon, legalizing cannabis?
I would have thought it actually would have happened there in Oregon first, instead of in Colorado. There are a lot of referendums here in California. They had the whole medical marijuana thing here, and now it’s going to be fully legal. With the support of the state legislature and the governor, I think legal marijuana is going to go really well.
Can you tell us a little bit about what you are working on now? In 2015, you came out with a new album, and I know you are touring a lot.
Yeah we are constantly on tour. I do a tour every year to kind of kick off the summer. It’s called “Summerland.” It’s a ’90s alternative tour with a bunch of bands from the ’90s. Last year it was Sugar Ray, Everclear and Sponge, among others. That kicked off in July and went until the end of August.
“Without sounding stupid, I just try to keep it really real, and go out, take what’s in my heart and put it out there. I do that in the studio and I do that on stage.”
Do you usually just play throwback songs or do the fans get to hear some new music as well?
We try to do at least one new song and then some fan favorites. I think that’s what the tour is really about, that familiar sound. That’s what people want to hear. There is a certain amount of nostalgia to it. Radio stations in the ’90s used to do these shows where they would have like 20 bands and each band would play their hit with maybe 20 minutes on stage. Then they’d put the hook out and pull you off the stage and the next band would go right on. Sometimes it was on a circular stage, and once that stage started spinning man, you were done.
So many of your fans grew up listening to you and all those bands. Sounds like a great tour!
You would love it, you would know all the songs and you will hear a song and be like, “That was them?” These days, people kind of lose sight of entertainment and how enjoyable it can be to just see a good rock and roll band. A band that’s really good at doing what it does. People are starting to get back to seeing live rock and roll bands. But then you have these people that call themselves a band that are basically just pushing bass bars on a computer, and singing through auto tune. I’d rather see band screw up a song, but play it. Just go out without a net and play.
That’s what makes it exciting. That’s rock and roll.
How do you think your music has changed since the ’90s?
I’m probably not the right person to ask about that. From my perspective, I don’t think it’s changed a lot. I’ve changed as a person after 25 years; I’m a lot more grey than I used to be. I don’t hide it, and I’ve never had facial work or anything like that. Without sounding stupid, I just try to keep it really real, and go out, take what’s in my heart and put it out there. I do that in the studio and I do that on stage. The next record I make is going to be a solo record with just me and acoustic guitars. It’s all about the songs. I’ve got four or five songs that are almost done and four or five songs that are pretty much half way there. It will be some time next year, but I’m not in a rush to put it down.
How is life with your family?
I have two daughters, one that’s 24, and I’ve got one that’s eight-and-a-half. This past summer, she had gymnastics camp, then art camp and then sleep away camp for two weeks. This kid’s got more activities than the CEO of a corporation. It feeds her brain. She’s eight-and-a-half and she’s full of joy. She has everything that I wish I had had as an eight-year-old boy. She’s got a mom and dad who love her and love each other. We work really hard to have a really great family. That’s nine-tenths of that battle right there, everything relates to that.
Do your daughters come up a lot while writing your songs?
Sometimes, I don’t necessarily write autobiographically. I’d say one or two songs a record are autobiographical. They are always there, being a parent is such a huge part of me. It’s become such a priority in my life and everything is kind of shaped from that. Even back in the old Everclear days, my oldest daughter was a baby back then. She was three when I put out Sparkle and Fade, she was five when I put out So Much for the Afterglow. Then I went through a divorce with her mom and put out a record that had a lot of good songs like “Wonderful,” which was through her perspective. Because watching her go through that difficult time was very hard. Especially knowing that I had something to do with it. Like I said before, I just try to keep it real. I try to be present, be humble, be honest, and try to put that into my art. Even when I make up stories, some of them don’t seem like they are real, but they feel very real.
What are your and Everclear’s plans for the future?
I don’t know about moving back to Portland, but someday I’d like to have a place there. I’m working on my solo project and I’m writing a book about my childhood growing up in the projects. Just being creative, being open to what the world, the universe, has to say.
Are there any contemporary bands out there now that you really like right now?
I’m not seeing a lot of contemporary stuff that has a lot of depth to it. I hear some cool pop stuff and some cool rock stuff. We played with a band in Portland the other day called The Wild Feathers, and I thought they were great. I’ve been meaning to go buy their record. They had a sort of stones-ish, old band, Eagles kind of harmonies and I dug that. They were playing live and hitting those harmonies. They were really tight and it was just a lot of excitement. I loved it. These days I’ve been listening to a lot of talk radio, political mostly, and I also listen to a lot of NFL radio because I’m a big NFL fan. Big Seahawks fan. Lived in the PNW for too long. I listen to NPR, CNN, I tend to stay pretty left of the dial. I think it’s going to be kind of a clown show this year. This is the 10th election that I’ve voted on. 1980 was the first one, isn’t that a trip? Some things change constantly, some things never change. There’s always great people, and then there’s always flawed people who can do great things. This year, with Donald Trump, I’ve never seen anything like that. But I think it’s going to end up a good year. I’m optimistically hopeful. Not looking into buying a house in Canada or anything like that.
LIVE IN CONCERT
January 21, 2017: Everclear w/ Gin Blossoms at Apache Gold Casino Pavilion in San Carlos, AZ