This post was originally published in The Aquarian Weekly.
There’s nothing like disturbing a rock star’s breakfast. It’s the most critical meal of the day, doctors say. Nourishment is integral to the function of a genius. It’s nearly 11 a.m. on July 4 in El Paso, TX, and Everclear frontman Art Alexakis needs a moment to take in the last of his morning fuel. The band is playing a celebration concert at a casino later in the day on a reservation, and he’s chipper as a firecracker about it.
It’s been six years since the release of Everclear’s sixth studio album, Welcome To The Drama Club, the autobiographical record on which Alexakis highlights tumultuous tales of his life experiences.
“I kind of had my butt kicked emotionally a few years before [that record was composed],” he says. “I went through a divorce, my mom died from cancer, and my friend died from a brain tumor. I went through a court custody battle for my daughter—[there was a lot going on] but I came out on top—and I needed to write about that. That album, in hindsight, should have been a solo record.”
About two years ago, Alexakis got another jolt and decided to make the next Everclear record. Invisible Stars is a follow up to Drama Club in every regard. He picks up where he left off emotionally, and continues to evolve the musical stylings of Everclear in a way that’s both progressive and truthful to the band’s gamut.
This summer, Everclear is immersed in co-headlining the Summerland tour, along with four other bands that emerged and thrived during the ‘90s—Sugar Ray, the Gin Blossoms, Lit, and Marcy Playground. Alexakis partnered with Sugar Ray frontman Mark McGrath to bring the nostalgic, cross-country initiative to fruition.
“Everyone’s been talking about doing a ‘90s tour but no one’s ever done it,” he says. “So it’s exciting, and I think the tour will grow every year. I’d like to do a ‘90s alternative tour next year with guys like Smash Mouth and Collective Soul.”
With one foot in the past and the other in the future, the band has weathered 20 years since its foundation, and has a new groove thanks to its current lineup: Dave French (guitars); Josh Crawley (keyboards) Freddy Herrera (bass); and Sean Winchester (drums).
Though band members have come and gone, Alexakis is content with his current cohorts because their collective jam is reminiscent of the familiarity found on previous records. “When you listen to the new record, I think it sounds like an Everclear record,” he says. “The [other band members] aren’t just trying to sound like that, but it came naturally. If we finished recording the album, and it sounded like something other than Everclear, I would have called it something else.”
The first single, “Be Careful What You Ask For,” is an unmistakable Everclear ditty that channels ‘90s glee with an easy riff and radio rhythm. Alexakis gets kudos for honesty as he sings, “Life looks better when you waste away the day / Life looks better when you make it all a game / Life looks better when you drink away the pain / Life looks better when you look away.”
Sophisticated yet sarcastic words of wisdom and endearing experiences give Alexakis’ lyrics the credibility to songs that don’t ring as mere radio ruffles. “I named this record about five or six times,” he laughs. “The recording process really hasn’t changed. I still have the creative fire but I’m not trying to prove anything to anybody. It’s a different world. I love this record, and fans are loving the record. It’s been getting phenomenal reviews and we’re not really a review band.”
As Alexakis explains, the album sounds like an old-school Everclear record in a lot of ways, but also contemporized with synthesizers and the melody lines. “I grew up with The Cars and Devo, and I love the sound of those old analog synthesizers and how they cut through the big guitars,” he says.
The interesting thing about the new record is that, much like a McDonald’s cheeseburger, fans can rely on it—it’s certainly something fun, but still draws on the taste that gave classic hits like “Santa Monica” and “Father Of Mine” their luster.
Alexakis really has always dug deep into his heart while writing tracks for the band. Released in 1995 off the band’s sophomore work Sparkle And Fade, “Heroin Girl” chronicled the singer’s loss of his brother and girlfriend, both of whom overdosed on heroin. The 1997 smash, “Father Of Mine,” channeled Alexakis’ inner child as he sings about his father abandoning the family.
The highlight of each Everclear track is the fact that Art writes with a gentle pen—he shares his thoughts on life, love and idealism, and never hesitates to pour his heart into these songs. He gives the music legs by injecting the heartfelt humility of his own existence.
It’s an organic process for Alexakis, who’s covered a lot of interesting ground outside his role as a singer. He was immersed in the music business as an A&R rep; in politics as a John Kerry supporter in the 2004 election, and as an activist. His latest project is a five-minute podcast series called Soapbox, where he shares his witty take on current events and politics. The truth is that Alexakis never really misses an opportunity to take a stand, and encourage others to do so.
“I wrote a song called ‘Jesus Was A Democrat,’ so there’s no confusion as to what side of the aisle I’m on, but I just want people to be involved,” he says. “I want them to have the balls to make a choice. And don’t base your choices on hearsay, on Fox News or CNN—base it on the information you have in front of you.”
Thankfully, Alexakis understands how to tread the fine line between enlightenment and spoon-feeding, and the political peppering isn’t an overwhelming component of his artistry. Invisible Stars does have its fair share of politically infused tracks, however, such as “Jackie Robinson” and “The Golden Rule.” But Alexakis warns that he’s never trying to hit people over the head with his belief system.
Alexakis has been around the block, and is reveling in the present as a husband and father of two. He hasn’t, and likely won’t ever, lose sight of his roots, and is taking every opportunity to cherish the present. “I don’t want to be disingenuous,” he says. “I’m a 50-year-old guy who wears black and has tattoos. This is what I believe: You get what you pay for with me.”
Everclear will be at Atlantic City’s Ovation Hall on July 27. They will also be at The Paramount Theater in Huntington, NY, on July 31. For more information, go to everclearonline.com.