By JACKIE MOE
Unlike the many alt-rock bands that dominated the mainstream 90s music scene, Everclear had a unique story beyond the common tale of sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll – thanks to its frontman Art Alexakis.
The sober, 30-some-year-old father seemed to emerge out of nowhere with catchy, cathartic songs from his life experiences that made Everclear a heavy influence in the world of rock.
The truth is, Alexakis was in bands for years before he formed Everclear in Portland in 1991. Not long after, the band skyrocketed to fame – picking up a Grammy nomination along the way.
After their independently released album “World of Noise” in 1993, Everclear found success on their first three certified gold and platinum albums on Capitol Records — “Sparkle and Fade,” “So Much For the Afterglow,” and “Songs from an American Movie Vol. One: Learning How to Smile.”
Hits like “Santa Monica,” “I Will Buy You A New Life,” “Father of Mine,” and “Wonderful” are still recognized as rock classics. The quartet, who celebrated their 30th Anniversary in 2022, are currently touring in support of a new live album, Live at The Whisky a Go Go, which was released September 8.
Although Alexakis is the last standing man in the original lineup, the rock group continues to perform stages all around the world — including The Wiltern in Los Angeles on Oct. 9, on a 30-date headlining tour.
In 2016, Alexakis was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Since then, he has been very active with the M.S. Foundation, donating one dollar to the foundation for every concert ticket sold.
Alexakis chatted with Backstage SoCal about the current tour, how he keeps his momentum in music, and favorite moments in Everclear and life.
Can you tell me what your audience is going to experience in your current concerts?
Well, you know, our 30th anniversary was last year. We had a chance to play the Whiskey a Go Go up in West Hollywood and I’ve been there 100 times, but never played there. So I jumped at the chance to do it and we ended up recording a live record there, which came out on September 8th with 15 live tracks, and two songs that were studio songs that we put on there.
One song is our current single; it’s called “Sing Away” and it’s a song about teenage bullying and suicidal ideation. To answer your question, we’ve been going deep lately on songs and we’re trying to learn them and play them live. We’ve got a pretty good repertoire as it is now. So, just a note for everybody — if you wanna hear a certain song when it comes to playing live, hit us up on social media and if we know it, we’ll play it.
I love that. Your shows are so energetic. Thirty years later and you seem to not miss a beat. How do you keep that energy alive?
I am older. I’m 61 you know, 34 years sober. I got diagnosed with MS, multiple sclerosis, seven years ago. And, yeah, it’s not as easy as it used to be, you know, for a younger guy. I have everything else in my life; everything is perfect. I have health issues, but I work at it.
I really feel like adversity is something that keeps us going. It really does, it keeps us trying harder. Every day when I get up and I have to go get on airplanes and fly, and it’s hard and you’re walking through airports and stuff like that, which a lot of people take for granted. But when you do it a couple of 100 times a year, it’s a different thing.
I really feel like the adversity of having to try harder and that challenge has really kept me a lot more cognitively and physically healthier than if I was just at home, sitting around playing golf twice a week, and looking for and waiting for royalty checks, you know?
I probably wouldn’t be married if I did that (laughs). So that would be bad. I just feel grateful that I get to do this. I really do, and that people still wanna hear my songs. What a great life I’ve had. I mean, I look at glasses more than half full. I’m grateful for it. I really am.
Something that’s always resonated, I feel, with your fans is your empathy. We all know your journey and your impactful efforts in the M.S. community, as well as the sober living community. We know your rough upbringing through your lyrics and interviews over the years. You have always presented so much empathy in your art. Do you agree that empathy defines a lot of who you are?
Thank you for saying that. I think empathy defines all of us, you know, as we get older and we go through life and we take a look around at what’s going on. When you’re younger, it’s easy to have blinders… it’s more all about you… me, me, me, me, me, right?
But as we get older, you start seeing that we fit into this huge tribe. I know a lot of people of certain political persuasion will disagree with that. God bless. That’s your thing. They’re so wrong. We’re all connected, whether you like it or not, we’re connected.
And I’ve always felt that and I think the empathy is something I got from my mom, along with the perseverance and the tenacity and the ability to love. I think in the last, you know, 20 years being married to my wife, Vanessa, she’s really helped teach me how to love and patience. I’ve just got such an amazing family with her and my daughter, and life is just wonderful right now.
It’s almost 20 years in and it’s getting better. So hopefully I’m not gonna screw this one up like I did the other three marriages. Right? You know. But I am a different guy. People change, they really do. People wanna say people don’t change, and in some ways we don’t, but in a lot of ways it’s up to us to change. The choice is there. It’s all about choice.
Do you feel like you put the same focus and energy nowadays into your music as you have in the past?
I do, but not as much as it used to be. I mean, I used to be on that cycle of make an album, tour, write an album, make an album, tour… and I haven’t been on that for years. I just don’t really wanna make albums anymore. I just wanna make songs every year, record a couple of new songs, do a cool video for it, put it out to the fan base. I love that.
It gives us something new to play. That’s exciting to me. To go into a studio for a year and do a whole album, it doesn’t sound fun to me. That doesn’t mean I won’t do it. I could change my mind, but I don’t think I’m going to any time soon. I’ve got other fish to fry. I’m working on my book, finally. I got a literary agent, not a book agent. He’s fancy, he’s a literary agent.
I’m also a certified life coach and a sobriety coach, and creative coach. I work with people in the creative industry. I’m gonna start ramping that up more. I got a few clients who are gonna start doing more of that and I enjoy doing that. I enjoy being a service and I’m very involved in my sober fellowship, being sober for 34 years.
And like you said, you know, working with MS. A dollar from every ticket sold on this tour goes to the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
So, yeah, we’re all just trying to be a part of something bigger than ourselves and it’s like what I said before, it’s about choices. It’s out there, you just gotta go do it.
What’s a memory in your career that, if given the chance, you would relive again and again and again?
Well, career wise, being at Woodstock 1999 and hearing 300,000 people, that’s what they estimated at that festival, singing “Santa Monica.” If there was a voice of God, that was the voice of God.
I’ve never heard anything like it before. I was looking at the guys in my band, if you watch the video tape, it’s on Youtube; we’re looking at each other and it’s just like, oh my God, what is this? This only happens to rock stars. This doesn’t happen to people like us. That was so great.
In my life, the birth of my daughter and the day I got married to my wife, Vanessa. Now those moments are just wonderful. You know, I’m pretty simple when it comes to that. Those are the iconic moments that come to mind.
Also, holding my mom’s hand as she was passing and, you know, just realizing that that woman had loved me fiercely from the moment that I was born, or even before when she knew I was coming. And to the moment she died. I knew that even though I didn’t have a relationship with my dad, I didn’t need it. I had my mom. I had everything I needed.
Everything was given to me that I needed. And that was a wonderful feeling, even though it was sad, you know? It was sad, but it wasn’t a tragedy. My mom was almost 80 years old and she lived a good life.
You mentioned that people change, and we’ve watched you evolve over the years – from the first 30 years of your life that you have shared through your music, to the second 30 years that you have shared through your career – and now we look forward to the next 30 years and what you will do.
Well, no, don’t. I’m not gonna be around for 30 years. (laughs) Yeah, I tell that to my wife. She’s younger than me and I keep telling her look, you know, you guys are gonna be OK. She’s like what? You’re gonna die in the next 10 years and I’m gonna be alone? And I go, ‘You’re still hot. What are you talking about? You have plenty of money. You can just get a young boyfriend.’ And she’s like, oh god, I don’t wanna deal with a younger man. (laughs)
Don’t be limiting your life span on us (laughs). We need people like you and art like yours in this world.
I’ll be around as long as I can, that’s for sure. It’s not like I’m gonna go easy, man. They have to take it from me. I’m so excited just to be able to still do this, do interviews, talk to people about music.
One thing we’re doing now after COVID is we’re signing after the shows again. Like we’re going out to the merch booth and meeting people and signing stuff and saying hi. And that’s been really, really great to meet and connect. It’s wonderful.
When: Monday, October 9
Where: The Wiltern, 3790 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90010
More info: https://www.everclearmusic.com/