Everything is Wonderful Now
Art Alexakis and Everclear Rock Mt. Airy
From hit songs like “Santa Monica” and “Everything to Everyone,” to tracks from their latest studio album, Invisible Stars, Everclear has always been about one thing; strapping on their instruments, turning up the volume and breaking a sweat. Fans will have a chance to see Everclear live in The 570 at Gypsies, Mount Airy Casino Resort, Mount Pocono, on Saturday, March 2, at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show is 21 and over.
We spoke with vocalist/guitarist Art Alexakis about 20 years of rocking, the heavy topics he writes about and what audiences can expect from an older, wiser Everclear.
Has your approach to performing live changed over the past 20 years?
It probably has. I was thinking about that the other day. Someone sent me a tape of Everclear shows from (the mid-90s). We were pretty ferocious. I still think we put on a pretty good, rocking show. I’m 50 now and I was 33 then. There is a difference. We’re still a rock band. We still play as loud, hard and fast as we can play. I hope that never goes away.
Do you write your songs on the guitar and is there a certain ritual?
I don’t have any ritual. When I feel like I have something to say, I pick up the guitar and start singing around until I have something I want to say lyrically. Sometimes it shows up in songs, sometimes it is poetry and I never, ever show anyone my poetry! (Laughs.) It’s a personal thing. Some things just don’t fit into songs. They have their own rhythm and idea of what they want to be; I call that poetry.
There was a time when you were interested in journalism.
I was. I just read a book about Washington journalists (Karin Tanabe, The List). It was fascinating, but I’m glad I didn’t become a journalist. I wrote for the school paper growing up and always thought I would be a journalist, but people were so nasty and you had to be so cutthroat to get ahead. I hated the vibe and I didn’t want to write like that. I wanted to write honest stuff; fiction is sometimes more honest than some media.
Speaking of honesty, many of your songs deal with personal issues, from drug addiction to troubled youth. How do you balance those issues in your songs?
I don’t really look for balance. I know if I’m writing about something that would interest me; I’m assuming it would interest other people as well. I make music that is exciting to me. All I ever wanted to do was combine a singer-songwriter and a hard rock band with a punk aesthetic. That’s me! I grew up loving guitars and still do. That’s what’s exciting to me. That’s what excited me in the 90s. Everything is fair game, but don’t go under the assumption that some of those personal songs are autobiographical. I’m not just writing a journal; I’m writing songs and building characters.
I discovered Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s Rust Never Sleeps through Everclear’s cover of their song, “Pocahontas,” which, in turn, opened up a whole new musical world to me.
Wow! That’s what music should do. That’s why I think it’s important for people to talk about their influences; to get the word out. I’m just now getting into a lot of obscure swinging jazz from the late ’40s and early ’50s. Man, it’s badass. It’s almost like punk rock. When you hear early Little Richard, that’s punk rock! He’s screaming so hard in that microphone, he’s overdriving it. That’s what rock ‘n’ roll is supposed to be and that what punk rock was. Early rap had that same primal thing about it. I’m waiting for something else to come along, like Nirvana did, just to kick music in its ass right now. Get away from technology and let people get their hands dirty.
You spoke about your big guitar influence. What were your influences?
In ’64 and ’65, I was singing Beatles and Rolling Stones songs off of the radio. I’ve been in love with guitars as far back as I can remember. When I was 4, my letter to Santa asked for an electric guitar, and a drum set, and an organ. There are people who didn’t know what they wanted to be when they grew up; I didn’t have that problem. I knew what my dreams were and my passion. I’m one of those people who got to live it.
Are there special moments during a show where you step back and take it all in?
I play at least one acoustic song in the middle of the show. I’ll play a song like “Strawberry” off of Sparkle and Fade or “Brown Eyed Girl” (Van Morrison). It’s one of those songs that is really special to me. I dedicate it to my eldest daughter who has brown eyes, but I grew up singing that song. That’s the first song that I sang along with in the car and thought “maybe I can sing my own songs!”
What should the crowd at Mt. Airy expect to see from the older, wiser Everclear?
A rock show. We are a rock and roll band. We sweat every show. If were not sweating while playing our set, we’re not doing something right. It’s loud; big guitars, drums and lots of people screaming on stage. It’s good stuff.
Everclear plays Gypsies at Mount Airy Casino Resort, Mount Pocono on Saturday, March 2. Doors open at 7 p.m. and show time is 8 p.m. tickets are $40 – $55. This event is 21 and over. To purchase tickets online, visit mountairycasino.com.