Triple j has just wrapped up ’90s Week’: a look back at the decade that was largely defined by an ‘alternative rock gold rush’ as Craig Schuftan poignantly phrased it. From grunge to punk rock to nu-metal, the 90s was awash with angst and aggressive guitar play. Some bands carried this raw emotion in a decidedly frank manner, while other acts tried to integrate a sense of levity into their music.
For popular 90’s outfit Everclear, it was the cohesion of earnest emotion and pop accessibility combined with the then current climate of the music industry that transformed the alternative rock band originally from Portland, Oregon into an international multi-platinum selling act during the mid to late 90s.
To the casual fan it may seem as though little has come from Everclear since the turn of the century. Each record after 2000 seemingly gained less attention, with the last three Everclear releases consisting of one covers album, 2008’s The Vegas Years, and two re-record compilations, 2009’s In a Different Light and 2011’s Return to Santa Monica.
As the band’s only constant member and sole songwriter, frontman Art Alexakis explains the decisions that led to re-recording of Everclear’s back catalogue.
“The first of those three records was a covers record I wanted to do for a long time called The Vegas Years. That was fun because we had covers going back throughout the (different) incarnations of the band and so it was kind of a document of the way we were at different times. It was fun to do”, Alexakis recalls.
“The next record, In a Different Light, we actually found a lot different. It was supposed to be more acoustic and less rock, and it didn’t really come out the way I wanted it to come out, and then Return to Santa Monica was someone…giving me money to do re-records, and I used that money to basically record this new record. I didn’t have the money and I didn’t have a record deal and I didn’t want to go begging people for money. I wanted to just do it myself, do it how I wanted to do it. So that’s kinda’ where that came from.”
“It’s a new world, it’s not the old world where money’s shooting out of the ground, you know.”
Indeed it is a new world since Everclear dominated the airwaves with hit songs such as Santa Monica, Everything to Everyone and Father of Mine. During that time Everclear released three consecutive albums that sold at least one million copies: 1995’s Sparkle and Fade, 1997’s So Much for the Afterglow and 2000’s Songs from an American Movie, Vol. 1: Learning How to Smile.
A lot has changed in the realm of music over the last ten to twelve years. The entire industry has shifted, as the manner in which fans consume and artists distribute and promote music continually evolves at an increasing rate. For Everclear, internal changes within the band have been just as radical. The band has undergone numerous lineup changes, while Alexakis was forced to file for bankruptcy in 2005.
Comparing the 90s to the 00s, Alexakis sees little value in lingering on the past.
“There’s good things and bad things about it. Anytime I’m doing the budget, I look back at all the money that I’ve spent over the years making records and videos. I could retire like five different couples with that much money; but I don’t have that money anymore, my ex-wife has that money”, Alexakis knowingly jests.
“I don’t really dwell on how things used to be and how things are now. I just look in front of me: what do I want to do, and how do I go about doing it? I think that’s how you win in life.”
For the moment, looking forward for Alexakis consists of working towards the unveiling of Everclear’s new record. Due out later this year, Invisible Stars is the first Everclear album to be completely comprised of original material since 2006’s Welcome to the Drama Club.
Six years between records is a long hiatus, but as Alexakis explains, it wasn’t until recently that he felt compelled to create a new Everclear LP.
“I’ve been writing songs and I wrote with other people…but really (I’ve) just (been) concentrating on living life, raising my younger daughter, raising my older daughter, who’s now off to college…just living life. Trying to be a better person, trying to learn from my mistakes, grow”, Alexakis states.
“About a year or two (ago) I just started sitting down with a guitar and…coming up with ideas, recording them… I don’t want to use a cheesy word, but it really has been an ‘organic’ process. I’m making a record because it’s time to make a record.”
2012 will also mark the first time Everclear visits Australia in 14 years. The band’s last Australian tour was unofficially dubbed the ‘Disaster Tour’ after a series of negative experiences led to the cancellation of several shows.
“I think a large part of what happened then was, you know… So Much for the Afterglow was breaking big…we’d just been touring non-stop for two or three years and…one of the guys in the band was…drinking too much and doing drugs.”
“I had a great time in Australia on that trip and I don’t look at ’98 as ‘The Disaster Tour’ like some people did”, Alexakis claims.
Everclear has been through just about every up and down imaginable in the music industry. For Alexakis, however, these highs and lows aren’t necessarily a result of his chosen profession but rather just a fact of life. Whether positive or negative, each circumstance is potentially a creatively inspiring moment.
With a new Everclear record on the way, Alexakis gives the impression that his best days are yet to come.
“I think it’s all part of the same thing, it’s all a rollercoaster. I think all my songs have a dark (feel) to them lyrically, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel because that’s how life is: there’s always a way out”
“And the reverse is true: when you’re doing really well, you can pretty much plan on getting your ass kicked because that’s just life. And I’ve learnt to just dance with it.”
Everclear – Australian Tour 2012
Tickets On Sale Friday 1st June 2012
Wednesday 10 October Cooly Hotel. Coolangatta
With Special Guests Strangers
Sunday 14 October Capitol. Perth