Art Alexakis Interview; Playing Free Show In Mentor
Everclear is out celebrating their 30th Anniversary this summer. Art Alexakis and his bandmates hit the music scene by releasing their debut album World Of Noise in 1993. However the band didn’t gain nationwide success until Sparkle and Fade was released in 1995 that featured the songs “Santa Monica” and “Heroin Girl.”
The band went on to have multi-platinum albums, a Grammy nomination, several hit singles including “Father Of Mine,” “Wonderful” and “I Will Buy You A New Life” and more.
Lead singer/guitarist Art Alexakis and his band Everclear will be making a stop at the Mentor Amphitheater on July 12 for a free concert. We had the opportunity to chat with Art to discuss the band's career, football, and his memories of Cleveland.
Greg Drugan: Hey Art, how are you doing today?
Art Alexakis: I’m great how are you this morning?
GD: I am good! You guys had a show last night?
AA: Oh yeah! I don’t know if you’ve seen our schedule, but we play five shows a week. It’s crazy.
GD: Well, I appreciate you taking some time with me today.
AA: No problem, it’s my pleasure. Where are you calling from?
AA: Nice. For the Mentor show.
GD: That’s right. It’s next week already, it’s coming up quickly.
AA: Let me ask you a question, were you born and raised in Cleveland?
GD: Absolutely! A little bit closer to Akron but Northeast Ohio for sure!
AA: Akron! Me and two guys on the bus are trying to get to Akron. It’s kind of a Mecca. I also want to get to Canton because I’m a huge football fan. I’m not sure if you’re a football fan.
GD: Oh yeah, I’m from Northeast Ohio so you kinda have to be. So are you going to stop in Canton and see the Hall of Fame?
AA: We want to stop in Canton. I’ve never been there. I’m a big Seahawks fan. I (also) want to go to Akron for people that are Twelve Step sober people, that’s like Mecca. That’s where the founders are from. You can go to the house and sit at the table where they actually came up with the idea and wrote all of the steps out. For us, it's Mecca.
After talking about the Baker Mayfield trade and the Seahawks for a bit, we finally get back to some music questions.
GD: That’s great, well I hope you can make it down and check out the Hall of Fame and Akron. Well, I wanted to congratulate you on making it thirty years! Many bands don’t last three years. Does it seem like you’ve been at it that long?
AA: Sometimes yes, sometimes longer! (laughs) Sometimes no, it doesn’t seem like thirty years at all, it goes by like a blink of an eye. Then I look in the mirror and go, “who’s that guy?” I don’t know, I don’t think most people feel their age. I think you get to a certain age of awareness and your kinda that same age inside the whole time. It doesn’t mean you don’t become a responsible person or father, but I still feel like a kid. The fact that I’ve been doing Everclear for thirty years, it dawned on me that this is my life’s work. Durr! (laughs) This is my legacy and I did ok, I did pretty good. I am letting myself enjoy that for the first time. We are out there having fun, making new music. If it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t want to do it. I’m sixty years old, I have MS, if the joy isn’t there, I can’t do it.
GD: For sure. Speaking of the tour, how has the tour been going this summer?
AA: Great man! It’s just been blowing by, Greg. We just have eight shows left. My mind is just blown. Last night was great, tonight we are in, oh wait a minute… Lexington, Kentucky. I had to think about that.
GD: Yeah, like “where am I?”
AA: Exactly! I remember the first time that happened on tour. Me and the guys were looking out the bus and we were in a city. Where are we? We were all thinking, “I don’t know where we are.” It was actually kinda frightening. We were in a big city somewhere. Actually, I think we were in Cleveland. I’ve been coming to Cleveland since the ‘80s.
GD: That was one of my questions, that you guys have been coming to Cleveland for a long time. What is it about Cleveland that always brings you back?
AA: You’ve heard it before, it’s just a rock and roll town. It’s a town that appreciates rock and roll. When we first came, we used to go to the Flats and the clubs there and we played a small club called Peabody’s Down Under. Do you remember? The low ceilings and water damage, it seemed like the Cuyahoga River was going to take it over from underneath. I just remember with different bands, amazing shows, opening up for people and just connecting with people. Our guest list always doubled or tripled in Cleveland. It was just a place where you felt appreciated. Detroit is like that too. Those midwest Rust Belt cities, Pittsburgh to a lesser extent. It’s a palpable rock and roll thing. Cleveland has just been a Mecca for music. I’ve always loved it and I’ve seen it go from a place you don’t really want to be to being pretty nice. You’ve got a football team now. Thanks in large part to Mister Baker Mayfield.
GD: That’s for sure. Downtown is much nicer, they’ve done a nice job the past fifteen years or so.
AA: The past ten years! It’s a place you can walk to great restaurants. Really good restaurants, it’s really come up a lot.
GD: I last saw you on your Songs and Stories tour at the House of Blues. What a fun show! All live and acoustic and it looked like you guys were having a fun time on stage.
AA: That was a blast. Too bad that promoters didn’t really understand what it was and they didn’t know how to promote it. It didn’t do very well but I thought it was a great idea and I still think it’s a great idea. Have singer songwriters from bands doing covers together and playing together. It’s just exciting. Promoters loved the show, once they saw it. But they had no idea what it was. If you would have read the thing I painstakingly wrote out for you to read, if you would have read that, you would have seen (what it was). I’d love to do that again one day, with them or with someone else.
GD: Keeping it live, in today’s day and age it seems that a lot of bands are using tracks or Pro Tools in concert. What are your thoughts of bands using those things to get some extra help or some bands lip synching the whole show?
AA: One of my favorite bands ever, who are out on tour, the lead singers son is basically singing everything with his dad. That is better to me than to singing to tracks. I’m so glad you brought that up, because that’s something that sticks in my craw so hard. One of the great things about this tour with the Nixons and Fastball, is none of use tracks at all. It’s rock and roll. We’ve never done it. We tried to do it at rehearsals for Afterglow because there were some loops on some of those songs. We tried to play to the loops and I felt caged in to this slow beat. Rock and roll speeds up in the chorus’, it just does. It’s the excitement of the chorus and music moves, it’s not built to be locked in like that. It’s not rock and roll to play to tracks. If you have a vocal track that is doubling the lead vocals, that is cheating. That is flat out cheating. It’s not a performance.
GD: I’m with you one hundred percent. How have you handled the past couple of years? Did you write any new music and did you get to play out at all?
AA: 2021 we did the Summerland Tour. You don’t know about it because no one wrote about it. We had a phenomenon that no one had ever seen before, not just us but other bands. Tours were selling more tickets than what people would show up. Significantly, like twenty-five per cent. You would sell a thousand tickets and seven hundred people would show up, which is fine. But if you sold five hundred tickets and only three hundred people showed up, it’s a bummer. This year we are having that to a certain extent, but it’s only ten to fifteen per cent, but we are selling more tickets than last year. It’s still not what it was.
We toured last year, we only did four shows in 2020. But we are all caught up from last year and this year. We were very fortunate because a lot of people got really devastated by it. I’m grateful, no income for a year is scary. I can’t work out of my house. That whole video thing was stupid. We did the drive in thing a couple of times. I was like, this is so lame.
GD: Yeah, I went to a couple of drive-in shows, just to see what it was like. What a different vibe that was, sitting outside of your car. But I needed live music so it is what it is, I guess.
AA: Right, that’s what people felt. I was grateful for it because I got to play music and people were standing around their cars, honking their horns. But man, it was rough. This year is better, but everyone is walking around like it’s over. It’s not over. 120,000 people a day and it hasn’t stopped in the last month. We’re kinda hardcore about people wearing masks. Everyone on tour has to wear a mask at the venue, unless you are on stage. Everyone on my bus has to be all vaxed up.
When you asked me what the last couple of years has been like, it’s been rough. It’s been hard on kids. I talk to parents all over the place and teens and pre-teens have had a really rough time with it. You asked about new music. I’ve gotten to a point where I don’t want to make anymore albums. That can change. I like the idea, because we wrote a song called “Year of the Tiger” that’s going to come out in September. We’re going to do a cheap little $5000 video and have fun. Just do fun stuff. We could do a song every six months. After doing a couple two, three years of that we could go into the studio and record four songs and make that a record. Then we could put that out as a collection. I don’t know.
GD: Cool. You can do stuff like that, just releasing singles the way people consume music. It’s a different day and age when you had to put out an album back in the day.
AA: You don’t have to have anything hard like a CD or CD single. I would put this out online and then I would do a colored 45 with a B-side. That would be fun.
GD: Yeah, vinyl is making a comeback. I’m a teacher by trade and I do this on the side. I have a class called “The History of Rock and Roll” and I tell the kids about a 45 and the B-side. They had no idea what I was talking about. So I brought out some old 45’s and showed them, this was the single you would hear on the radio and then some DJ’s would flip it over and play the other side and they might like that song too. Kids are into it.
AA: Did you talk about double A-sides like The Beatles?
AA: So you are a music history buff, as am I. I taught a music song writing class for three years. I remember the first class, I said lets’ get to know everybody, let’s introduce ourselves and talk about your favorite song writer of all time. These kids get up and say, “my favorite song writer is Katy Perry.” I’m biting my lip and say “Katy is a great artist but she is not a songwriter.”
GD: (laughs) She’s got a team of songwriters!
AA: Yeah. This girl goes, “but her name is on it.” I go “Yeah, her name is the first of six. When you see that, that’s the case of the artist getting some of the publishing.” This one kid goes, “Bruno Mars.” I go, “yeah, good songwriter, good artist.” Dude, other than that, they were naming all of these pop artists who didn’t write songs. I ended up doing the history of songwriting going back to the cavemen. The kids in that class really liked it and they were like, “we want you to teach us how to write songs.” I was like, “I can’t teach you how to write a song, I can teach you how to NOT write a song, but I can’t teach how to write a song.” So I resigned. That was it for me. I love what you are doing, that’s cool. That’s a cool class.
GD: So you will be playing a free concert in Mentor on July 12, at the Amphitheater. What can fans expect from your show?
AA: It’s gonna be a rock and roll show. There’s going to be more songs off of World of Noise. We re released our first record that I made back in 1992 for four hundred bucks. I made it as a demo and it turned into an album. It got us out of the gate and it got us written about. But we will also play the hits. We always play the hits. I get very frustrated with bands that don’t play their hits, I think it’s very disrespectful to their fans and to the song. I’m very grateful for my songs. Most people don’t have a hit song and we have several. I’m full of gratitude for that and I treat those songs and my career with nothing but respect and gratitude.
GD: Art, thank you so much for your time this morning. I did love talking some football with you and I do hope you make it to Canton and Akron. Hopefully we will see you up in Mentor!
AA: Thanks, dude. It was so nice to talk to you, it was really fun talking to you. Take care.
Make sure to catch Art and Everclear at the Mentor Civic Amphitheater on July 12 for FREE!