Everclear and its frontman Art Alexakis first made a big impression on the music world with the popular hit singles "Everything to Everyone" and "I Will Buy You a New Life." But two years ago Alexakis went through some major changes, such as dropping all the original members of the band, filing for bankruptcy and a major divorce. Since then, he's reinvented Everclear and produced the new album, Welcome to the Drama Club. JUICY BANDS: What was the inspiration for the new album?
Art Alexakis: I got divorced a little over two years ago, so the album not only deals with the breakup but dealing with the changes in myself that I went through. I realized that I was going through a lot of cycles, so I wanted to break those cycles and the only way to do that is to dig down deep enough and really purge. That's what this record pretty much is. It's the faces of the different people you are when you're going through an emotional crisis like a breakup. The title of the record came from a joke when someone was talking to me about all the crap I was going through with my ex-wife and I'm like, "Well, welcome to the drama club".
JUICY BANDS: What is it like to purge your life of almost everything?
Art: It's hard. When you have a child, you go through this metamorphosis where you actually change your priorities. You're not on top anymore. Now there's someone else that's more important to you and by doing that change, it keeps us from killing our children. With me, going through all these ego crashing events, even the ones I brought upon myself by bad choices, I came to that awareness and accepted it. Some things might just break some people; some things make people stronger. This by far made me stronger and made me have a better life, so I'm glad I went through those things. I'm glad I'm not in that relationship, I'm glad I don't play with those guys in the band and I don't really give a shit about money. They're just things, so if they ever come again, I'll appreciate it more and realize what the real priority is in my life.
JUICY BANDS: What was the inspiration specifically for the song "Haters?"
Art: I don't care how old you are, I don't care what type of life you come from, what walk of life you're from, what your gender bias is, whether you're straight or gay or bi or whatever, I don't care. When you get rejected, when you get screwed around on and when your ego just gets smashed, there is a part of you that reverts back to eight grade. I see it in people in their 60s that are very well balanced people that you'd never think would do that. I think it's a natural human emotion. "Haters" is that point in a relationship where it's the big F you, where you're not hurt anymore but you are pissed off. The whole record is different emotions and that's the one that's like that. There are a lot of angry people out there.
JUICY BANDS: A lot of the anger seems to be centered around the music video for "Haters" with Jesus Christ. What made you want to have Jesus doing all those things?
Art: I didn't specifically want Jesus. I wanted it to be something different than just the obvious boy/girl story. I usually write and direct our videos, but I wanted to let other people with talent and vision to get it from a totally different perspective. I wanted it to be political, so making Jesus pick up on a bunch of prostitutes is pretty political to a lot of people. I believe in the principles of Christ and try to live like him. But I'm not your typical Christian. I can laugh at the images because the images have nothing to do with the spirit. If they piss you off, you've got problems. That's where I'm coming from and I hope it makes people think. Now we're going to put out a video that's more performance oriented. We're doing these really cheap videos because I'm not spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on videos. It's not really for VH1 and MTV. We might somewhere down the line when we have the dough, but right now we don't.
JUICY BANDS: What made you leave Capitol Records?
Art: It was mutual. Well, they dropped me but I was ready to get off the label. Labels change with whatever president's in there and most bands don't make it through a whole regime. I made it through three and the new president, Andy Slater, was just never a big fan of Everclear. He said he was but, by his actions, he really wasn't. The people he hired around us didn't have respect for the band or what we've done for the label, so it was just time to move on. 2004 was just a bad year for me. The other guys in the band wanted to do their own thing and wanted to know how I felt about it. I said, "I'm really cool with that idea, that's a great idea." I don't think they were expecting that. But I went through a divorce with my wife and that was hard. I tried to avoid a bankruptcy and try to pull things together but it didn't happen. I made bad choices.
JUICY BANDS: How did you pick the guys that are on the new album with you?
Art: Well, I didn't put out any ads. I just word-of-mouthed it. It took about three or four months to put the whole group together. I wasn't really in a rush. That happened in 2004, too. We've now been playing together over two years, which is nearly 200 shows, and we've recorded a record together, so this band is pretty solidified. We're pretty tight both emotionally and musically, now. Davey [French] and Sam [Hudson] were referred by a friend who is a former sound guy. I had known Josh [Crawley] around town and he was referred by another friend. Brett [Snyder] was our drum captain. One day [former drummer] Eric [Bretl] couldn't make the rehearsal and Brett sat in for him. He smoked the song and me and Davey and Sam were laughing as we walked out the door to talk to him. I'm like, "Man, I've got to fire my friend". That sucks, because Eric is a really good friend of mine and still is, but he understood. He didn't like it much but he understood it. The right decision isn't always the easy decision.
JUICY BANDS: What's the next step for you guys now?
Art: I just feel good about the whole online community. These days I don't think it's absolutely necessary to be on a major label. I think you can go out and work the record and make a decent living from your music if you make music that people like. We seem to be in both boats, which is a good thing. But I'm not banking on anything. I live for the now. I don't live in the future and I sure as hell don't live in the past. God willing, it will do well enough that I can put my kid through college. She's going into high school next year and that's not cheap. I want to get her through college so that's good.
Everclear is the brainchild of Alex Alexakis, whose personal lyrics and knack for a grunge-pop hook have kept the group popular through changes in popular music tastes and band personnel. The group was formed when Alexakis moved to Portland, Oregon and recruited Craig Montoya and Scott Cuthbert to back him up. Everclear released its first album, World Of Noise on independent Fire Records in 1993, and embarked on a nonstop tour schedule. Greg Eklund replaced Cuthbert on drums just before the band signed to Capitol and released 1995's Sparkle And Fade, which went on to platinum status thanks to the modern rock hit "Santa Monica." They followed up with the even more successful So Much For The Afterglow in 1997. Songs From An American Movie, an ambitious double album project, was their next effort, with both Vol. 1: Learning How To Smile and Vol. 2: Good Time For A Bad Attitude released in 2000, and, although they spawned the hit "Wonderful," the timing of the releases hurt sales. Slow Motion Daydream, in 2003, did not sell as well, and Eklund and Montoya departed after the tour. Alexakis embarked on a solo tour before reassembling a new lineup in 2004. They've been working on the new album ever since, and Welcome To The Drama Club is due in September, 2006. Alex Alexakis uses sometimes painfully personal, first-person lyrics, wrapped in catchy pop tunes to tell tales of family poverty, resentment and loss, sounding like a '90s update of a songwriting tradition shared by the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Paul Westerberg. A great example is the end of the hit single "Father Of Mine." His emotion building throughout as he lists the crimes of his absent father, the song reaches a crescendo as Alexakis states that he has a child now and will never "let her know all the pain I have known." You can practically hear the angry tears falling.