’90s alternative rock survivor says it all
These days, Art Alexakis sees a lot of palm trees. It is practically surrounded by her home in Pasadena, California. “Not on our property,” he said over the phone. “But to our right, across the street, to our left, behind us, far behind us… There are palm trees everywhere.
As it should be. As frontman of alternative rock band Everclear, Alexakis sang the lyrics “I Just Wanna See Palm Trees” with heart and catharsis on the 1995 signature hit “Santa Monica”. The song remains one of the most endearing guitar singles of the era. And the most enduring.
“I think a sense of big guitars, melodicism and a three to four minute song structure is really important,” says Alexakis. He cites groups like Cheap Trick, Bon Scott-era AC / DC, and The Replacements as their personal. Even classic rap groups like Public Enemy, Erik B. & Rakim, and NWA have made an impact on the songwriting of Alexakis. “You can watch different songs and I can show you hip-hop beats in my lyrics and my voice. It took a long time to make it what Everclear is.
A quarter of a century has passed since Everclear achieved great success with the excellent 1995 second album “Sparkle and Fade”. Founded as a trio in Portland around 1991, with Greg Eklund on drums and Craig Montoya on bass, Everclear has released a series of hits, including “Father of Mine”, “Everything to Everyone”, “I Will Buy You A New Life “and” Heartspark dollar sign “.
There were also platinum albums. And high-spinning video clips, which brought the image of Alexakis’ bottle-blonde face into the retina of MTV viewers. All in an era filled with rock bands talented and melodic enough to not only reach the mainstream, but to shape it. The list of contemporary acts at the time is astounding. Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, No Doubt, Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Smashing Pumpkins, Weezer, Foo Fighters, Oasis, Rage Against The Machine, etc. For any group, including Everclear, find a large audience among this competition is awesome.
“I think it was the last breath of new MTV music,” says Alexakis. “They actually showed videos, you know? [Laughs] But also back then, alternative radio was so huge. The big stations that were originally in the alternate format were indicators, not only for all the other alternate stations, but also for the other formats. It was truly a golden era.
It’s amazing that Alexakis is even alive to experience it. He survived years of drug and alcohol abuse and got sober before success came. “I came out in sobriety, like a bat out of hell,” says Alexakis. “Full of dynamism, full of ambition. Some thought I was an opportunist. I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing. I take advantage of the opportunities. My sobriety was like putting rocket fuel in the engine. I wasn’t messing around anymore.
After Everclear signed with Capitol Records, Alexakis took his lead and brought him, his girlfriend and daughter, out of “a total shit hole” and into a “beautiful house”. The basement has been fitted out for the group’s rehearsals, with a small sound system. Egg crates and rugs were stapled to the basement walls to absorb sound.
The house had a large porch. In the evening, Alexakis would sit with his acoustic guitar and his notebook and write songs. There, one night, he invented the riff and the melody for what would become “Santa Monica”. At the time, he was suffering from acute anxiety. The group took a few days off and Alexakis and his family went to the coast for a little getaway. When they got there, his anxiety “subsided a bit,” says Alexakis, who had grown up on the Santa Monica, Calif., Waterfront.
While on vacation, after his wife and daughter fell asleep every night, Alexakis would sit outside their hotel room and write “about comfort zones and ghosts.” He hadn’t quite finished the lyrics to “Santa Monica” by the end of the vacation. As he and his family returned to Portland, Alexakis’ anxiety returned. When they got home, he finished speaking. The next day, the group worked on the song.
After Everclear’s A&R rep, Perry Watts-Russell, heard “Santa Monica,” Russell continued to ask Alexakis to play the song again. And even. He remembers Russell saying, “It’s definitely a single. I don’t know if it’s a hit song, but it’s pretty awesome. But it doesn’t seem to be over. Everclear recorded the track during the “Sparkle and Fade” sessions in Madison, Wisc. studio and then it was mixed in New York.
Russell thought this might be a “transformative” song for the band, but still didn’t think it was all the way there. Always clear went back to the studio and Alexakis continued the chorus. It was pre-Pro Tools, so the edit required razor blade splicing of the analog tape. Finally, “Santa Monica” as we know it was done. The rest is the documented history of “Behind the Music”. “Who knows?” said Alexakis. “Would it have been a success without it?” I would like to say no. It’s better. “He pauses and adds with a small laugh:” But never tell Terry that I said that. “
In the decades since his band’s cultural heyday, Alexakis has continued to release new music in different shades of Everclear. In addition to Alexakis on vocals and guitar, Everclear’s current lineup includes guitarist Dave French, bassist Freddy Herrera and drummer Brian Nolan.
In 2012, Alexakis founded the ’90s-themed “Summerland Tour”, named after a favorite deep cut “Sparkle and Fade,” featuring Everclear anchor lines of decent acts like Sugar Ray, Gin Blossoms, Marcy Playground, Soul Asylum, Space Hog, Filter, and Marcy Playground.
This year’s “Summerland” features Everclear, Living Color, Hoobastank and Wheatus. Alexakis is thrilled to watch Living Color’s Vernon Reid do his postmodern virtuoso guitar thing every night. “And I guarantee you, I’m not the only guy with platinum records on his wall that’s off the stage doing this,” Alexakis said. “That’s when we all go to school, when we watch Living Color.”
The 2021 “Summerland” range departs a bit from the brand’s 90s script. Alexakis says it still works because the Wheatus and Hoobastank groups from the early 2000s were a “continuation of the alternative.”
He is quick to donate props to the art-metal group Jane’s Addiction in triggering the heyday of alternative rock. But Alexakis thinks Living Color, the afro-rock quartet known for the 1988 riffy hit “Cult of Personality”, was just as crucial. “What they stood for as a band and their sound was a precursor to alternative music in the 90s. And I’m not taking anything away from the first two records of Jane’s Addiction. I saw them at their second gig, and it was like watching Led Zeppelin in 1968. Unreal. I have never seen anything like it.
Over the past few years, Alexakis has faced new health challenges, including the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. He has also endured a bout with COVID, including lingering symptoms. The guy is a survivor.
Many notable ’90s singers are no longer with us, including Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, Layne Staley of Alice In Chains, Bradley Nowell of Sublime, Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots and Kurt Cobain of Nirvana. But Alexakis is still there. And while he might not be in the same noble category as the aforementioned ’90s stars, we shouldn’t hold back the fact that he’s still alive against him.
At the time, Alexakis established a bond with Weiland. Representatives for the STP singer have asked Alexakis, already in recovery for years, to visit Weiland in rehab, he said. “I met Scott Weiland and talked with him a bit. We’ve had some communication over the years, but not a lot. After Everclear signed with Capitol, which also houses Blind Melon, Hoon – who had heard a tape of “Sparkle and Fade” before its release – contacted management to welcome Everclear to the label. Alexakis says Hoon’s death in 1995 “was really heartbreaking for me, man, because he died of my drug of choice. He was shooting cocaine. And he went out. And I was out, that means your heart stopped, several times and luckily I was brought back. So yes, I had a connection with a lot of these people in different ways.
Now decades in sobriety, Alexakis says he’s still working on a 12-step recovery program. He has a sponsor, sponsors others, and attends support meetings through Zoom two to four times a week. “I don’t know if I would have been successful if I had used it again. If I had, I probably would have destroyed myself.
“Summerland Tour” 2021 arrives at Mars Music Hall in Huntsville, address 700 Monroe St. at the Von Braun Center, 7:30 p.m. July. Tickets are $ 45 via ticketmaster.com.
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