Art Alexakis and his band Everclear burst onto the ’90s alternative-rock scene with the album Sparkle And Fade. Roaring out of the gates with a raucous power surge of a hit single in “Santa Monica,” Everclear forced its way into radio rotation with a roots-tinged, melodic brand of California punk rock that demanded to be heard.
And in Alexakis’ confessional lyrics and tales of hope and redemption from a troubled past that drew from his own experiences with drug addiction, family dysfunction and dislocation, fans took comfort in connecting with a lost soul who’d turned his life around but was still struggling with his inner demons.
A string of hits ensued, making Everclear one of the biggest rock acts of the decade, but the 2000s found the band’s star beginning to dim. Lineup changes, problems in Alexakis’ personal life, record-label issues and changing musical tastes all contributed to flagging interest in Everclear.
But, Alexakis is a survivor, and he intends to see Everclear bounce back. A new album of cover songs called The Vegas Years is a start. Tackling songs like Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back In Town,” Neil Young’s “Pocahontas,” Cheap Trick’s “Southern Girls,” the Go-Gos’ “Our Lips Are Sealed” and Hall & Oates’ “Rich Girl” over the years, Everclear has made each and every one of these chestnuts its own, while respecting the original authors’ vision.
Alexakis talked about the new album and all things Everclear in a recent interview.
GOLDMINE: Why release an album of covers right now? These have been collected since 1994 I believe.
ART ALEXIAKIS: Yeah, they go back to ‘94. Well, we’ve had a bunch of covers. We had a stockpile of about 20-24 covers, and I was just like, “You know, man, this would be a great thing. Fans would really like this. I think people would really like this.”
There’s some really great songs there. And some of those songs are on Capitol. We’re not on Capitol/EMI anymore, but we went to Capitol to see if they would license us some of the songs, and they started listening to ’em, and they go, “Wow, man, these are really great. We want to put this out.” I’m like, ‘Well, okay, but we want to do… we have some songs, you know — like the personnel in the band changed about five years ago — and we want to do some songs that we have,” and we sent ’em the songs we have, and they let me produce it, and gave me a little bit of money to remix some songs, and [we did it] for not a lot of money really. Like [for] a fraction of what I used to spend on [making] records, we put this record together and made all these songs live together in a way that sounds like an album.
So, yeah, there’s all sorts of stuff. There’s old songs, there’s new songs, there’s some songs recorded with older members of the band, and then, I added some stuff with the new guys and remixed ’em. So, it’s kind of a blend. So, it’s a little bit of everything. It kind of ties in the old and the new pretty well I think.
GM: There’s great diversity here — a Yaz song to Woody Guthrie to classic-rock staples. How did listening to that all come together to impact your songwriting?
AA: Well, I think all those artists, in one way or another, had some kind of influence — some obviously more than others. And there’s some bands that aren’t represented here that were huge influences, like The Beatles and the Stones and Led Zeppelin, that I didn’t even cover. They just…