Art Alexakis of Everclear admits there’s a throwback element to Summerland, the rolling 1990s alt rock festival he created that’s now in its third year.
“But to call it just a nostalgia tour is, I think, the lazy way out,” he said in a recent phone interview.
For one thing, the lineup consists of working groups; Everclear is currently wrapping up its fourth studio album since 2003.
“One prerequisite [for Summerland] is huge, iconic alternative rock hits from the ‘90s, but also that you play shows, make records … you’re not just coming out of mothballs once a year for a payday.”
Still, he said, there’s nothing wrong with looking back.
“Nostalgia isn’t just fun but also healthy; it keeps us grounded to know where we’ve been and what connects to us,” he said.
Alexakis is Everclear’s last original member.
“But I wrote and sang all the songs, so there’s a huge sense of continuity there,” Alexakis said. “It’s not a situation where the drummer owns the name, but he played in the band five or 10 years after the last hit, and he wasn’t even on the hit … and there’s none of that on this tour.”
Co-headliner Soul Asylum is one of his longtime favorites.
“Back in the ‘80s, when I was in my 20s, I used to go see them play and I was just like, they’re the best band in the world,” he said. “They’re like a punk rock Replacements, even more punk rock than the Replacements were — they were awesome.”
The other two groups share history with Everclear. Eve 6 asked Alexakis to produce its first album, but plans fell through.
“They were called Eleventeen and they were in high school. … We had a mutual friend and I would go to their rehearsals, but I ended up not being able to make the record because Everclear was blowing up.”
Spacehog, an English retro-glam band touring for the first time in 12 years, opened for Everclear as their mid-1990s breakthrough Sparkle and Fade was at the top of the charts.
“They are a favorite of mine,” said Alexakis. “I think their first record was unbelievable; that’s why I brought them out with us back in ’96.”
In his own music, Alexakis is still a scrappy brooder. 2012’s Invisible Stars is as pensive and pained as anything he’s done, and he said Everclear’s just-completed album is even more so. Why so tortured?
“I don’t know! I’m really happy in my life, but I’ve got that fire in my belly that I had back then, even back in the day,” he said. “I made one of our most upbeat records while I was going through a divorce. Right now, I’m having the best time of my life ... but this is a dark, dark, dark record. Did I say dark?”
He finds brightness mentoring young musicians at Los Angeles College of Music, where he’s director of songwriting. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. … I’m a decent guitar player and singer, but it’s my songs that have propelled me through my music career.” At LACM, he works with students who share his focus. “If you’re going to school to be a songwriter, you’ve obviously got it, a passion, a one-track mind, the ability and drive to do this. It’s a lot like me. … I’m 52 years old and I’m still playing rock and roll, which is living the dream of most middle-aged men.”
As seen in the June 12, 2014 issue of the Hippo.