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Members include Art Alexakis (born on April 12, 1964, in Los Angeles, CA; married and divorced Anita; married and divorced Jenny; married Stephanie Grieg, 2000; one daughter, Annabella), guitar, vocals; Scott Cuthbert (left group, 1994), drums; Greg Eklund (born c. 1970; joined group, 1994), drums; Craig Montoya (born c. 1971), bass. Addresses: Record company--Capitol Records, 1750 Vine St., Los Angeles, CA 90028. Website--Everclear Official Website: http://www.everclearonline.com.
Everclear's Art Alexakis was quoted in Spin as saying, "When I try to get complex in my songs, I sound stupid. When I write about things that are simple, they come out fine. There's nothing wrong with anthems." The singer- guitarist's rough-edged, melodic anthems, particularly the modern rock hits "Santa Monica," "I Will Buy You a New Life," and "Wonderful" have propelled the Portland, Oregon-based trio to multi-platinum sales. Alexakis's own travail s have led him to a stance of wary hope that contrasts sharply with the apathy and cynicism that some feel dominate alternative rock.
Alexakis grew up in the housing projects of Culver City, California, a West Los Angeles neighborhood. He was the youngest of five children, and after his parents divorced, he and his siblings were raised by their mother. Though he adored music and " never wanted to do anything else," as he said to Richard Cromelin of the Los Angeles Times, it was some time before he was able to pursue it unhindered. Influenced by his hard-living brother, George, Art was using hard drugs by age 13. "After my parents split, my dad was never around," he recalled in Details, "so George was the man I looked up to." George died of a heroin and cocaine overdose when Art was still an adolescent, and shortly thereafter, Ar t's girlfriend also died of an overdose. These experiences only made the teen more self-destructive himself. "Heroin wasn't really my thing," he maintained in Spin, adding that he preferred stimulants like cocaine and amphetamin es. He did inject cocaine, however, and experienced the roller-coaster ride of addiction for many years. "I kicked about four or five times, jonesed badly, and quit finally after I almost killed myself shooting up cocaine," he confessed. "I've been clean for 12 years."
Though Alexakis lived with his father in Houston and his sister in Oregon for short times, he largely grew up in Los Angeles. He attended Santa Monica College and UCLA, worked at various jobs, and got married. During the 1980s he played in several L .A. bands but in 1987 decided to move to San Francisco to start fresh. He worked for a graphic arts company, and played with a couple of acts, but didn't really get his career off the ground until he co-founded the band Colorfinge. Influenced by country a nd punk rock, the band took the initiative to set up its own independent label, Shindig, and to release its own album.
Alexakis Got a Start with A&R Executive
After the group's distribution fell through, the label went bankrupt and Alexakis's marriage dissolved. Through this trying period in his life, Alexakis received some encouragement from Gary Gersh, then an A&R (Artists & Repertoire) executiv e at Geffen Records. "He sent me a letter saying I think this stuff sounds kind of dated but I think your voice is cool and I think you write really great songs. Please keep sending me stuff," Alexakis recollected to Addicted to Noise writer Michael Goldberg. "He wrote by hand, 'Gary.' I sent it to him 'cause he was the guy who signed [avant-rockers] Sonic Youth, which I thought was pretty cool."
Wanting to start anew again, Alexakis decided to move with his new girlfriend, Jenny, to her hometown of Portland. "I moved to Portland because my life was falling apart, because my record label went under, my girlfriend's pregnant, my band's fallin g apart," he told Goldberg. There he held various jobs, saw the birth of his daughter, Annabella, and decided to put together a new band. He placed an ad for a rhythm section in a local paper, The Rocket, listing as desired infl uences punk and alternative heroes such as X, the Pixies, and Sonic Youth, as well as classic rock mainstays Led Zeppelin and Neil Young. The ad elicited a call from bassist Craig Montoya.
"I was kind of overwhelmed by Art at first," Montoya told Spin. "I answered his ad and I had to hold the receiver away from my ear, he was so excited." Alexakis dazzled him with plans to make records, hit the road, play at pivotal industry seminars. Montoya noted, "I was like, 'Wow, I've never been outside of the Pacific Northwest.' He became my father figure at about the same time he became Annabella's." Indeed, Alexakis's little girl was only a few days old w hen her father, Montoya, and drummer Scott Cuthbert gathered in Alexakis's basement to play. They recorded a demo there that landed them a spot at the influential South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas. Their performance facilitated a deal wit h the Portland-based indie label Tim/Kerr. After an EP, Everclear put out their debut album, World of Noise, which they recorded for $400.
The band's rapid success engendered a great deal of dislike from some veterans on the Portland music scene who saw Alexakis as an opportunistic interloper at best and a wife-batterer at worst. The latter charge was based on one horrible incident, ac cording to Alexakis, of which he's deeply ashamed. "Annabella was only 18 months at the time," he recounted to Spin, "and she may not remember any of it, but that was the single lowest moment of my entire life."
Group Signed Deal with Geffen Records
Everclear eventually inked a deal with former Geffen Records executive Gersh, who had in the interim become the head of Capitol Records. Drummer Cuthbert departed shortly thereafter and was replaced by Greg Eklund, and the band's first effort record ed for Capitol catapulted them to fame. Released in 1995, Sparkle and Fade chronicled Alexakis's many travails--as evidenced by tracks such as "Heroin Girl"--but also retained a spark of optimism. "This record," Alexak is noted in Time, "is about getting out of bad situations." Radio's embrace of the upbeat "Santa Monica," however, ultimately led to the album's platinum sales.
Yet Everclear could hardly be regarded as an overnight sensation. Touring 11 months out of the year, they built a solid nationwide following with raw, energetic performances. "I'm surprised, only because usually good records don't do well," Alexakis told Ozone. "I think it's a deep record; I didn't really think it had a smash hit on it. That's the only thing that surprises me--that 'Santa Monica' has been as big as it is. We're a good live band. We play a lot, we've worked our ass off to this point. It's not just the one hit that did it; we built up to it." Eklund suggested in an interview for Gannett News Service that Alexakis's songs simply connected with young listeners. "People can identify with what h e has to say," he said. "Talking to people who like our music, I find they are dissatisfied with what there is for them, what they've achieved. His songs reflect that. But they are also hopeful."
Despite Alexakis's stated belief that Sparkle and Fade didn't have a "smash hit" on it, the album produced several more singles, including "Heroin Girl," "Summerland," and "Heartspark Dollarsign," and sold more than one mi llion copies. However, it was their next album, So Much for the Afterglow, that truly established them as a modern rock group with staying power.
So Much for the Afterglow
Released in 1997, So Much for the Afterglow tred the same autobiographical territory as Sparkle and Fade did, but fans again embraced the album, sending the singles up the charts and the album in to multi-platinum territory. "I Will Buy You a New Life" and "Father of Mine," the two stand-out cuts on the disc, speak to Alexakis's desires to build the life for his young family that he never had growing up. Though "I Will Buy You a New Life" contains such potentially depressing lyrics as "I hate those people who love to tell you that money is the root of all that kills/They have never been poor/They have never had the joy of a welfare Christmas," the tempo of the tune stays relentlessly upbeat, hooki ng the listener from the first note. Pitchforkmedia critic Ryan Schreiber credits Alexakis for bringing honesty to the worn-out genre of pop-punk tunes: "Alexakis' lyrics are almost poetic again as he sings about standard rock s tar stuff like the advantages of being broke and on drugs. The difference between Alexakis and the average rocker ... is that he's been through it, so it comes across more like a diary than a fantasy."
Everclear's pace didn't slow after releasing two enormously successful albums. After touring in support of Afterglow, Everclear returned to the studio and emerged with enough material for two albums. Songs from an American Move, Vol. 1: Learning How to Smile, released in July of 2000, and Songs from an American Movie, Vol. 2: Good Time for a Bad Attitude, released in November of that year, yielded a number of hits, incl uding "AM Radio," and their biggest hit ever, "Wonderful." "Wonderful" is an especially poignant song, a look at the disintegration of Alexakis's marriage through the eyes of his then-eight-year-old daughter, and an unlikely hit.
In 2003, Everclear released Slow Motion Daydream, an album that moves away from personal experience as subject matter and into political and social commentary. Written in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the ensuing wars, Alexakis is aware that the subject matter is pointed. "In some ways politically, I'd be okay with this album becoming dated," he said to Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service reporter Chuck Myers, "because then it will be a d ocument of the time--a time that hopefully doesn't exist anymore." And besides, he added, "I think it rocks."
by Simon Glickman
Group formed in Portland, OR, 1991; released EP on Tim/Kerr label and released debut album, World of Noise, 1993; signed with Capitol Records, 1994; released Sparkle and Fade, 1995; released So Much For the Afterglow, 1997; released Songs From An American Movie, Vol.1: Learning How to Smile and Songs From An American Movie, Vol. 2: Good Time for a Bad Attitude, 2000; released Slow Motion Daydream, 2003.
Addicted to Noise magazine, Band of the Year, 1995; CMJ magazine, Song of the Year for "Heroin Girl," 1995; Billboard Award, Modern Rock Band of t he Year, 1998.
- Selected discography
- Nervous and Weird (EP), Tim/Kerr, 1993.
- World of Noise Tim/Kerr, 1993; rereleased, Capitol, 1994.
- Sparkle and Fade Capitol, 1995.
- So Much for the Afterglow Capitol, 1997.
- Songs from an American Movie, Vol. 1: Learning How to Smile Capitol, 2000.
- Songs from an American Movie, Vol. 2: Good Time for a Bad Attitude Capitol, 2000.
- Slow Motion Daydream Capitol, 2003.
- Addicted to Noise, August 1, 1995.
- Details, July 1996.
- Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, July 17, 2000; June 10, 2003.
- Los Angeles Times, March 16, 1996.
- MusicWorld, August 12, 1996.
- Newsweek, July 24, 2000.
- Ozone, Spring 1995.
- Spin, September 1996.
- Time, May 27, 1996.
- USA Today, August 4, 2000.
- Everclear Official Website, http://www.everclearonline.com (October 21, 2003).
- "Everclear: So Much for the Afterglow," Pitchforkmedia, http://www.pitchforkmedia.com (October 21, 2003).
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