Originally published in MOO Magazine (February 1995)
Art Alexakis is a storyteller. “I like stories,” says the blond-tressed leader of the Portland, Oregon, based Everclear. “I just try to make songs real. I don’t like contrived lyrics; I don’t like lyrics that sound cliché. I try to create my own cliches. I use a lot of creative license; I try to create worlds within worlds it makes it more interesting.”
Life, it seems, is Alexakis’ biggest influence when writing songs. A song like “Loser Makes Good,” from Everclear’s aptly titled debut, World of Noise, is the songwriter’s bitter look through the eyes of a homeless man. “I hate. waking up, it means that I have to die again. tonight,” sings Alexakis. “Thirty-five years old, and I’m still sleeping outside.” The singer goes on to chastise the college kids who think they are better than the homeless man.
“I find that my songs touch some people, and that really means a lot to me,” Alexakis says, “I don’t care if we sell a million records. If we can sell enough records to keep doing this for a few years and we can keep making music. we believe in, that’s all I care about. I know it sounds cliche, but it’s true.”
Ironically, World of Noise was released nearly two years ago by Tim Kerr Records. The indie label didn’t distribute the album very well, so Alexakis took matters into his own hands and hired an indie college promoter to give the album the push he felt it deserved. “I strong armed the label into giving me 300 records to send out, which is half of what you usually need to chart on college radio. We got up to 35 on the college charts; it was pretty amazing. That was when all the labels who had been flying us around and buying us dinners, teasing us basically, started making offers,” Alexakis says.
Enter Gary Gersh and Capitol Records. Gersh, who used to work for Geffen Records, was responsible for signing bands like Nirvana. Sonic Youth and Peter Gabriel. Yes, the man does recognize talent when he sees/hears it. Alexakis was impressed with the way Gersh made records and Everclear signed with Capitol, Gersh’s new home. “I liked him, it was no bullshit. He gave me total creative control, good money, really good money; more than we were offered at other places.”
It was around this time that Alexakis and bassist Craig Montoya replaced drummer Scott Cuthbert with Greg Eklund. “We were having personality problems. Scott was having chemical problems; just plain problems. We just didn’t feel like he was committed, and I didn’t want to go to this level with this guy.” Alexakis says. “We met Greg and he is an amazing person and an amazing drummer. He learned the songs on tour.”
The label recently re-released World of Noise and is currently pushing the single, “Fire Maple Song,” on radio stations and MTV. While Alexakis doesn’t want to get his hopes up (“This album is already doing what we wanted it to do,” he says), the single is very strong and the low-budget video is actually better than most the glossy, high cost videos that MTV shows on a regular basis. Alexakis is modest when discussing “Fire Maple Song.” a story of a person remembering their youth by sights, sounds and smells and trying to recapture those special times. “I think it’s a good song,” he says. “There’s a lot of good songs that don’t make it, that touch a nerve. You never know, I’m not worried about it. This tour and this album and this EP (Everclear’s first “official” Capitol release, the Fire Maple Song EP), the fact that it’s charting so high on college radio-a lot more people are finding out about us we’re setting up for the next record, which is really cool.”
At this point in time, Alexakis doesn’t think the single will reach Buzz Bin proportions (“But, who’d have thought Weezer would be such a huge thing?” he asks). “We have a new album just about done. I fly to New York to do some touch up mixing and touch up vocals on it. When I fly home to Portland on the 23rd of December, the album is going to be done. The album is called Sparkle and Fade and it will be out in May.”