:: Everclear :: Gothic Theatre :: February 7 ::
By Brian Kenney
Everclear’s Art Alexakis believes he has written the perfect break-up song with “Hater.” Not exactly the most attractive quality to lead promotion on your latest disc, but, then again, if your latest disc is entitled Welcome to the Drama Club, it might just be apropos.
“A lot of living went into this album,” Alexakis said dryly in a recent interview with The Marquee.
Certainly an understatement for the founder/lyricist/vocalist/producer of Everclear, the seminal band who, along with the likes of Dinosaur Jr. and The Meat Puppets, engineered and forged the burgeoning late ’80s and early ’90s Left Coast genre known as “cow punk.”
Now, a decade-and-a-half removed from the country punk revolution, Drama Club still echoes elements of the movement but more so with an older and wiser Alexakis — wiser, in respect that Everclear’s central figure is deeply concerned with political matters; older, in respect that at 45 years old Alexakis still croons like a misanthropic adolescent in search of a moral compass.
Welcome to the Drama Club marks a number of departures for Alexakis. The disc is his first without the backing of Capitol Records and his first without the textbook Everclear: the inceptive trio of Alexakis, bassist Craig Montoya and drummer Greg Eklund. Upon Montoya’s and Eklund’s departures in 2003, word circulated that the group had disbanded. “People had the idea that we broke up,” Alexakis said. “We never broke up. I wanted to go one direction, and the other guys wanted to go in two different directions. If you listen to their bands, they sound nothing like Everclear.”
Montoya and Eklund eventually landed on their feet respectively. Eklund pulled a Dave Grohl, going from drum kit to guitarist/vocalist with the The Oohlas, and Montoya is now with Tri-polar.
Alexakis, on the other hand, found himself in personal and financial ruin; a close to three million dollar debt forced him to file Chapter 11. He also filed for divorce from his third wife. “I can’t tell you how many changes I’ve been through,” he confessed. “Sometimes getting your ass kicked emotionally will do that to you, especially when it was needed.” Yet Alexakis stoically insists that the indie-released Drama Club (Eleven Seven Music) should not be called a “comeback“ album.
One of the biggest changes for Alexakis is his re-vamped band, far away from the paired-down, nominal trio he was used to working with. Building up to a five-piece with Portland and Seattle locals, he enlisted bassist Sam Hudson, guitarist Dave French, former Everclear drum tech Brett Snyder and keyboardist Josh Crawley.
The chemistry that Alexakis hungered for paid off with a slightly retro sound on Drama Club, an Alexakis-produced disc that blends early cow punk of the Petty knockoff “Under the Western Stars” with a keyboard heavy blues swing, “A Shameless Use of Charm,” and the power pop of recent Everclear, “Shine” and “Hater,” an anthem for the he-man woman hater club. “Some people write love songs, some people write happy songs but I’ve written what I think is the ultimate break-up song,” said Alexakis.
Welcome to the Drama Club’s first single is the comfortable, approachable “Glorious,” but it was the disc’s first video for “Hater” which garnered Alexakis a well-publicized confrontation with the conservative front.
The clip opens with a smoking, drinking and race-track gambling “hater” in the form of Jesus, sauntering his way through a day filled with a wooden crucifix workout, drunk driving his VW bus, and presenting communion to local prostitutes by pulling the consecrated Eucharist wafers out of the front of his pants. The campy video is so obviously over-the-top as satire, personifying Alexakis’ wry sense of humor at its best. It’s more than obvious that the video Jesus is an antithesis to the biblical figure but that still didn’t stop conservatives from salivating. They released the dogs and sent their holiest of holes: Bill O’Reilly. “Did you see me on O’Reilly?” asked Alexakis still licking his chops from taking on the conservative figurehead of “The O’Reilly Factor” on an episode that aired in August, 2006.
“He’s like a bitchy old woman,” Alexakis laughed, still trying to balance the irony of his toe-to-toe battle with O’Reilly. “He’s like trying to talk politics or religion with your grandma. You’re not going to win. You’re not going to change his mind. So don’t go there.”
With a new lease on life and a new disc and tour to promote, Alexakis, now on the indie label Eleven Seven Music, has recently embraced online promotion. “It facilitates the old school mentality of one show at a time. That’s how we broke back in the day and that’s how we’re breaking again,” he said.
But while the online era of myspace and youtube has helped this latest phase of Everclear, Alexakis said that it still all comes back to the music. “At the end of the day, if you don’t have songs you don’t have anything,” he said.
:: Everclear :: Gothic Theatre :: February 7 ::
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