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Everclear bringing fresh material to Anaheim
As his longtime fans know, life hasn't always been roses for Everclear's Art Alexakis. His father walked out when he was just a kid; in early adulthood he struggled with addiction. The Los Angeles native eventually sobered up after a near-fatal overdose and went on to join several bands before finally forming Everclear in 1992.
Now, 20 years later, the 50-year-old frontman is beaming with positivity as he assures numerous times during our chat that "life is good."
"Hey, right now I'm back in California after being in some very cold places, so I'm feeling pretty good," he says with a laugh. After living in Oregon for two decades, Alexakis moved back to Southern California, settling in Pasadena. "I was born and raised out in Santa Monica (later the name of Everclear's breakthrough hit from 1995), I lived in Orange County for a bit in the '80s, and I just like California. I like the multi-ethnicity of it – and frankly I love the Mexican food."
While headlining the Summerland Tour earlier this year alongside other big-name acts of the '90s, including Gin Blossoms, Marcy Playground and O.C.'s Sugar Ray and Lit, Everclear released its first new record in six years, June's "Invisible Stars." But audiences didn't get much of a taste of it on that outing, as the band primarily played popular tracks – "Everything to Everyone," "I Will Buy You a New Life," "Wonderful" – while introducing only one new cut, "Be Careful What You Ask For."
Currently on another jaunt, with support from late '90s favorite Eve 6 (which signed to Huntington Beach's Fearless Records last year) and Georgia-based pop-rock act Namesake, the group has been peppering more new tracks into the mix. But Alexakis says he won't ignore what the audience really wants to hear. (Everclear just played Sunday night at L.A.'s El Rey Theatre and next appears Wednesday at City National Grove of Anaheim. Both are venues the band hasn't visited in more than a decade.)
"I like playing new stuff but I love making people happy, too," he says. "I'm past the point of having that sort of ego, and I don't think I ever really had that (desire) to be the band that won't play the hit songs. I feel very fortunate and blessed to have songs that are known by so many people."
Alexakis is the band's only original member at this point, something he says "is much like how Nine Inch Nails is Trent Reznor and Smashing Pumpkins is Billy Corgan." Right now, he says, chemistry with his latest lineup is just right.
"I didn't know if I was going to do another band called Everclear," he says of changes that took place early last decade. "I had gone out and met other musicians, and I went on a solo tour and took some time. But then I met some musicians that I really liked to play with and it was awesome. We started doing the old songs and it felt like Everclear, so I called it Everclear.
"Everything is wonderful, it really is. Look, I'm old enough and I've been in enough relationships to know that there are no perfect relationships and they all take work. Being in a band is like being married to four or five different guys, and there's no makeup sex."
All joking aside, he says everyone in the band has found their niche and he's finally comfortable enough to let them contribute as well: "Back in the day, it was all my thing. If I didn't like the way someone played something, I played it myself. That didn't make people happy. I learned that in the long run."
It was after the group's last album, 2006's Welcome to the Drama Club, that Alexakis says he simply needed a break. He began writing political blogs and, as an avid foodie, he toyed with the idea of putting together a rock 'n' roll cookbook. He wrote a few scripts, had cameos on a couple of television shows and starred in the short film Room to Breathe (also 2006) and the independent black comedy Rid of Me (2011).
"I was also doing Everclear shows on the weekends and we were doing quite well," he says. "I really wasn't interested in writing. I needed to live some life.
"My eldest daughter was going to high school, my youngest daughter was just being born, I had moved, there were a bunch of things happening – and finally, about two years ago, I started getting the bug to write again. It was just time to do it. I'm old enough now to know not to rush things."
Following the Grove show, Alexakis will take a little time off to cook his family a full-on traditional Thanksgiving dinner: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole and his signature creamed corn (horseradish is his secret ingredient).
"I've been doing that for years," he says with a laugh. "I'm a hardcore traditionalist. I do an herb-roasted turkey and I brine it for about two days ahead of time. I put it in a big tub full of whiskey, kosher salt, sage, spices and butter, and it sits there and gets nice and drunk. I'm telling you, you'd be in a tryptophan nightmare. I can't drink – I'm sober and clean 23 years now – so that's the closest I get to a bottle of booze."
Everclear, with Eve 6 and Namesake opening, plays Wednesday, Nov. 21 at City National Grove of Anaheim, 2200 E. Katella Ave., $25.