Everclear’s Aus redemption: “Hopefully I won’t be hit in the mouth with a boot this time”

Despite all the abuse Everclear copped on their “disastour” of Australia 14 years ago, Art Alexakis, the band’s leader and lone remaining member, assures NAOMI SHIMODA that he’s looking forward to an October return.

After a long slog on the road promoting So Much for the Afterglow, Everclear limped into Australia in 1998 only to be greeted by hecklers, flying boots and firecrackers. They had some of their gear stolen and almost broke up onstage in Woolongong when a well-aimed boot hit frontman Art Alexakis in the face. Since then Everclear have released two concept albums about Alexakis’ divorce; two “best-of” collections; and a covers set featuring versions of songs by Cheap Trick, Thin Lizzy and Hall & Oates. Earlier this year, the band released Invisible Stars, the first album of new material since 2006’s Welcome to the Drama Club.

FL caught up with Alexakis to chat about ‘90s nostalgia, the new album and, of course, that infamous 1998 tour.

Your last Australian tour was in 1998 – we’ve been convinced we scared you guys away forever. What went wrong last time and what made you want to come back?

The problem wasn’t with me. The problem was that the other people were having a hard time. Look, I love Australia! Especially Melbourne. Every time I go down there, I almost don’t wanna come back. I love it there. We were taking off around the world and we were touring constantly, and we should’ve, probably in hindsight, given ourselves more of a break. More of a breather. But we didn’t, and I think it just caught up with us. This all came to a head in Australia, unfortunately. And we haven’t been back since. But we’re coming back to Australia and we’re very, very excited. It’s like starting all over again. I’m really excited about it because I love playing clubs in Australia. We did it our first time there, and we’re excited to come back.

What are you most looking forward to with this tour?

The vibe – I love being in Australia. I can’t wait to put our record out there. We’re still trying to find a label. I can’t wait to see how this record plays down there. ‘Cause it’s much more of a rock record than we’ve put out in years. It’s got pop elements to it, but for the most part, it’s [got] big guitars and rock songs.

What expectations do you have of the Australian crowd this time around?

Well, hopefully I won’t be hit in the mouth with a boot. I got hit in the mouth with a boot – I think it was at Wollongong. It hit the microphone and broke one of my teeth. Someone in Melbourne – at an outside rock show – someone threw a pipe bomb [laughs]. He was just one of those dickheads you know. You know when things just don’t go right? You think it can’t get any worse and it does. It was just like one of those. People who just want to start shit, not for any reason. Most people in Australia, the overwhelming majority, are just about having a good time. You know, that’s my ethic in life. Work hard, play hard, and try and be nice to people and hopefully they’ll be nice back. I’m just excited that at my age, I get to play hard rock’n’roll. I’ve got a great band of guys in my band and two of them have been in a band for almost eleven years. We’ve really had a chance to solidify as a band. This album sounds more like a band record more than anything.

Does your new album Invisible Stars set a new direction for the band?

There’s definitely some of the old stuff – guitar, bass and drums and keeping up tempo, but there are some songs on there that sounds really wicked and hard. Not really many really pretty sounds on this record. I think Australia will really like the record.

“Being in a band with four other guys is like being in five marriages”

You’ve had quite a varied lineup since the first album. What’s involved in the process of selecting a new Everclear member? What makes the cut?

Well, there’s gotta be a vibe, there’s gotta be something that just feels like Everclear. I mean, I’ve played with a couple of guys who were great players, great guys and everything was cool, but it just didn’t vibe. It just didn’t sound like Everclear. It’s one of those indefinable things – why are you attracted to someone? You know, you could say it’s the looks … or it’s a combination of a bunch of things. You really can’t put your finger on it. Being in a band with four other guys is like being in five marriages [laughs]. It’s drama sometimes. Not so

bad with these guys.

Your Summerland tour in the US is all about bringing back ‘90s nostalgia with a bunch of top ‘90s acts on the bill. How did this idea come about?

Well, people have been talking about doing this for years and years. People were coming up to me [and saying],”Why don’t you get together with a bunch of other bands?” And “I miss ‘90s music. I love ‘90s alternative guitar music.” [I said], “It would be a great idea. I hope someone gives me a call.” Finally, last year, I just got sick of waiting for someone to call me, so I called my friend Mark McGrath from Sugar Ray and told him the idea and he loved it. And he got three other bands: Gin Blossoms, Lit and Marcy Playground. I would love to bring Summerland to Australia.

What’s your relationship with those bands?

We chilled from playing shows back in the ‘90s. Sugar Ray, I’ve known for a long time. I’m pretty good friends with Jeremy from Lit. He lives about 20 miles from me. We’ve played shows with them; they were one of the first bands I called. I just love them. They’re great guys and they play great music.

Craig Schuftan, an Australian music critic, has just published a book – Entertain Us! – about the ‘90s and “recently claimed that the decade was “a terrible disappointment at the time””: Do you agree with this? How do you feel looking back on the period?

What I loved about it was that it was guitar funk on the radio. From the ‘70s, when there was Queen, melodic guitar funk like Cheap Trick. All sorts of bands which made great songs and great albums, you know? You know, hindsight is always 20/20. It’s a cliche but sometimes, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. I never thought there was anything alternative about it. It was just rock’n’roll, you know?

Which ‘90s band would you love to see reform and play another show?

A band from my era who might not have fit into that era was Rage Against the Machine. I’m glad they’re playing shows again. I haven’t had the chance to see them. I think they’re phenomenal. I think everyone in that band is super talented, and they’re great all on their own and when they get together, they’re flat-out insane.

Everclear tour:

Wednesday, October 10 – Cooly Hotel, Coolangatta

Thursday, October 11 – Hi-Fi, Brisbane

Friday, October 12 – Hi-Fi, Sydney

Saturday, October 13 – Hi-Fi, Melbourne

Sunday, October 14 – Capitol, Perth