'Clown suit and sock puppets,' Art Alexakis of Everclear brings his less-serious side to the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton
Back in the mid-to late‘90s, alternative rock gems like “Santa Monica,” “Father of Mine,” and “Wonderful” were almost inescapable forces on radio stations across the U.S.
Merging the last fading strains of grunge with ‘70s hard rock and pop, the songs became hits and brought Everclearthe band responsible for such tracks widespread popularity and acclaim.
Now in 2011, the leader of Everclear and sole remaining member from the group’s heyday, Art Alexakis is heading back out on the road for a solo tour that stops in Northampton on Friday.
Fortunately, the Underground was able to catch up with Alexakis as he prepared for his trek to the East Coast and asked him his thoughts on performing without the rest of his band, playing for U.S. troops overseas, and what fans can expect at his show in the Paradise City.
Underground: First off, what led to this recent solo tour? You’ve been pretty busy with your band Everclear releasing both Return to Santa Monicaand with another new record already due to come out early next year.
Art Alexakis: I’ve always done solo tours after completing a record. It gives me a chance to take the songs out for a test drive. It’s what it all comes down to, a voice, a guitar and a song. I’ll continue to do it until I probably don’t want to play music anymore.
What’s it like to perform without the band backing you up?
It’s both exciting and kinda scary. Exciting in the sense that I have the freedom to basically play the song in any way I want to and I also have the chance to tell stories and anecdotes and move at my own pace. It’s scary in a sense to not be able to hide behind loud guitars and so if you forget the lyrics when you’re going solo, there’s nowhere to hide.
How would describe the audience reaction to your solo shows as opposed when you play with a full group?
Probably just as raucous and intense in a more intimate way, if that makes sense. It’s easier to heckle and heckle people back, which is always great fun. It’s much easier to hear people sing along when you’re all by yourself with a guitar.
What was your first impression upon playing a concert for U.S. troops overseas? You’re known as a big supporter of America’s armed forces, having played in Iraq in 2008 and in Guantanamo Bay for the soldiers stationed there as well.
The first time I played for troops overseas was in 2005, we played a bunch of bases in Southeast Asia and Japan. I had never been on a military base before and I found it very welcoming and very exciting to be able to play for people who were so far away from home and looked at us as a taste of home. It was something to help them do what they are there to do which is to serve and protect the United States – which even though I have been a huge opponent of both Afghan and Iraq wars, I have always been a big proponent of our troops and whatever it takes to take care of them while they serve our country.
What are your plans regarding any future political or public service performances? 2012 is an election year after all, and you played at the Democratic National Convention in 2004.
I don’t have any plans but am open to any invitation from anyone on the progressive tip that has a cause that I believe in. I’m not in a place where I can write big checks right now but I can always pick up a guitar and go play for somebody.
Watch Art in the official video for Everclear’s song “Wonderful” here:
What is some advice you would like to share with aspiring artists and musicians?
Be careful what you ask for (laughs). The only advice I offer anybody who is passionate about what they do is that under the caveat that you are truly focused and passionate and believe in yourself and what you do, don’t ever give up. Ever. Because if you don’t give up you might not win but if you DO give up, you will not win.
How about some words of warning?
Try to bring your own food whenever possible and insist on modern plumbing.
Finally, what might fans expect from your show at the Iron Horse Music hall in Northampton, Mass. on November 18?
They can expect me to play pretty much all Everclear songs including one or two new ones.I will tell stories and do what I usually do, which is not taking myself seriously but taking my music and my performance very seriously.