Q&A: Everclear’s Art Alexakis looks back on “So Much for the Afterglow”
Thu., May 11, 2017
When working on the follow up to 1995’s “Sparkle and Fade,” which features hit single “Santa Monica,” Portland alt-rock trio Everclear was under a lot of pressure to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump. (Technically speaking, “So Much for the Afterglow” is the band’s third album.)
After some trial and error, and a lot of rewriting, the band released “So Much for the Afterglow,” and songs like “Father of Mine,” “I Will Buy You a New Life” and “Everything to Everyone” made Everclear a staple of alt-rock radio. “Afterglow” struck a nerve with fans upon its release and continues to mean something as fans, and the album, get older.
Singer/guitarist Art Alexakis talked with The Spokesman-Review about the album before the band plays Northern Quest Resort and Casino on Saturday as part of the “So Much for the Afterglow” 20th anniversary tour.
Q: What do you remember most about your time writing and recording “Afterglow”?
A: It was pretty wonderful and pretty awful at the same time. It was wonderful because I finally had a budget and this is what I dreamed of for years … I was following up a successful record. I knew radio was going to pay attention to this, people were going to write about it. There was pressure on. And I like that pressure. I like the feeling of having my back against the wall …
My A&R guy didn’t turn down the record … but he told me, and he was just being honest, “Man, this isn’t the best record you can make at all. It’s a good record. It’s not great, and it’s not going to do what you want it to do.”
Then I called him back three weeks later after spending time by myself walking around New York, writing songs … and wrote notebooks of production notes like “Put a bell sound on the intro to ‘I Will Buy You a New Life.’ ” (sings melody) We tried different bell sounds and I ended up using a kid’s xylophone. It was a Playskool, with the wheels on it.
Q: How high tech.
A: Hey man, if it works, it works. Seriously, I would buy kids’ drums because they had good tone. Some people thought I was insane because I’d be going through Toys “R” Us hitting drums with stuffed animals trying to get the sounds…
The process was hard. And that’s why I said it was awful in some ways because it really is like trying to pull yourself through the eye of a needle sometimes. The exactingness of it and the perfection that it calls for. But it’s also wonderful at the same time to have purpose and have your purpose be your vision. That’s what I think everyone dreams of. And I was actually living my dream. Still am.
Q: I know not every song is autobiographical, but can you still relate to the lyrics or does it almost seem like a different person wrote the album?
A: A completely different person did write that album. That was 20-some years ago … I lived a lot of life, but yes, those songs are still relevant. The relevancy has evolved. Their meaning has evolved and changed for me. I think that’s true with anyone’s lyrics …
The song “Why I Don’t Believe in God,” which is about my mom, even though she’s passed, I have a hard time singing that song … That’s a dark song. I learned to channel different feelings like in “Father of Mine” and in that song. I went back inside, and it’s not really fun to do that, to how you felt and how the 5-year-old or the 8-year-old felt like when that was going on.
We made a new record in 2015 called “Black Is the New Black” and there’s a song on that is called “You,” which is about what happened to me. I was raped by older teenage boys when I was 8 years old, beaten and raped, and I never talked about it. I never wrote about it. When I wrote that song, it was time to talk about it. Like when I wrote “Father of Mine” or “Why I Don’t Believe in God,” it was time to talk about it. All those songs are very hard to sing. “Father of Mine,” I sing it so often, I’ve gotten used to it. I still have to connect with it to really perform it well. I don’t ever want to phone my songs in, singing it and not really feeling it, because that song is a big deal for a lot of people, myself included.
Q: You’ve mentioned a few songs you’re a little apprehensive to play. Are there any songs you’re excited to perform?
A: Absolutely… There’s songs on the record that we don’t play a lot and then there’s a couple songs that we’ve never played in any incarnation of this band … “Why I Don’t Believe in God,” “California King,” “Sunflowers,” “One Hit Wonder,” “El Distorto de Melodica,” the instrumental.
Q: Did you consider reuniting the “So Much for the Afterglow” era lineup (which featured Mead High School graduate Craig Montoya on bass) for this tour?
A: No. Not even remotely. It’s just a different era. I’m not trying to sound arrogant or egotistical, but this is my band. It’s always been my band. I’ve always done what I want to do … But I have no urge to go back in time whatsoever.
Q: What does it say about the album that it’s still so loved 20 years later?
A: I think this record connected with a lot of people … To be honest with you, it’s very humbling what people communicate to me all the time. I just got off the bus … and this lady, I don’t know how she recognized me, because I’ve got a hat on, glasses, 20 years older … she thanked me for “Father of Mine.” This happens almost every day and people write me online. It’s not just for “Father of Mine,” “Sparkle and Fade” to a lesser degree, but especially this album, and on the next album we had a song called “Wonderful,” which really connected with a lot of people. This album was like a coming of age album for a lot of people.
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