Art Alexakis is almost refreshingly honest. In an era when a number of bands of yesteryear cling to relevance in an era that long ago passed them by, Alexakis is more than aware of Everclear’s standing in the annals of rock music.
“Nostalgia plays a major role, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” he said. “It’s all about connecting with the things and feelings you used to have. If they’re still there, those are real feelings. When you’re a teenager, you’re like a raw nerve; those are the things you hold onto…In the end, we made a record that had an impact on people, and I put so much of myself into that album. It’s so amazingly gratifying.”
Again, refreshingly honest. Rather than trot out a bunch of new tunes when they roll through House of Blues on Saturday, Alexakis and his Everclear bandmates are going the opposite route. The band’s current nationwide tour is actually dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the multiplatinum So Much for the Afterglow.
The album, which continued Everclear’s commercial roll coming off 1995’s Sparkle and Fade, features tunes like “Father of Mine,” “Everything to Everyone” and “I Will Buy You a New Life.” These tunes were not only popular upon the album’s release in 1997; they still receive commercial radio play to this day.
In fact, one might argue the ’90s are in the midst of a resurgence. Everclear is touring in support of its most famous album, while Third Eye Blind will do the same next month when Stephan Jenkins and crew invade Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. Hell, Vertical Horizon and Fastball – more relics of the ’90s – are the current opening acts for Everclear.
“Part of (the ’90s resurgence) is a naturally cyclical thing, but, more important — and I have a theory on this – I think a lot of people are really connecting with us because it’s rock and roll,” Alexakis said. “There’s no more rock and roll out there. Rock is loud guitars, and that’s gone, replaced with punks that sound like every other song. Rock radio has become superficial; it’s the same songs. But that was the great thing about the ’90s – so many bands sounded so different.”
When it was released in 1997, it would have been fair to expect Afterglow to disappoint. Everclear was riding high on the buzz generated by its major label debut, Sparkled and Fade, which went platinum and yielded hit singles like “Santa Monica” and “Heroin Girl.” If bands put their heart and soul into their first proper album, there’s an inevitable letdown suffered in the follow-up, a sophomore slump, if you will.
Instead, Alexakis and crew released one of the defining pop-rock albums of the late ’90s. Afterglow features hits for days, along with the trademark of any successful mid-late ’90s pop-rock album. Like the Foo Fighters’ Colour and the Shape, Third Eye Blind’s self-titled release and the Wallflowers’ Bringing Down the Horse, Afterglow was accessible.
Sure, it came from an emotional place. After all, Alexakis – by this point – had endured an impoverished childhood, drug addiction, his mother’s nervous breakdown and his brother’s death via overdose. In short, this guy had seen some stuff, and he put it all into Everclear’s musical output in the ’90s. However, he made sure to do so with catchy hooks and in four minutes or less.
Take the album’s two best tracks – “Sunflowers” and “Why I Don’t Believe in God.” The former deals with the heartache that accompanies watching your child make the same mistakes you did, while the latter tackles the nervous breakdown Alexakis’s mother suffered when he was only eight years old. Both deal with some pretty heavy material, but both – at least instrumentally – are bright and almost upbeat. Both are dark while maintaining an air of optimism.
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“I think back to my days of shooting dope, going to rehab, and my mother coming to me and saying, ‘I don’t like what you’re doing, son, but I love you,’” Alexakis said. “She had already buried a son with a drug overdose, and it’s the worst thing in the world. Watching my mom go through that almost killed me. But I also think of the beautiful things. I love sunflowers; my daughter used to draw them when she was young, so I took that into account. There’s a sense of reality to it.”
As for the concert format that accompanies an anniversary tour, Alexakis said audiences can expect the first half of Afterglow, then some hits, followed by the album’s second half, then more hits to close out the show. Alexakis, like many artists who cut their teeth in the ’90s, grew up in an era when albums still mattered, when album sequences were designed with a certain them in mind.
And now, some 20-plus years after Everclear found commercial fame by connecting with an audience composed predominantly of teens and 20-somethings, he doesn’t dabble too much in legacy. Instead, Alexakis is content to know that his music – both then and now – matters to people.
“At the end of the day, I’m glad that people got what I was doing,” he said. “Anyone wants to know that what they did connected with people in a good way. That happened with us, because I still hear about it. To have people still feel that way to this day, there’s no better feeling.”