Everclear - ready to 'sparkle' again
In 1995 American rock band Everclear caught the ears of listeners around the world with their album Sparkle and Fade.
This week Everclear play three New Zealand shows to mark the 20th anniversary of the album which helped define an era and which told tales of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll but not necessarily in that order.
In Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland they'll play the album in its entirety. Expect to hear such songs as Santa Monica, Heroin Girl and a few new tunes too.
Art Alexakis, lead singer of Everclear, speaks literally having stepped off the plane on Thursday night and mere minutes after he's set foot on New Zealand soil.
"It's our fourth time to New Zealand," he says. "And this time we are coming to the South Island, I'm so excited to come there."
For some it might have seemed that Everclear found overnight success when Sparkle and Fade was released but nothing could be further from the truth.
Prior to its release, Alexakis had been in bands for 20 years and the band had their first platinum record when he was 34. He is now 53.
"You don't make music for the money, you do it for the love, as they say."
Since then the band has had something of a revolving door in terms of band members, with Alexakis the one constant driving force.
Everclear has just released their ninth studio album, Black Is the New Black and it's generating a buzz.
"It's been great," he says. "We've been waiting a long time to get radio play, now we are with the first single The Man Who Broke his Own Heart. It's pretty exciting right now, there's a buzz there."
New song American Monster is a stomping song with "hit" written all over it, too.
"Yeah, that's probably going to be the second single," he says.
The album came about because Everclear have been touring with a lot of rock bands. Alexakis says it made him remember how great guitar-driven rock is and how much he loves rock 'n roll.
Hint: don't call Everclear's sound "alt-rock" unless you want a telling off.
"We wanted to make a record that was an unapologetic rock record. It's heavy and melodic with contemporary production. That's what we went in to do and I think we nailed it."
It's been 20 years since Sparkle and Fade was first released, but Alexakis still enjoys playing the songs.
There's a story he tells about the creation of arguably their biggest hit, Santa Monica.
Everclear had just signed to Capitol EMI and during the holiday season they were home for three weeks to work on a record.
"We moved into a new house and the rest of the time we were in the studio. At night I was writing songs and we would record during the day. We'd go down to my basement and bash them out. I was writing them left and right," Alexakis recalls.
Late one night at home he wrote Santa Monica but before they went into the studio, their label's A&R representative visited the basement to hear their new songs.
"My daughter had headphones on and was sitting on his lap. We were blasting it out. He said 'I love that song, it's a hit but it's not finished yet'."
Alexakis told the A&R guy "'hell yeah" it was finished and told him to wait until the band had recorded it.
"We recorded it and then he said 'I'm even more convinced it's a hit but it's not done yet'."
So Alexakis told him to wait until the band had mixed the song.
"We mixed it and he said 'I'm certain that is a huge hit song but it's not complete yet'.
"The next time he came in I said 'hey, I wrote a song for you, it's called You Make Me Feel Like A Whore and I made it up on the spot and then I wrote that song. We made the song longer and added a few parts. Was he right? Maybe but I don't like authority."
It seems a fitting moment to ask Alexakis about his own work as an A&R representative inbetween his own musical projects.
"Yeah," he replies, laughing. "I'm pretty authoritative as an A&R guy."
The video for Everclear's song Heroin Girl was filmed in Portland. It features a bunch of kids who probably should have been at school. Many are wearing plaid shirts, hair is flying, and it's a fitting snapshot of the grunge era.
"It was a clusterf... of people going in different directions. I can't believe we paid as much money for that video as we did. It wasn't that much but I still feel like we got ripped off.
"All the kids that were in that video were cutting school. I had a couple of parents give me some stern words, I told the kids they had to have permission," he laughs. "That was a long time ago... 20 years."
- THE DETAILS:
Everclear (USA) perform at Studio The Venue, Auckland, Friday May 1; Bodega, Wellington, on Sunday and at Christchurch's Allen Street Rock Club on Tuesday. Tickets, $79.95 plus booking fee from Ticketek.co.nz.
- The Press