Published Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009 | 10:07 a.m.
Updated Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009 | 4:40 p.m.
When most of us think “family meal,” The Hard Rock Café isn’t exactly the first spot that comes to mind.
But for seasoned rocker Art Alexakis, the iconic rock ‘n' roll eatery feels like home.
“I know it sounds kind of weird to say it, but … it feels more like family,” he said. “We can be greasy and tattooed and bleached and kind of all screwed up and it’s OK.”
“Kind of like Vegas,” he mused.
Putting a new twist on the traditional old-school family dinner tradition, Alexakis and latest incarnation of his band, Everclear, will have a meal surrounded by memorabilia this evening, then get up and perform for the Hard Rock’s dinner guests.
Clayton Senne and Theory of Flight will also play the new, Strip-facing Hard Rock Café tonight.
“I’m really excited about it,” Alexakis said earlier this week, when the Sun caught up with him over the phone as he and his daughter perused a mall in Tucson, Ariz.
Everclear kicked off the West Coast leg of their “In a Different Light” tour in Arizona's second largest city earlier this week.
Alexakis said tonight’s show will be a homecoming of sorts.
“I’ve been involved with the Hard Rock off and on, especially in Vegas, since the band basically began,” he said.
The 47-year-old has been fronting Everclear since the band first got together back in 1992.
Co-founding bandmates Craig Montoya and Greg Eklund have since gone their separate ways but Alexakis maintains that the music hasn’t suffered despite changes in the line-up.
“They were never, like, writers in the band. … they just kind of just took their paychecks and went,” he said. “The (record) label kind of made it look more like a band … (but) it’s just the way it was marketed.”
In that, ahem, different light, the band is and always has been Alexakis’ baby.
“Everclear’s always been my thing,” he said, and he maintains sole custody of the band: There is no visitation, birthday phone calls, or holiday get-togethers. In fact, Alexakis hasn’t heard from Montoya and Eklund for years now – and they haven’t heard from him, either.
“I haven’t talked to them for six years,” the frontman said, flatly.
“We weren’t friends,” he said, matter-of-factly. “It wasn’t like we were teenagers (growing) up together. … I had a kid and we were in our 30s.”
“It wasn’t a bad thing, it was what it was,” he concluded.
And instead of looking back, the frontman is marching forward.
He has assembled a talented collection of musicians to support him on this tour, which is in support of Everclear’s latest album, “In A Different Light.”
The disc is an acoustic walk down memory lane that revisits many of the group’s hits from the late '90s.
Though they haven’t been playing together for decades, Alexakis said the new Everclear clicks and, therefore, rocks.
“The guys that are in the band now, I have more of a vibe with them than I have with any group, ever,” he said. “They’re the best musicians I’ve ever played with and they take themselves less seriously.”
After all the years of hard-partying, personal and professional break-ups, financial ups and downs, etc, Alexakis is today focused on making and playing music and hopes to get into the recording studio next year.
He said fans should brace themselves for the music to be “a lot more guitar-driven and aggressive than the stuff I put out on the last couple of real records.”
Before then, however, he will tour with Everclear, as well as a new band he’s put together.
“I’m doing a solo tour with Ed from Live and Leigh from Sixpence None the Richer called the Open Wings, Broken Strings,” he said.
“We just did the first three shows … and it was a blast, it was so much fun,” he said, noting there will be two Open Wings, Broken Strings shows in Las Vegas early next year.
“I’m going to be back in January,” he promised.
Still, Alexakis is hoping Everclear fans will revisit their roots and pop by the Hard Rock tonight.
“If you’ve ever liked Everclear, you’re going to like the show,” he assured. “It’s a fun show. … It’s a rock show.”
Q and A with Alexakis
The band's new album offers up new versions of classic Everclear tunes like “Wonderful” and “I Will Buy You a New Life” plus a few new tracks.
Alexakis explained his frustration with artists who refuse to play their hits. He says, “You’ve got to walk that line and make people happy and sound like that song that people fell in love with in the first place. I’ve had to evolve it over the years but I play 'Santa Monica' at every show."
At what point did you decide to do an album of new versions of classic Everclear songs rather than make an album totally of new material?
I’m working on an album of new material and I’m the kind of guy who if it ain’t ready, I’m not going to force it. I’m working on about 17 songs and four or five of them are great and the others are getting hammered into shape and it’ll work itself down to 12 to 14 really strong songs that I feel great about. When I’m there, I’ll record them. The new album is like doing a live album but it’s not. The theory is that you get a more evolved and different version of a song that you knew. Songs, especially ones you’ve been playing for 12 to 15 years are going to evolve and change.
Was this something your fans had requested over the years?
The album now is something fans have asked for over the years. Instead of doing it bombastically with big guitars like we usually do, a lot of fans have wanted to hear acoustic versions of these songs. Probably I’ve gotten a thousand requests over the years. If I didn’t like the idea - if I had a thousand people saying I should do a record with just kazoos because it would be so awesome - then I would be like “Uh, no.” If I thought these songs sucked or they weren’t bringing anything new to the table, I would have said, “well, that was a nice thought.” But I thought it came out great.
With the advent of Craigslist, I can see it being more likely for modern bands to come together suddenly from strangers seeking band members but what was it like forming a band over 15 years ago with two guys you had never met after placing an ad for musicians?
Meeting people out of the paper is a crapshoot. I mean, did you ever try to date with personals? Neither did I. it scares the hell out of me. People lie! You read this stuff like “attractive, funny… .” Yeah who told you that? Your mom? Who told you you’re attractive or funny? It worked out though. Before we signed with the major label, Greg [Eklund] came onboard and he went from 1994 until 2003. We were never all best friends. We all kind of had different drummers that we moved to. It was more professional.
Was it a ever a pointed mission to address social issues like drug use and fathers leaving in a sugar-coated pop song fashion or were you just writing what you knew and songs like “Father of Mine” came out?
[laughing] No! I just do what I do. I grew up listening to singer songwriters and I grew up listening to hard rock bands. That’s what I like and ultimately it was going to melt. And I’ve said that before, Everclear is a singer songwriter combined with a hard rock band. Call it alternative, call it whatever you want. It’s big guitars. It’s melodic. But yeah, I get a little bit deeper than some people. I’ve lived a little bit of life.