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Though Everclear's Northwestern grunge-punk style was hardly revolutionary when the band rose to popularity in 1995, the trio's hook-ridden songs and Art Alexakis' "us against them" lyrics were taken to heart by bored Gen-X teens. Everclear's sound reflected the rock, post-punk, and singer/songwriter influences of frontman Alexakis, including acts like X, the Replacements, the Pixies, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Elvis Costello. Also instrumental to Everclear's success was the group's obsessive touring schedule and aggressive self-promotion tactics.
Art Alexakis (born April 12, 1962, West Los Angeles, California) was raised in a lower-middle-class household by his single mother. His father left the family during Alexakis' childhood, an incident that would later pepper many of Everclear's most popular songs. The dual deaths of his brother and girlfriend (his brother by heroin overdose; his girlfriend by suicide) convinced him to kick his own cocaine habit in the mid-'80s, and he later formed a country-punk band named Colorfinger in San Francisco. The group released one LP on Alexakis' own Shindig label, but the album (and an EP) went out of print after distributor Rough Trade folded. The band subsequently imploded, and Alexakis moved to his girlfriend's hometown of Portland, Oregon. In 1992, he met Craig Montoya (born September 14, 1970) and Everclear's first drummer, Scott Cuthbert; the trio recorded a demo EP for $400 and released the disc on Portland's Tim/Kerr label. Alexakis grew frustrated with the company's lack of promotion, so he hired an independent promoter to push the EP and personally mailed copies to media outlets and distributors.
Everclear then added several songs to the EP, retitled it World of Noise, and issued the expanded package in 1993 on Fire Records. Throughout the following year, the group toured relentlessly and underwent several key changes, replacing Cuthbert with Greg Eklund (born April 18, 1970) and signing to Capitol Records in June. Their second album, Sparkle and Fade, appeared in 1995 and attracted a much wider audience. Alternative radio outlet lent their support to the singles "Santa Monica" and "Heroin Girl," and the album eventually rose to platinum status. Meanwhile, Alexakis became a major alternative media figure, even reporting from the 1996 political conventions for MTV. So Much for the Afterglow followed in 1997 and went double platinum, particularly due to the success of three Top Five modern rock hits, "Everything to Everyone," "I Will Buy You a New Life," and "Father of Mine." Alexakis had become a father himself around this time, and the birth of his daughter prompted the singer to become even more politically active. He testified in front of Congress regarding child support laws and campaigned with several presidential tickets, among other efforts. Everclear was also hailed as Modern Rock Artist of the Year by Billboard magazine in 1998.
A double-barreled concept effort appeared in 2000 with the poppy Songs from an American Movie, Vol. 1: Learning How to Smile surfacing in early fall and the harder-rocking Songs from an American Movie, Vol. 2: Good Time for a Bad Attitude appearing a few months later. (Learning How to Smile was initially planned as a solo effort for Alexakis, given its deviation from the band's standard three-piece rock sound.) Both records produced several charting singles, with the AM radio pop of "Wonderful" finding the most success. Everclear returned with the more straightforward Slow Motion Daydream in 2003 before the aptly titled greatest-hits compilation Ten Years Gone: The Best of Everclear 1994-2004 appeared in October 2004. In between, Alexakis ventured on a brief 2003 solo acoustic tour before the entire Everclear lineup would shift around him. He remained the only original member as the group expanded past a trio to include bassist Sam Hudson, guitarist Dave French, drummer Brett Snyder, and keyboardist Josh Crawley.
By then off the Capitol roster and back in the indie world, the newly minted Everclear released Welcome to the Drama Club on Eleven Seven Music (in association with ADA/Warner Music Group) in September 2006. Spearheaded by the single "Hater," the album was meant to be an homage to some of Alexakis' earliest influences. Drama Club cracked the Billboard Top 200 and hit number 11 on the Top Independent Albums chart, while Everclear subsequently headed out on a college club tour through the fall. Released in 2008, The Vegas Years was a set of covers; 2009's In a Different Light, an album of acoustic reinterpretations of the group's songs, turned the tables. Two years later, Everclear continued to look backward, cutting a bunch of new versions of their hits -- along with a few covers -- on the album Return to Santa Monica. Their first album of new material in six years, Invisible Stars, arrived in in the summer of 2012; it peaked at 119 on the Billboard charts. Three years later, the group returned with the heavier Black Is the New Black, released on The End Records. ~ John Bush
- Portland, OR
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