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Art Alexakis—vocal, guitars
"In some ways, this album's a lot more aggressive than anything we've done in a long time," Art Alexakis says of Invisible Stars, Everclear’s first collection of new songs in six years as well as the band's first eOne release. "But in other ways, it's a lot more melodic. I like having both of those sides covered."
The new 12-song set embodies the same qualities of sonic punch, sturdy songcraft and edgy introspection that have long endeared Everclear to its large and loyal worldwide fan base. Such new tunes as "Be Careful What You Ask For," "Volcano," "Falling In A Good Way" and "Tiger In A Burning Tree" maintain the same musical and emotional resonance that first struck a responsive chord with listeners in the early 1990s.
"Everything about this record came very naturally, and everything about it feels completely genuine to me," singer/guitarist/songwriter Alexakis notes. "To me, it sounds like an old-school Everclear record in a lot of ways, but it's also contemporized, with the synthesizers and the melody lines. I grew up with The Cars and Devo, and I love the sound of those old analog synthesizers and how they cut through the big guitars."
Invisible Stars' compelling blend of personally-charged lyrics and savvy hooksmanship is prominent on such new tunes as "Promenade" and "Santa Ana Wind," which reflect the influence of Alexakis' recent move with his wife and daughter to his native state of California, after two decades in Portland, Oregon, where he founded Everclear in 1992.
"That was a real catalyst for me," he states, adding, "Once we moved, I started writing profusely, and that became this record. I'm feeling so much happier here, and at the same time I've got the fire in my belly for making music. A lot of the songs on this record are very upbeat, but it's still me, so there's always the darkness balancing the light."
Alexakis' clear-eyed willingness to confront life's darker margins has been a hallmark of Everclear's output ever since Everclear's independently released 1993 debut World of Noise. The band’s relentless touring regimen and D.I.Y. promotional tactics helped to set the stage for the platinum-level breakthrough of 1995's Sparkle and Fade, which spawned the hits "Santa Monica" and "Heroin Girl," while establishing Everclear as a popular live attraction and Alexakis as an engaged and articulate media presence. The band's ascendancy continued with 1997's So Much for the Afterglow, which produced the radio hits "Everything to Everyone," "I Will Buy You A New Life," and "Father of Mine."
Alexakis continued to explore new creative challenges on such subsequent Everclear releases as 2000's two-part Songs from an American Movie, Vol. 1: Learning How to Smile (which yielded a major hit in "Wonderful") and Songs from an American Movie, Vol. 2: Good Time for a Bad Attitude, 2003's Slow Motion Daydream and 2006's Welcome to the Drama Club. The Vegas Years (2008) was a memorable set of cover tunes, while In A Different Light (2009) and Return to Santa Monica (2011) found Alexakis and company revisiting and reinterpreting items from the Everclear songbook.
"People tend to think that my songs are autographical," Alexakis observes. "Some are, but most of them aren't. I just like to tell stories, and they're not always about myself. As I've gotten older and more experienced, I think I've gotten more compassionate, and better at seeing both sides of things, and I think that's reflected in the songs."
Alexakis' increasingly expansive outlook is reflected in Invisible Stars' title, as well as the image, capturing an unguarded moment of childhood joy, that he chose for the album's front cover. He originally encountered the photo on the wall of a Starbuck's, and was so moved by it that he tracked down the photographer.
"The phrase 'Invisible Stars,' which is from 'Careful What You Ask For,' just resonated with me," he says. "It refers to the beautiful moments that happen every day, the things that keep hope alive. That's what the photograph captures, a moment of pure joy being shared by two people. There's nothing world-shaking about it, but it's completely profound. At the point I'm at in my life, that's the kind of thing that's important to me."
Everclear will be spending much of the summer of 2012 co-headlining the innovative Summerland tour, along with four other notable American bands that emerged during the 1990s: Sugar Ray, the Gin Blossoms, Lit and Marcy Playground.
"I'd talked to various people over the years about doing a '90s tour," Alexakis explains. "We'd all been waiting for someone to put this together and invite us to participate. Eventually I got sick of waiting, so I called Mark McGrath from Sugar Ray and said 'Let's do it.' It's looking back to a time when radio was still exciting, and guitar-based rock music could still get on the radio. It's going to be a lot of fun, for the bands and for the fans. I like the idea of one show containing 15 or 20 hit songs that everyone in the crowd will know, but it won't just be a trip down memory lane. I think that all of these bands, Everclear included, have one foot in the past and one foot in the future, and I think that that's a good place to be.
"When I look back at what Everclear has done," Alexakis concludes, "I see a lot of things that have changed and a lot of things that have stayed consistent. But at the end of the day, I'm still doing the same thing I've always done. It's still guitar-based rock 'n' roll, and I'm still just telling stories, which is all I've ever wanted to do. I'm proud of what we've done, and I still enjoy it. And I feel blessed that other people like it too."