The chorus on alt.rock benchmark "Santa Monica" made the three Portland slackers in Everclear famous. Some 10 years later, the headliners of the first week of Bud Light Downtown Live have come pretty damn close to watching their own world die. After being dropped by Capitol and filing for divorce and bankruptcy in the same year, Art Alexakis remains as the only member of the original line-up. At home in Oregon, Alexakis speaks about growing old, listening to butt rock and being on welfare.
INDEPENDENT: Would you believe Everclear is the youngest headliner at this year's Bud Light Downtown Live?
ART ALEXAKIS: Really? What, do they have, Skynyrd or something?
Nope. Soul Asylum, The Romantics, Warrant.
Warrant? Are you kidding me? My guitar player is a pretty big fan of butt rockers, so he'll definitely be into the "Cherry Pie."
Oh yeah? Tell me about those new guys.
We've played almost 250 shows together now, so when people call them the new guys it's kind of weird. But people are used to seeing three dudes on stage. It's funny. I got a MySpace message the other day from a 15-year-old kid who was like, "What happened to the Chinese/Indian guy? He was cool."
So I guess you're at the point where you can have a laugh about the past?
Come on. I'm 45 years old. I'm grown. People change. Relationships change. I'm gonna get married again. I've got another baby on the way. My daughter is in high school. The main thing is this really feels like the band. I wouldn't have called it Everclear if it didn't feel like it. Things are just clicking. I'm having fun. If you're not having fun playing in a rock band, you need to get yourself a new job. And I kinda did.
Yeah, for a while you didn't seem to be having much fun. You got dropped by Capitol, went through a divorce, declared bankruptcy. A lot of people would ask how a Grammy-nominated, double-platinum rock star could go bankrupt, though.
Well, that was basically the culmination of a lot of bad choices. To be honest with you, I never really paid attention to money. As long as the bills are paid, and people are happy, that's all I really give a shit about. Everybody likes having nice things, and not having to worry if people are coming to your door or calling you. I've been on welfare. I'd much rather have some dough in the bank than be on welfare.
When were you on welfare?
When my daughter was born. Otherwise we couldn't get into the Oregon health plan. This is Anna's mom, Jenny. Three wives ago. Or two wives ago, soon to be three. It was the winter of '91. When we went to have the baby they told us we'd have to do this and that and be on welfare and get food stamps. She wasn't working, she'd never worked a job. I tend to find women who don't work. And then when they're with me they really don't want to work. But my gal now, she has two degrees from college. She's breaking the cycle. There's a lot of reasons for it. I've been through therapy. I'd bore you. Just suffice to say I'm making better choices in my life and that's gonna emanate.
Everclear plays with Hobex, A Rooster for the Masses, Big City Reverie, The Never, Mickey Mills & the Steel and Adam Pitts in Moore Square Park Saturday, June 2. The free show begins at 2 p.m.