It was a risky move. Back in the ’60s bands could release two albums a year and never really worry about overlap—just look at the Beatles—but it doesn’t work that way now. Singles can take months to hit. Albums can take even longer (just ask Jewel).
So when Art Alexakis decided he was going to release two Everclear albums last year, the two-part Songs From an American Movie, he knew he was taking a gamble. Double albums are hard enough to sell packaged together (just ask Trent Reznor). But only one recent band, Guns N’ Roses, has been able to put out two studio albums simultaneously, and even then Use Your Illusion II didn’t sell as a well as Use Your Illusion I. While he’s still proud of Vol. Two: Good Time for a Bad Attitude, Alexakis admits that, because it was released just five months after Vol. One: Learning How to Smile, it hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves.
“I wish we would have done a double album,” Alexakis says. “Creatively, it worked out. I think both are full of good songs. But the label didn’t push it. They didn’t know how to do it at all. I still get e-mails from people asking me if [Vol. Two] is our ‘secret’ album. People didn’t even know it came out. It’s not our secret album, but it sure seems that way.”
Maybe it’s the fact that the two albums are completely different. Vol. One is standard Everclear: pop melodies disguising not-so-cheery lyrics about family and relationships. Sure, there are a few happier moments on the record. “AM Radio” revels in Alexakis’ rock roots. “Here We Go Again” condenses the first few weeks of a blooming relationship into pure radio candy.
Some critics have used these few moments as evidence that the two discs are actually one giant concept album about Alexakis’ relationship with his now ex-wife, from its bubbly beginnings to its eventual implosion. Tracks like “Learning How to Smile” and “The Honeymoon Song” are initial bliss. The first single off Vol. One, “Wonderful,” is the beginning of the end. And Vol. Two: Well, that’s when things turn to complete shit.
Alexakis says this is only partially true—“Only two songs on each record are autobiographical, the rest are just my perspective on the world.” He admits, however, that things could be taken that way. Just look at the song titles on Vol. Two. The disc kicks off with “When It All Goes Wrong Again,” and quickly descends to “Overwhelming,” “Out of My Depth” and “All Fucked Up.” There’s also the record’s harsher, more violent tone. The lyrics are blunt. The guitars sound as brutal as a couple bickering over who gets custody of the kids. “It’s definitely more rock and less talk,” Alexakis says. And it’s that rougher feel that’s kept Vol. Two off the airwaves, with stations that played lighter fare like “AM Radio” or the band’s cover of “Brown-Eyed Girl” avoiding it like a Klan rally.
“It’s hard to work two different albums to two different formats at the same time. Capitol [Records, Everclear’s label] just wasn’t up to it,” Alexakis says. “VH1 wouldn’t play the video for ‘When It All Goes Wrong Again’ because it was too heavy. MTV was spinning ‘AM Radio.’ There was just nowhere for it to go.”
Not that Everclear is really suffering. Since the band first broke out of Portland in ’95, spurred on by the success of the single “Santa Monica,” the trio has had the kind of run every pimple-faced, guitar-plucking teen creams over. The group was one of the few grunge holdovers to not only make it through the lean-teen years, but actually inflate its fanbase during Queen Britney’s reign. And the trio’s ’97 disc, So Much for the Afterglow, pulled off one hell of a combo punch, managing to be a huge hit while still bitterly taking a stand against the commercialism of music.
But even success can wear on you. Alexakis admits that, though he’ll never stop writing music, he might slow down a bit and focus on his other love: movies. The one-time film student has already started directing all the band’s videos—“All of the other directors just didn’t get what we wanted to do with our videos,” Alexakis says. He also has a hankering to take a crack at writing and directing a film.
“I’ve always wanted to write and direct films, ever since I was a kid,” he says. “I’m constantly shooting stuff, people just never see it. I’ll never put either down, but sometimes you want to mix things up a bit.”
But Alexakis isn’t too keen to take a turn in front of the camera. Not that he couldn’t act—he wants to avoid what it opens you up to. While Everclear’s music has always been personal, loosely based on Alexakis’ life, he’s never been through the public scrutiny that actors go through—and he doesn’t want to. He wants his private life to remain just that.
“Look at Tom and Nicole,” Alexakis says. “Why can’t people just let them live their lives? Can’t we just stay out of people’s lives? I don’t want to know about people’s sex lives unless they’re involved in mine. That crap is boring to me. Who the fuck cares? What’s interesting is people’s perspective on things. That’s what touches a nerve. Not the basic facts. That shit is just boring.”
Everclear with American Hi-Fi, Mayfield Four and Flipp. Saltair, I-80 West Exit 104, Monday July 2, 7:30 p.m. Tickets available through Smith’sTix: 467-TIXX, 800-888-TIXX and www.SmithTix.com.