“Welcome to the Drama Club” represents a different Everclear. That much is obvious considering it marks the debut of a new lineup save for frontman, band founder and songwriter Art Alexakis.
But for Alexakis, “Welcome to the Drama Club” feels more like the work of the old Everclear than anything the band had done in several years.
“It felt like the Everclear that I wanted it to be,” says Alexakis, whose new group performs Saturday at the Tempe Music Festival. “It had gotten away from me on the last couple of records.”
For Alexakis, things began to go off track with the original Everclear (which also included bassist Craig Montoya and drummer Greg Eklund) around 2000 when the band released two CDs in one year — “Songs From an American Movie Vol. One: Learning How to Smile” and “Songs From an American Movie Vol. Two: Good Time for a Bad Attitude.”
“Even though there are some great songs on ‘Vol. Two,’ I feel like the whole record sounds like I’m tired and drained,” Alexakis says. “I needed to recharge my batteries before making another record. And that’s my honest feelings on it. I wish I had done that.
“And (the 2003 CD) ‘Slow Motion Daydream,’ I had people in my band telling me they wanted to do a really rock record,” he says. “So I wrote really heavy songs, and some of those songs on that record, I think, are some of the best songs I’ve written, but you’ll never hear them because the whole record on the whole, my heart just wasn’t really into it.
“The label I was at, Capitol, the guy there, not meaning to do anything wrong, hooked me up with a mixer that I wouldn’t normally use. Everything sounds, it doesn’t sound like Everclear to me.”
THE NEW BAND
Alexakis has no such problems with “Welcome to the Drama Club,” his debut with the new lineup of Sam Hudson (bass), Dave French (guitar), Brett Snyder (drums) and Josh Crawley (keyboards).
“If you don’t like ‘Welcome to the Drama Club,’ then you don’t like what I do because I stand by every note on that record,” says Alexakis, who sings and plays guitar.
It wasn’t long after the release of “Slow Motion Daydream” that Everclear fell apart.
Alexakis called the breakup a mutual decision among the band members.
Alexakis was ready for a break, too, and his next move was to do solo tours.
But he had other storms to weather on the personal front. First came a divorce from his third wife. Then there were financial problems that sent Alexakis into bankruptcy. As if that wasn’t enough, his mother passed away and he had to get out of his deal with Capitol Records.
One part of the coping process was to start writing songs that dealt with his troubles.
“These were all dramatic things that I needed to figure out,” Alexakis says. “I started writing songs, like Everclear songs. … So I put out the word to friends that I was looking for people to play in a band with. I met people, and as we started playing, we started playing the old songs and working on new songs. It felt like Everclear. That’s why I’m calling it Everclear.”
Lyrically, what emerged on “Welcome to the Drama Club” is largely a breakup album, although it’s one that’s more rounded than the usual rant.
The CD, the seventh from Alexakis and Everclear, has one song in particular with its share of anger in “Hater.”
But more often Alexakis takes himself to task, examining his own faults on “A Taste of Hell,” “Shameless Use of Charm” and “The Drama King.”
Musically, the CD, particularly “Under the Western Stars” and “Hater,” bears the stylistic trademarks of past Everclear songs such as “Santa Monica,” “Father of Mine” and “I Will Buy You a New Life.” But the expanded lineup brings new flavors to the music.
“I’m still writing all the textures and ideas, but having really good musicians, having the extra guitar player who can do things I can’t and having a keyboard player to do things I can’t, it sounds pretentious, but as an artist, someone who’s creating and expressing, it gets me more colors to paint with and a bigger canvas to paint on,” Alexakis says.
The new Everclear has brought a different flavor to performances.
“It’s a lot fuller,” Alexakis says. “The band is tighter than it’s ever been and I’m having more fun. That’s obvious on stage.”
Tempe Music Festival
With: The Fray, O.A.R., Yellowcard, Everclear, Gin Blossoms and others
When: Starts 5 p.m. Friday and noon Saturday
Where: Tempe Beach Park, Mill Avenue and Rio Salado Parkway
How much: $45 adults ($35 in advance), $10 kids 6-12, free for children 5 and younger; $80 weekend pass ($60 in advance)
Info: (480) 663-0700 or www.tempemusicfestival.com
Find a complete preview of the Tempe Music Festival in Get Out.