Art Alexakis reflects on Everclear’s 30th anniversary, getting ‘flipped off by little old ladies’ in Portland

Art Alexakis went from being flipped off on the highways of Portland for having California license plates to becoming the frontman of one of the city’s most notable rock bands.

After moving from Los Angeles to Portland and disbanding his previous project, Colorfinger, he searched for musicians to form a band one last time, noting that the music scene in Portland was not so friendly to newcomers, especially ones from California.

But Alexakis pressed on, finding local musicians to record a 12-track demo titled “World of Noise.” That recording paved the way for the formation of Everclear, which is now celebrating its 30th anniversary. The band is marking the milestone with a US and UK tour, including a show earlier this month at McMenamins Crystal Ballroom.

The demo garnered a wave of success that would lead the band to play larger shows and major music festivals. It also caught the attention of Capitol Records. Alexakis said that he needed to record the demo to prove to himself that the band had the potential he had been searching for at the time.

“It felt OK live, but I wasn’t sure if the chemistry was there, but once we recorded, I got a rough mix of it and felt like OK, there’s a fire in this, and the proof is in the pudding,” Alexakis said during a recent phone interview.

“World of Noise” was released digitally for the first time in May of this year and features the original content, as well as some old demos.

“I’m excited for everyone to get a chance to listen to this rarity of ours that really set the stage for this incredible career,” Alexakis said.

Alexakis spoke with Southern California Newsgroup about the 30th anniversary of Everclear ahead of the Southern California tour dates. The following conversation was edited for space and clarity.

Q: With Colorfinger, how much did that punk sound have an influence on developing Everclear?

Alexakis: Well, Colorfinger wasn’t really a punk band. It was mostly a garage rock band with some punk influence, but mostly a little bit of country influence. It was more melodic and bombastic than Everclear. I had a lead guitar player, and it was just not the same. When I moved to Portland, I wasn’t going to use another lead guitar player even though I wasn’t that strong of a guitar player. I was just going to play more stripped-down leads, more dissonant and hard-hitting. We did that, and it felt better doing that and more like what I wanted to do at the time.

Q: What was the music scene like in Portland in the ‘90s?

Alexakis: People talk about grunge, but Portland always stayed away from that long-haired, heavy flow that was going on with the Sub Pop (Records) bands. It was more punk rock, short hair more dissonant, but melodic at the time. So I think we fit in really well.

Q: You mentioned that people in Oregon at the time weren’t the most friendly. How so?

Alexakis: People in Oregon didn’t really like people from California. I got flipped off by little old ladies until I changed my California plates. It’s because Californians were coming up there and buying up houses because it was so cheap and running up the local economy and housing market. I wasn’t doing that. I was broke with a baby on welfare. The people in the bands out there were just not very welcoming to us or any other bands that were from out of town except for a couple.

Q: How is the music market today different from what was happening in the ‘90s?

Alexakis: It’s a whole different world, really. Everything was practical, meaning you didn’t have anything digital. You had CDs, cassettes and vinyl, but vinyl then was hardly selling. Now you have vinyl outsell CDs, and everything is digital. Most people now don’t sell records, they count spins. It’s changed drastically from 1993-1994 when we were putting out records.

Q: How do you feel playing some of these songs that were written 20 or 30 years ago? Do you feel like they’re fresh, or do you feel differently about them?

Alexakis: I still feel like they feel fresh and relevant, but I do feel like the perspective has changed from writing those songs 30 years ago. When we play them, I, for one, channel how I was feeling at the time, and I think we give those songs fair treatment and can connect with them.

Q: What’s next for Everclear? Do you have new music coming?

Alexakis: We just finished a punk rock song that we’re trying to get out sometime in October called “Year Of The Tiger.” We’re really stoked about it. It’s a political, in-your-face, pop-punk style type of song, and I hope people like it. That’s kind of my new thing. I don’t really want to make records anymore. I’ve had record offers from major to small labels, and I just don’t want to do it. I just want to put out the single by myself on digital and maybe do a vinyl version with a small company.

Q: What can fans expect from these next couple 30th anniversary performances?

Alexakis: We’re going to play our hits, fan favorites, our new song and a couple of covers. If people want to hear a certain song, hit us up on Facebook and Twitter, and if we can do it, we’ll do it.

–Charlie Vargas/The Orange County Register/Tribune News Service

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