The lead singer of Everclear, Art Alexakis is a classic Rock Star, with an Alpha Dog presence that comes through on stage. He is also a very intelligent songwriter with the ability to translate his life experiences and observations to music. In this interview, we cover the hits, as well as some tracks on Everclear's 2003 album Slow Motion Daydream.Carl Wiser (Songfacts): "Santa Monica." Is that a personal song?
Art: I'm using a place where I grew up and palm trees as iconic references. It's what I grew up with. I grew up in a seaside town called Santa Monica, which is like L.A. but on the coast. I've lived in cold places and been in bad relationships, and I think everybody has a place in their mind that is like a safe haven. It's also about getting away from bad times... the ending of something is also the beginning of something new, whether it's with someone or getting out of a bad job, a bad way of life or an abusive relationship.
In the Eastern way of looking at things, 'Chaos' doesn't necessarily mean no boundaries, it means new beginnings. It's kind of one and the same, something that never ends. It's about getting to a point where you can leave bad things behind and just be self sufficient. There's a sense of romance about it. I feel like that very much now, but I was just getting to where I understood that when I wrote that song.
Songfacts: Did you know it was going to be a hit?
Art: I didn't know it was going to be a hit, I don't think like that. I do know that when I played it for people, they liked it, but you can't write songs with that in mind.
Songfacts: What about Volvo Driving Soccer Mom? How do you feel about the person in this song?
Art: This is a song about definitions, about being defined by people, allowing yourself to be defined by other people's standards. It's very junior-high to be able to say 'that person's this, that person's a slut, that person's that.' It's understandable in junior high school, it's just unacceptable in your 20s, 30s, and 40s. People doing it is not right, so it's kind of poking fun at them and people who allow it to happen to them. Who cares if you're a porn star? Who cares if you're a stripper. Who cares if you have a bunch of tattoos? What matters is, are you a good person? Do you pay your taxes? Are you good to your kids? Are you a good neighbor? Nothing else should matter to anybody else. What people do in their own life, if it doesn't hurt other people, should not matter.
Songfacts: Was there something specifically that made you write the song?
Art: We live in a world right now, especially in this country, that is becoming more and more conservative. This form of conservatism has become more socially motivated rather than just physically motivated, so it's like people are very judgmental as to how others live and act. I think it's ridiculous. We're grown-ups and we should be able to live the way we want to live as long as we adhere to certain values. The golden rule - treat other people as you want to be treated.
Songfacts: Does your daughter play soccer by any chance?
Art: She does. I'm a Land Cruiser driving soccer dad with tattoos, bleach-blond hair and big earrings. I've got a past, but now I'm pretty much middle-class daddy. I take my home and family and I cherish them, but I don't look like your normal, middle-class dad.
Songfacts: Who's the girl in the video.
Art: The girl in the video, her name is Danielle and she's a real life stripper that was cast by Francis Lawrence the director. I was kind of skeptical of her until I saw her act, then I realized she was the real thing. She's a phenomenal actress, and I'm picky about actors. I direct a lot of our videos and I'm pretty good at casting but she slipped in under the radar and was great. A very nice girl.
Songfacts: Going back in time a little bit, can you take us through "I Will Buy You A New Life" and your thoughts on that song.
Art: That song's a little closer to home. When Anna was a baby, me and my ex-wife, before we were even married, we would go up to this fancy neighborhood in the West Hills, and look at the houses. We'd get some hamburgers and drive around, kind of fantasize. And then one day after the success of Everclear I was able to buy a house up there. But it wasn't about the money, it was about a different kind of life, giving all of yourself to another person. It's the ultimate romantic song to me. That and "Good Witch Of The North."
Songfacts: What's "Good Witch Of The North" about?
Art: That's about my wife Stephanie.
Songfacts: Would you say that's your favorite Everclear song?
Art: No. I'd say "Learning How To Smile" is one of them. It changes every day. It's like picking a favorite kid.
Songfacts: "Father Of Mine." Have your feeling for your father changed at all before, during or after you wrote that song?
Art: That song is one of the very very few songs that are autobiographical. To answer your question, my feelings for my father haven't necessarily changed, but my feelings about myself after writing that song have been much better. It was kind of a catharsis to put those feelings into words, it's a way for me to get things out of my system. The song "Wonderful" is very much like that too. I was a child of a broken marriage, my daughter was the child of a broken marriage, and it was hard to watch it happen to her. That was me trying to make sense of it.
Songfacts: Did your dad ever hear the song as far as you know?
Art: I don't know. I'm assuming he did. I know the two girls he raised, his step-daughters heard it and were mad at me about it.
Songfacts: That song definitely means something to a lot of people.
Art: That song and "Wonderful" really hit home.
Songfacts: So is "Wonderful" another autobiographical song?
Art: Not really. It's one of those songs where I take my experiences as a kid, some experiences of some friends of mine, and kind of put myself into this kid's place. It's not really autobiographical but it's coming from a place that I understand very well. My characters tend to have aspects of my personality. It wouldn't be real if it didn't have a part of my reality.
Songfacts: Do you think it's just a coincidence that when you pour your heart into a song that it becomes a hit?
Art: I thought they were too serious and too intense. But I think these songs have struck chords with people.
Songfacts: What are your thoughts on "Everything To Everyone"?
Art: It's kind of an angry song. That person is within everybody, I think everybody has this ability to try and be everything to everyone, to try to please. I think there are two aspects of it - there's the pleaser, who doesn't always show his true self, always plays nice and as time goes on shows more and more of himself, but there's also the people who are everything to everyone who are manipulators and users.
Songfacts: Does it have anything to do with the record business?
Art: Oh yeah. Anything in the entertainment business you'll find people who are slimy.
Songfacts: "The New York Times," can you take us through that song?
Art: That's not a song about one specific thing. It ties in the economy, the election of 2000, 9/11 of course - you can't write music and not be effected by 9/11 - the abduction of Laci Peterson. Giving kids to biological fathers who because their mother abandons them so they abuse their kid. These things in the last couple of years have made me pissed off at the complacency in our country. I think there's a lot of darkness there, but I think we can do better, that there's light at the end of the tunnel.
Songfacts: What's the significance of the newspaper, of the New York Times?
Art: That's the only newspaper I really like. I think they have the balls to stand apart from the more conservative papers. It's well written. I like them better than most, even though I think they've jumped on the governmental bandwagon on this war.
Songfacts: What are your thoughts on expousing your political views?
Art: Well, when they ask me, I tell them. I don't go around soap-boxing. I have a radio show in Portland where I talk to people, play music, and we go from there. I'm definitely coming from a more liberal point of view, but I'm also putting people first. I vote for the person. It's been a good way of getting my views out without saying, "Hey, check me out." People in the media ask entertainers what they think, and then they turn it around and use it against them.
Songfacts: I read a story today that said you can't have celebrities without democracy. There are no celebrities in dictatorships.
Art: Well you have cultural icons who are celebrities to the people. These are not leaders or people who the govenment has said, "OK, here's what you get." These are people who become cultural icons based on whatever: their talent, their looks, timing. That kind of scares people in a political climate who want control. They can't control them, so all they can do is make the press take control, debase these people and try to take their credibility.
Songfacts: What's the hidden song that comes after that?
Art: It's called "White Noise." That is a song about pure acceptance and love of friends. It can be a song that you write to your kid or your parent, or Jesus Christ. I wanted the song on the record but it didn't really fit the sequence of the record. It ends on a positive note. That song is a very positive, upbeat sounding song.
We spoke with Art on October 21, 2003.
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