Swimming “out past the breakers” at the Santa Monica Pier is once again a songwriting impulse for Everclear lead singer, Art Alexakis, as the veteran superstar alternative act released their eighth studio album Invisible Stars on June 26. Touring for the new record involves one of the more unique summer lineups of 2012 as the multi-platinum-selling legends join fellow top 90s acts Sugar Ray, Lit, Marcy Playground and the Gin Blossoms on the Summerland Tour. The concert series visits noted DC area venue Wolf Trap on July 25, and intends to prove the power of 90s nostalgia in the current era, but also that great music never stops being relevant. On Tap Magazine had the chance to interview Everclear lead singer Art Alexakis regarding the band’s latest release as well as his thoughts on organizing the Summerland tour.
On Tap: Invisible Stars is your latest release. Insofar as finding a new creative space for songwriting after so many years and so much success, how did the process develop this time?
Art Alexakis: Well, about two years ago my family and I moved back to California. I picked up the pen again and started writing, putting together a few new songs that came from being in a fresh place in my life. I think that I’ve matured a bit over the years. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve definitely gotten a little wiser and a lot more sarcastic, and I think that’s all reflected in this album. I think you’ll find our classic sound here too, with some of what I think is some of the strongest songwriting we’ve had to date.
OT: The Summerland tour is a rather impressive lineup. How did the idea come about and how exactly were the bands chosen? Did you choose bands you personally knew, or did you choose the bands you felt would have the strongest performances?
AA: I felt like it was just time to do this. So, I called up Mark McGrath (lead singer of Sugar Ray), and we came up with a lineup, and moved on from there. Back in the 90s, Everclear, Sugar Ray, Lit, well all of us would play these giant, radio station organized rock shows where we’d all play three or four of our biggest hits and there would be a ton of bands. Did we choose our friends? Sure, but we also chose bands that we knew were also still working hard. Two of the bands on this tour have albums coming out this summer. Two of these bands are writing songs and headed into the studio. So, these are bands still making great music.
OT: What are your thoughts on 90s nostalgia and its possible influence on ticket sales. Do you believe that this even exists?
AA: I believe that 90s nostalgia is a media-created term that doesn’t really exist. My daughter is almost 20 right now and her favorite band, depending on the day, is either Led Zeppelin or Cheap Trick. I think that kids from any generation are going to discover well-written songs that are guitar powered and gravitate towards them. People can access music now faster than ever, and whether a song is 5, 10 or 20 years old, it can still speak to you as if it came out yesterday.
OT: Why should people come out to see Everclear perform this summer, and the Summerland tour?
AA: I think the tour sells itself. Come see great bands playing the hits you know, and if they play some new ones, you’ll end up liking those too. It’s all about hearing good, quality rock and hearing bands that you know can deliver.
Gin Blossoms will take the stage at Wolf Trap on July 25 for a 90s alt-rock extravaganza. The 2012 Summerland Tour, also featuring Everclear, Sugar Ray, Lit and Marcy Playground, will celebrate some of the decade’s most popular bands and their greatest hits. The pop rock quintet, best known for their hits “Hey Jealousy,” “Found Out About You” and “Til I Hear It From You,” will perform a 35-minute set spanning their 25-year career. The band took a hiatus after 10 years together in 1997 and then reunited in 2002. They’ve since released two albums: Major Lodge Victory in 2005 and No Chocolate Cake in 2010. The band is currently working on a new album to be released next summer. We caught up with lead and rhythm guitarist Scott “Scotty” Johnson, who joined the band in 1992, about their upcoming performance at Wolf Trap.
On Tap: Gin Blossoms are about to kick off the Summerland Tour with four other rock bands who made it big in the 90s. Is the tour creating any waves of nostalgia for the first decade of your career?
Scott Johnson: You know, we’ve done these things before and sometimes they don’t work. This one seems to be working. We’ve sold a bunch of dates and people seem to be excited about it. It definitely must be a nostalgia kind of thing.
OT: The band has released two albums since reuniting in 2002. Will you pepper your set with songs from these two albums or will you stick to your earlier hits?
SJ: We’d like to but we don’t have that much time. Our set is kind of short. So we will play some new material but probably not a lot.
OT: How do you think fans will react to your newer material?
SJ: I think that they’re enjoying the new stuff. It seems to do well. They like it.
OT: August marks the 20-year anniversary of the release of your multi-platinum selling album New Miserable Experience. You also joined the band shortly before the album was completed. Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be two decades later?
SJ: I remember we were in a van for a long, long time and it was kind of tough. It was really hard traveling. We didn’t really get it. We were kind of young and ready to go home. So it was quite a surprise when eventually “Hey Jealousy” [became a] hit and all of a sudden we were on TV. Nobody really expected it.
OT: The band performs more than 120 shows a year. What motivates you as a band to keep it up even though you’ve already achieved such great success?
SJ: I think it’s a labor of love. It’s what I was meant to do. The fact that we have success just makes it even better. Even without the success, I’d still be doing it. I’d still be playing music. I could never get away from it.
OT: Has your sound evolved during the second half of your career or are you consistent with your alt-rock roots?
SJ: We’ll experiment with different grooves but we’re not into reinventing the wheel. I know for a lot of bands each record is completely different but we pretty much stick with the power-pop thing that we’ve always done.
OT: You’re working on a new album to be released next summer. What’s your role in the writing process?
SJ: We’ve just experimented with a couple of new songs. We don’t move so fast in the studio. We tend to take our time. A lot of my job is to take the songs that my buddies write and help them finish them. To be honest with you, that’s always been my role in the band. I help my songwriting buddies complete their songs.
Learn more about the Summerland Tour at www.summerlandtour.net. July 25 at 7 p.m. $25-$42. The Filene Center at Wolf Trap: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; 703-255-1900; www.wolftrap.org.