Nearly 20 years after the album “Sparkle and Fade” launched alternative rock band Everclear into the musical stratosphere, the band’s frost-haired frontman hasn’t lost his passion for live performance.
“I’m just so into rock ’n’ roll,” Art Alexakis, 52, explained. “I just like the fire and the sweat and the ability to go out and perform with the possibility that you can fall on your face. That’s what makes rock ’n’ roll great.”
Everclear is just one of the acts lined up for the inaugural Forever Never Land fest, Saturday and Sunday in Avila Beach. The 21-and-over festival features four interactive “lands” with activities including beach volleyball, bounce houses and rock climbing, as well as musical acts including electroni ca artist RJD2 and alternative rock band Vertical Horizon performing on two stages.
Alexakis, a Los Angeles native who lives in Pasadena, credits a steady diet of guitar-driven, melodic rock by the likes of Aerosmith, Cheap Trick and Led Zeppelin with feeding his love of music.
“I’ve had that love of rock ’n’ roll since I was 3 screaming ‘I love you, yeah, yeah, yeah’ at the top of my lungs in a supermarket cart,” Alexakis said, and it didn’t stop at in-store concerts. “When I was 4, I wrote a letter to Santa Claus asking for an electric guitar and a drum set and an organ.”
While the radio gave him his musical foundation, a rough-and-tumble childhood provided Alexakis with ample subject matter for his future songwriting career.
After Alexakis’s parents split up — he was 6 years old at the time — finances forced his mother to move the family to the Mar Vista Gardens housing projects near Culver City.
The next few years brought physical and emotional hardships as Alexakis dealt with the death of his brother George due to a heroin overdose, his girlfriend’s suicide and his own struggles with drug addiction. Bouncing from one relative’s home to another, he finally ended up in Los Angeles, where he started the band Shakin’ Brave.
Moving to San Francisco, Alexakis launched a new band, Colorfinger, and a record label, Shindig Records. When both folded, the musician headed north to Portland in search of a fresh start.
It was there that Alexakis connected with bassist Craig Montoya and drummer Scott Cuthbert, later replaced by Greg Eklund. Together, the trio started Everclear, named after a popular brand of grain alcohol.
Over the following decade, Everclear dominated alternative rock radio with hard-hitting songs such as “Father of Mine,” “Everything to Everyone” and “Santa Monica.” The band released three platinum-selling albums over that period — 1995’s “Sparkle and Fade,” 1997’s “So Much for the Afterglow” and 2000’s “Songs from an American Movie, Vol. One: Learning How to Smile.”
Eklund and Montoya parted ways with Everclear in 2003. But Alexakis soldiered on after a brief solo stint, finding new band members to play on “Welcome to the Drama Club” in 2006 and “Invisible Stars” in 2012.
Everclear’s current lineup includes keyboardist Josh Crawley, guitarist Dave French, bassist Freddy Herrera and drummer Sean Winchester.
Although Alexakis said he could easily live off his Everclear song royalties, he’s never been content to rest on his laurels.
“We could stay in the past if we wanted to, and there’s a lot of bands that do,” Alexakis said of Everclear. “I don’t find that interesting.”
Instead, he’s poured his energy into the Summerland Tour, a 1990s nostalgia tour that just wrapped up its third consecutive season. This summer, Everclear hit the road with Soul Asylum, Eve 6 and Spacehog.
“I want bands that are real bands, that are still making music — not because they make a lot of money at it (but) because they’re real artists,” Alexakis explained. “I want to make sure their hearts and souls are still in it, that they’re still having fun.”
Everclear, for its part, plans to release a new album next year. (Alexakis is keeping the title under wraps for now.)
“It’s the hardest rock record I’ve ever made,” he said, as well as one of his darkest in terms of subject matter and sound. “A lot of the songs about are being on the edge, losing control.”
Asked why he’s choosing to release this material now, Alexakis said, “I probably feel more safe and secure in myself and where I am in the world. My perspective of myself is stronger than it’s ever been before.”
“As you get older, you just learn to focus on what your priorities are and everything (else) just fades into the background,” he said, explaining that family, happiness, health and his band now take precedent. “I’m just happy to be part of it.”