The following is the full transcript of the Daily Arts interview with Everclear members Art Alexakis and Greg Eklund.

The Michigan Daily: Your new album, Slow Motion Daydream, sounds really natural, I think, as a follow up to the two American Movie discs. What was the process of writing and recording it like? Did it come really easily?

Art Alexakis: How do you feel it sounds natural?

TMD: It just seems like a natural next step. I think it has a lot of the same feel and tone of those albums. I think it combines a lot of aspects of the two.

AA: Well, to be honest with you, from our perspective, I think we kind of feel, and I know I do and I think Greg does too from what we’ve talked about, that it kind of combines all the records. You know there’s definitely a more guitar immediacy there than what we’ve had even in volume 1 and volume 2, even in volume 2. I think volume 2 had a more riff rock kind of feel to it, this has more of a classic Everclear, if you can call it that, kind of feel. You know, more drums, more suspended ninths, it’s more staccato – just more aggression. And lyrically I think it’s probably the most mature record that we’ve made. It’s definitely the most sociopolitical that we’ve made. It’s going to piss some people off.

TMD: Hopefully.

AA: But it’s also got more sense of humor, I think, than any of our records. I mean, we’re all kind of smartasses…

TMD: So it shines through.

AA: It comes out, yeah, and it should. I mean, we’re older than the average band and what we keep saying is you have to be able to laugh at yourself and the world around you.

TMD: One thing I noticed about the album is that I felt like the first half has a little more irony, and it’s a little more pessimistic. Then somewhere around “Science Fiction” things start to get a little more optimistic, a little bit more hopeful. I was wondering if the songs were intentionally set up that way or if it was a happy accident.

AA: It’s a happy accident, but to be honest with you, I think “Chrysanthemum” blows that whole theory out of the water. That’s a pretty dark fucking song. There’s really not a whole lot of light at the end of that tunnel. But, yeah, I think the characters go from very narcissistic and nihilistic with songs like “I Want to Die a Beautiful Death.” I mean that’s just pure fuck you, fuck your politics-I want to get high, get laid and just go out with a bright flash. It looks at that, and the character in “How to Win Friends,” that character is so battered and brutalized emotionally that he can’t even trust the blue sky. So, yeah, I don’t think there is a constant turn there, but I do think it seemed natural for songs with a little bit more light to be at the end. It seems right to me. To be honest with you, it’s not as thought out – we’re not as clever as you think we are. It just seemed natural. It just seemed right.

TMD: Yeah, I thought it was interesting when I listened to it the first time or just looked at it. When I picked up the record and took a look at the songs and saw “I Want to Die a Beautiful Death,” the third track, and then there’s a stark contrast where you’ve got…

AA: “A Beautiful Life”

TMD: And then that’s the second to last track.

AA: Well, there is kind of a redemption there and I guess that’s kind of meant that way just by the titles. I wrote “Beautiful Death” way after “Beautiful Life.” “Beautiful Life” has been kicking around for years. It’s the only song that’s really been kicking around.

TMD: That’s actually one of my favorites on the album.

AA: Yeah, a lot of people like that. It’s my wife’s favorite. (to Greg) What’s Ellie’s favorite on the album?

Greg Eklund: I don’t know, she hasn’t said. She really likes the record all the way through, though. My favorite right now is “New York Times.”

AA: I love playing that song. It’s really powerful; really tight.

TMD: Since we’re on that, what do you guys think is the best song on the album and what is your personal favorite? Is there any difference?

AA: That’s actually a good question. (to Greg) What do you think the best song is?

GE: For me it’s more of a gut instinct thing, you know? I think “New York Times” is my favorite and I don’t really sort of say that’s my favorite but there’s a better song. That one affects me just on a gut level, so I’d probably say that one for both. It’s great to play live, too. I just think that it sums up a lot of what’s going on and it’s great as an anchoring track for the record. I don’t think of it in terms of intellectual and favorite, it’s kind of one in the same for me.

AA: It’s a hard question for me because I think the best song on the record is probably “New York Times.” Well, it is “New York Times.” I really feel like when I wrote that song and we recorded it, it tied everything together. And it was the last one that we did on the record. But as far as favorite songs go, I’d probably say that song, but I gotta say “TV Show” is really a strong song to me. I love playing that, I get very emotional – there’s a lot of power there. It’s a good song. There’s a lot of good songs on there – I’m tooting my own horn, but I really think this is the best record we’ve done, I know Greg feels that way too, it’s just really strong all the way through.

GE: Which we’ve always tried to do. I don’t think at any point there are any particular weak songs on any of our records. If there is, we get rid of it. If there’s something that we feel doesn’t 100% fit the record or is right for the record, we delete it, so I think each one of our records, but especially this one, is solid all the way through and everything has its place and it’s just one complete unit.

AA: I feel volume 2 was kind of tired. At the time we couldn’t tell ’cause we were tired. Looking back on it, we originally didn’t want to do two albums. The label wanted us to do two albums. I wanted to do one album with strong dichotomies of songs like soft, loud, soft, loud kind of like Rust Never Sleeps by Neil Young-half is acoustic, half is distorted – something like that.

TMD: Well, I think, actually, you guys did a great job with this one in terms of achieving that kind of array of different feelings and sounds.

AA: Yeah, we’re proud of it.

TMD: About “New York Times,” when I heard that one, listening to the album from front to back, I liked everything I heard, but that one at the end jumped out at me more than the others the first time I heard it. It struck me right away.

AA: I think a lot of people feel that way.

GE: I mean, also, though, if you look at the structure and the arrangement of that song, it’s pretty simple. It’s really just a verse and a half and then a bunch of different choruses. I remember when Art played it for me, there weren’t a lot of changes, but it had that feeling that it was simple, but I think sometimes the simple things and the things that hit home the most.

AA: I mean, it’s two different riffs in E and then a bridge that’s in a different chord that works up to E. It’s just a very natural sounding song. When I wrote the song I felt really excited about it, I told these guys about it and we just kind of hammered it out and went in to record it. It was just one of those times when the takes came really easy and, I mean, we had all the drums, bass and guitars in one day on that song and that’s pretty quick for us. But we’re pretty quick. He got all the drums on the record in probably five or six days total. And that’s a lot of drums ’cause we double track some stuff, triple track some stuff, five different snares, you know, all sorts of little percussive things, literally bells and whistles. So we move pretty quick. ‘Cause we didn’t really want to think about it, it’s like, ‘that sounds good, let’s go on.’ Let’s not anal-ize about it.

TMD: When did you write “New York Times”?

AA: I wrote it in September of last year. I had the riff kicking around for a little bit. But we made the record and it was due in July and we turned it in on time, but then I went to Alaska for a month in August – my wife lives there – and we went up to work on her dad’s farm for a month to get away. It’s cool. And I started writing songs and I called these guys – they’re pretty much used to it, I tend to do this every record. “It’s done! No, it’s not done! Come back.” But there was a nice break so we all got some time with our families and came in September and started recording, recorded four more songs, mixed them. So I wrote it in September. I mean, the lyrics for that songs have been kicking around in my head for a while. But sometimes the best songs just come out. “Die a Beautiful Death” fell out of my head. I was in Palmer, Alaska where we’re going to play a gig, (to Greg) I can’t wait for you to see that, and I was just like, “wow.” And my wife’s like, “everyone looks so used,” and I go, “used and abused.” I go, “God, no wonder you had to get the fuck out of here,” and she goes, “yup.” I’m like, “that’s a song.” We needed a song like that, we needed a song that had hope and a song that was kind of dark.

TMD: And you got it. All right, tour stuff. How is the tour going so far? How do you feel?

GE: It’s been going great.

AA: Six shows so far? Five or six. Well I’ll count, I’ve got them on the back of my little pass. Tonight is the seventh, from Kansas City, we’re six shows into it.

GE: We were up in Canada yesterday. This tour’s been going great, but we haven’t had a day off since it started, so tomorrow’s our day off. We’re all really fatigued and beat down, ready to have a day off.

AA: Do some laundry, you know.

GE: I’m not leaving my hotel room, I’m just lying in bed and sleeping. ‘Cause we’ve been driving every night, too, so it’s like not being able to get a full night’s sleep. It’s more like a series of three or four hour naps.

TMD: What’s your lineup for this tour? I’ve seen you guys with an extra guitarist, extra percussionist…

AA: Keyboard player. On this tour we just have another guitar player.

TMD: Oh yeah?

AA: Yeah, the tall, skinny guy that came down here a little bit, Jeff Trapp. He’s a friend of ours and just a character, personality-wise, but a really good guitar player and a fun guy to be around. This is the best crew we’ve ever had. Everyone gets along well, no one takes themselves too seriously, ourselves included, and we just have a good time.

GE: We also tried to strip it down a little bit. Whereas on previous tours we were trying to duplicate a lot of the stuff that was on the record, on this tour our guitar player actually has a MIDI guitar that can play some keyboard stuff, but we tried to strip it down and make it more about the songs rather than trying to duplicate all the other stuff in the studio. We tried to scale it back down so that it was more like a live rock band, which is what we’ve always been. Our records have always been way more produced than we are live and we just want to go out and be a four piece rock and roll band again. He only duplicates a couple keyboard parts. The rest is all done on guitar.

AA: And at the same time, guitar is still coming out of his amp, too. It sounds really good. It’s a lot more rock and it’s a lot more simple, just four people on stage. I think it’s a nice break from what we got into, ’cause what we got into was a nice break from what we were: a three piece power trio. (sneezes)

GE: Bless you.

AA: (sneezes again) Oh, shit.

GE: Uh oh, don’t get sick, dude.

AA: SARS.

GE: No, don’t say that. Don’t get SARS, Art.

(laughter)

TMD: Yeah, you guys were in Toronto, right? Documented cases…

(laughter)

GE: We’re taking you with us!

(laughter)

TMD: Okay, you guys are touring in support of your new album, but what kind of sets are you playing? Are you playing a good mix or are you trying to push the new stuff, digging back at all?

GE: I think this is the most varied set that we’ve ever done.

AA: Have you heard of the band, The Romantics, from Michigan? (sings) “What I like about you.”

TMD: Yeah.

AA: We’re doing all of their songs.

(laughter)

TMD: That’ll make everybody happy, all the people that paid thirty bucks or whatever to come see you.

(laughter)

GE: No, we’re doing songs from every record we’ve done. We have so many records now and so many songs that if we did all the songs that everyone wanted us to do, it would be like a Bruce Springsteen show.

AA: Yeah, and no one wants to see that.

GE: No. Hell no.

AA: And there would be, like, twenty people left and my throat would be gone.

GE: And we’re too old to old to do that, anyway. Bruce is old too, but he’s Bruce.

AA: Yeah, he’s Bruce; we’re not Bruce. And we just don’t give a shit that much – he does. Plus he’s making a hundred and fifty, two-hundred thousand dollars a show.

GE: Plus he has, like, a day off every other day.

AA: That’s true. And he’s on tour with his wife so he gets laid a lot.

GE: All those things that we don’t have.

AA: Yeah, all those things that we don’t do.

GE: But we’re playing stuff from way back in the day.

AA: It’s the longest set we’ve ever done. It’s an hour and a half with the encores, but it’s fun. We do fun stuff every night. We do an old surf song from one of our old E.P.’s, a really old song called “Pacific Wonderland,” we bring people up to dance on the risers and do kind of a go-go dancing type of thing, and then we bring people up to dance and we do a cover with Craig singing – a Cheap Trick song, “Surrender.” But the set itself just is really rolling right now, it’s just really got a good rhythm. We wrote the set list before the first show and in the first two or three shows, parts of the set worked and then we went back and we thought about it, talked about it, stripped things down, cut songs out, put a song in here, move this song here…

TMD: So it’s evolving.

AA: Yeah.

GE: I think we have the formula now, but we’re getting a great response from the fans too because we are doing a lot of stuff that even hardcore fans that have seen twenty, thirty shows or whatever, we’re doing songs that they haven’t ever seen.

AA: We’re doing “Fire Maple Song” off our first album, we’re doing “Learning How to Smile,” Craig’s playing keyboards and Jeff’s playing guitar and Greg’s taking a piss break.

GE: That’s my piss break.

(laughter)

AA: But it’s cool. It’s a good set. It’s been really powerful. It really clicked in Chicago. That’s when it really started to happen.

TMD: What do you guys think about people who say that all of your stuff sounds the same? Have you ever heard people say that?

AA: It’s people who don’t really listen to our records. They probably listen to our singles, but I don’t think it sounds all the same. I think what they’re talking about is my voice. My voice is very distinctive, I’m told, and it sounds the same a lot. I don’t know. I don’t think it sounds the same.

GE: We’re not going to bust out and do some cocktail jazz album. We’ve worked a long time to perfect what is our sound.

AA: And then there’s people who always complain, “why don’t you make this record over and over and over again.”

TMD: Yeah, that’s my next question. It’s fans that just want you to make Sparkle and Fade-do you ever hear that one?

AA: Or Afterglow, yeah, I hear that one, both those two. Well, there will be people that want us, five years from now, to make Slow Motion Daydream again. I have no urge to do that. If and when we make another record, it’s going to be different. I think we’ve done this. I was thinking about this today, I really feel like Slow Motion Daydream has kind of done the whole rock thing that we’ve done. To go farther with this, we’d have to take it to a different place.

TMD: Not to jump too far ahead, because you guys are touring a new record, but what do you see in the future for the band and what you’re planning on doing as far as new sounds, new anything? Any ideas?

AA: You mean after touring? You mean new records? Yeah, I think about it. I’m constantly writing songs. I’d like to do a solo record that’s just me and a guitar like Nebraska. I’d like to do something like that and then come back and do another record with the band. That’s what we’re talking about, but we’ll see. After touring for a year, we might not want to do that. And, again, we might do a record in a different and just go on that way, kind of like the Chili Peppers did. You know, they changed their sound and they just kind of kept going. But I don’t know. I don’t even know what I’m going to have for dinner tonight and you’re asking me what I’m going to do with the rest of my life.

GE: Everything nowadays is so fast-paced, you know? Fans are like, “I can’t wait to hear this record,” and as soon as the record’s comes out, they’re like, “what are you going to do next?” I don’t know, man. We’re only fucking five, six, seven shows into a two-month tour, I’m not going to see my baby for a month and a half. I’m not thinking about that. We’ll see. It’s way too early to say anything concrete. We’re just going to take it one day at a time.

AA: I’m going to keep writing songs and if we all want to do another Everclear record, we’ll do it. I don’t know.

GE: It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of time for Art to write songs and it takes a lot of time in the studio and it’s not like just going to the studio and recording for two weeks and have a new record. When you say new record you’re talking at least two years down the road by the time it would be done. It’s just a long time. I’m not thinking that far ahead, especially, I mean, if we were just finishing up this tour I think there would be more of an immediacy like, “well, what are we going to do?” but we’re just starting.

AA: We’re going to be on the road pretty much for the rest of the year with festivals and radio shows and one-offs and stuff like that. We’re just going to keep out on the road and keep playing. That’s our job.

TMD: What do you guys think about what’s being played on the radio today versus when you first got your break? Is there anything that stands out? Anything that you can’t stand?

GE: I can’t stand it. I was never a big radio guy anyway, but I don’t listen to the radio at all. I listen to talk radio.

AA: I listen to talk radio or classic rock radio. That’s the only thing I like.

GE: There’s nothing new that’s out there that’s saying anything or a new sound, at least on the commercial radio side of it. I mean, there’s always stuff going on underneath all of that.

AA: I hear indie bands all the time that are good, like Spoon, I’m really into the band Spoon.

TMD: Yeah, they were just in town.

AA: This country singer from Australia, Kasey Chambers – my wife turned me on to her and she’s really, really good. There’s a lot out there that’s good, you just don’t hear it on the radio.

GE: Everything’s been so mass-marketed. It’s going to take a whole new sort of revolution to get over that – a musical revolution.

AA: Yeah, we need another revolution of rap rock. That was horrible. It killed radio. And they bought into it hook, line and fucking sinker.

GE: Well, there was a lot of money being made, honestly.

AA: And then they tried to jump on the whole Strokes bandwagon, but they stopped playing it because kids didn’t really want to hear it. It didn’t sell records, but it got a lot of press because they dress cool.

TMD: Thanks a lot, guys, for taking the time to sit down and talk.

AA: No problem.

GE: Thanks.

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