Although they shared an era more than a sound, Everclear and Sugar Ray teamed up last year to launch a package of '90s bands -- The Summerland Tour.
This summer, they broke up.
Sugar Ray is out with Under the Sun Tour with Smash Mouth, Gin Blossoms, Vertical Horizon and Fastball, while Everclear took the Summerland name (taken from one of its songs) and recruited the more aggressive lineup of Live, Filter and Sponge.
Reflecting back on the original Summerland tour -- with Lit, Marcy Playground and the Gin Blossoms -- Everclear frontman Art Alexakis says, "I called Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray almost three years ago and said, 'Do you want to be a part of it?' He said, 'Yeah, I'm in for anything you want to do.' I said, 'Cool. You have more TV exposure. I have more of, I guess, what people would consider more rock cred. Why don't we move together and see if this works?'
'It didn't work for me. I didn't have fun. I had fun sometimes, but it was too poppy. It wasn't the kind of bands I wanted to do. I wanted to do something that was more rock. That's what I liked about the era we all came out of, even though I liked Sugar Ray back in the day. Even though they had some pop hits, they were more of a rock band. That wasn't what was going on last year. So I told them I wanted to do my own thing."
No one would argue that Everclear's "Santa Monica" and Sugar Ray's "Fly" were pretty far apart. Everclear made its impact with its now-classic second album, 1995's "Sparkle and Fade," which established the Portland, Ore., band in the Nirvana school of the crunchy alt-rock. As a songwriter, Everclear's frontman was just as much aligned with Springsteen in writing powerful songs about his own experience, like the 1997 standout "Father of Mine."
Everclear had six strong years or so before it started to lose the momentum with 2000's "Songs From an American Movie, Vol. 2: Good Time for a Bad Attitude." By 2004, the rhythm section was gone and Mr. Alexakis was leading a new version of Everclear. It's become common for '90s bands to be out there with replacements, including Live, which has a new singer replacing Ed Kowalczyk, and Filter, which has a whole new band other than frontman Richard Patrick.
"I think every band's situation is different," Mr. Alexakis says. "I know for my situation, it was always my band. The guys that were in the videos were the third version of my band. It's like Trent Reznor or Smashing Pumpkins or whatever. I know people want to believe in the collective. It's not what it is. There's very few bands that do it. There's Radiohead. R.E.M. is more of a collective. There's a few really successful bands that did that. I never gave the illusion of that at all. My thing was, this is my band and this is my music, and this is my vision."
"Live," he says, "was different. Live was four guys that met in high school and started playing in a band and then one, for whatever reason, left the band and they're still making music that sounds like Live. I got a lot of flak for bringing Live on without Ed. I think, and I speak for myself, I'm betting that people want to hear those songs. When they hear those songs every night, you should see what their faces look like."
In the promotional pitch sent out to the media, they use the term " '90s nostalgia" to refer to the tour. How comfortable is he with the term?
"One of my criteria [for Summerland], which isn't the criteria for [other '90s] tours, is that I want bands that had big, big hits back in the day and are still making records now. That's the deal. Filter has a record that is doing extremely well. Live is making a record. I've heard like six of their new songs. Sponge had a record year before last."
Everclear itself went six years without a record before bouncing back last year with "Invisible Stars." During the downtime, he was busy raising kids and also losing his mother to cancer.
"It wasn't a conscious thing not to make a record," he says. "I think bands that have been successful, you get into a place of touring and going back and writing, recording, touring. They wouldn't take any time off to live some life, to have some experience to process. People who write books do it. I just think it's more interesting when people have something to sing about.
"I was in a place where I went through some tough times, but more than that, I was like, I got a kid going through high school, I got a new baby coming. I got a daughter now at Oxford and I got a 5-year-old starting kindergarten. Yeah, I know, I'm that guy. I married a younger woman and part of the drill is that a younger woman is probably going to want to have kids. I didn't plan on being a new dad at 45, but that's what makes life cool."
He was also doing shows with Everclear, including charity events and a visit to play for troops in Iraq.
"I was constantly working," he says. "It wasn't like I was sitting in a room, going 'Nope ... nope ... nope ... don't got nothing.' I'm gonna go have some tuna casserole."
One of the standouts on the album is "Be Careful What You Ask For," a song about people taking responsibility for their situations. He says it's kind of song to himself.
"I've made my share of mistakes that have been publicized, but at least I tried to own them. It's like, OK, I've been stupid about stuff. I've been married four times. I didn't plan on being Elizabeth Taylor, but I am. Not a point of pride, but would I change anything with the children I've had? No, I wouldn't change a thing."
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-2576.