Matt Carmichael
Some bands don't belong on the radio. They belong in dusty smoky clubs, moving from city to city, slowly picking up an underground of rabid fans. Everclear is one such band. Their image doesn't really fit with Top 40 radio. They aren't Mariah Carey. They aren't Joan Osborne. They certainly aren't Hootie. They're a clean if not clean-cut, well-spoken, well-written rock band. And their album, "Sparkle and Fade," is climbing the charts anyway.

All this success has frontman Art Alexakis at wit's end. "Not that I have much wit," he quickly adds, proving himself wrong in doing, "but I'm definitely at the end of what I have."

Keanu Reeves (a sometimes rocker himself) took some time out from shooting a new movie with Morgan Freeman to stop by their show. A writer from Details is touring with them for a few days. A fan came by to show them his Everclear tattoo, and several girls threw their bras on stage. The signs of rock star-dom are everywhere, except in the band themselves.

It's all quite a change from their start in 1993 in Portland, Or. where they began as a true garage band. Their original demo (recorded before drummer Greg Eklund joined the band) was recorded for just $400.

The past few months, however, have seen Everclear headlining their own tour, watching their single, "Santa Monica," getting heavy airplay. Watching their own videos on MTV, and generally taking the rock world by storm. The sacred name "Nirvana" is mentioned in the same sentence. But the image of the troubled artist that followed Cobain doesn't work with Alexakis anymore.

But being a rock star isn't all it's cracked up to be. Alexakis contrasts this desire with Silverchair, a band so young that they are on tour with their moms, "They're living everyone's dream," he says. "When you're that age, you want to be a rock star. I don't want to be a rock star, I want to be a musician,". He describes himself rather simply as "a singer and songwriter in a rock band." Yet it's not a simple task to pull off these days.

Everclear's lyrics demonstrate a certain stark clarity that gets right to the heart of issues that have surrounded Alexakis' life as well as the lives of many others. We hear about drugs. About being stuck on them, and breaking free. We hear about discontent and escapism. Although the lyrics wind up presenting a clear anti-drug message, it's done through the telling of the story. "I hate preaching," says Alexakis, "I don't want anyone to push their point of view on me no matter how good it is. Who wants to be yelled at?"

Alexakis' addiction and more importantly, the fact that he's been clean for 12 years, is part of the bands foundation. A stepping stone that led the way to all the band has become. "I got tired of leading a sub life," says Alexakis on his decision to leave the drug scene behind him. He stays away from all forms of drugs, even caffeine, now, and stays away from those who would tempt him.

Sitting on the tour bus, he does indulge in his last remaining vice: junk food. Munching a hot dog in Chicago, a city famous for them, he comments that "good fast food really defines a city."

c1997 Thompson Target Media