Everclear frontman Art Alexakis is branching out in new directions along several fronts.
For one thing, he has started doing solo acoustic shows, playing the middle set between solo sets from two other notable singers, headliner Ed Kowalczyk of Live and Leigh Nash of Sixpence None the Richer.
Alexakis likes the way these shows have gone, despite the fact that the three artists have fairly different musical identities.
“It’s a tour called Open Wings and Broken Strings,” he said. “You’ve got three people whose bands sound pretty different, that all came out of the same era. We stripped it down to the acoustic thing. You can definitely see a lot of the things that connect us and a lot of other things that make us different, but it works.”
Within the context of Everclear, Alexakis has thrown a couple of key new twists into that side of his career.
On the recently released CD, In a Different Light, Alexakis and the other band members play new versions of nine core songs from the Everclear back catalog, along with a pair of new tunes. The new versions of the old tunes dial back on the electric guitars and heavy drums to create a more textured and acoustic-based sound for the songs.
So in a sense, In a Different Light is a summation of Everclear’s career up until recently, without being a greatest hits album or a live album or an unplugged album. And Alexakis had his reasons for taking this less conventional approach to presenting familiar songs in a new way.
“It [the CD] is kind of a weird thing, and that’s kind of like why I liked it when we finally decided to move ahead with this project,”
Alexakis said in a recent phone interview. “Any band that has been around as long as we have, the songs live start evolving. And usually bands will document that with a live album, but I don’t really like live albums.
“Then the second part of it, the reason it’s more acoustic, is I have had literally — and I’m not exaggerating — probably a thousand requests over the last five or six years from fans to do an acoustic version of old songs,” he said. “I didn’t want to do another like unplugged thing.
That’s boring to me. So this seemed kind of like a challenge to document the different versions.”
Alexakis certainly met his goal of presenting the songs in a new way on In a Different Light. But even he admitted that because of the way the songs were re-recorded, In a Different Light didn’t fully achieve the other primary goal — to document how the older songs had evolved over time.
That’s because Everclear didn’t play the songs in concerts in the more acoustic-based form heard on the latest CD. Instead, Alexakis said, the group favored a fully plugged-in, hard-rocking sound live that was closer to the way Everclear sounded on its earlier studio albums.
“We don’t play our show [acoustically] because I think primarily, one, that [electric rock format] is who we are, and two, that’s what people want to see,” Alexakis said. “That’s kind of what we are. We’re a rock band.”
What’s also unusual about In a Different Light is that it actually doesn’t feature the present-day Everclear. Instead, the band that recorded the CD is mainly the one that played on verclear’s 2006 CD, Welcome to the Drama Club, and the group’s 2008 covers album, The Vegas Years — guitarist Davey French, keyboardist Josh Crawley, bassist Sam Hudson and drummer Tommy Stewart (who supplanted Brett Snyder from the ’06 lineup).
That group, with the exception of French, was jettisoned after the recording of In a Different Light. Now Everclear is Alexakis, French, bassist Freddy Herrera, drummer Jordan Plosky and keyboardist Sasha Smith.
With the current lineup in place, Alexakis has been splitting his live activities between Everclear concerts and his solo shows with Kowalcyzk and Nash.
Later this spring, Alexakis will turn his attention to recording a new Everclear studio album. He hopes to finish recording in April and have it ready for release in the summer.
The next CD figures to be considerably different from the most recent Everclear studio album, Welcome to the Drama Club. That CD was written after a difficult period for Alexakis, during which he divorced his third wife and went through bankruptcy.
The new songs find him dwelling less on personal drama and taking on more of an observational or storytelling form.
“That album was something I had to do. I had to get it out,” Alexakis said of Welcome to the Drama Club. “I got my ass kicked in life, like we do from time to time. I just needed to kind of follow through and figure out what it was all about, and I think the album told a good story about it, the ups and the downs, and it ended with light at the end of the tunnel. This [next] album is more perspective and more storytelling. I still write a lot from a first-person perspective, but it’s not autobiographical.
“I think musically and lyrically it has more connection with maybe, say, ‘Sparkle and Fade’ and ‘So Much for the Afterglow,’ in the way that those songs build and the way they feel,” he said. “I’m writing shorter, more guitar, rock-oriented melodic songs. But they’re minimal in a lot of ways, and kind of weird in the arrangements that I’m pulling out of my bag of tricks. It’s hard for me to talk about what I haven’t done yet, but that’s the mindset going into it.”
To go: Open Wings, Broken Strings, an acoustic evening of rock featuring Eddie Kowalczyk, Art Alexakis and Leigh Nash, will be at the Knight Concert Hall, March 12, at 8 p.m. Tickets run from $24.50 to $44.50. For info: www.arshtcenter.org.