One look at the Summerland tour’s lineup and you’ll think you’re glancing over the playlist at any given college radio station circa 1995. Everclear. Filter. Live. Sponge. “Lightning Crashes.” “I Will Buy You A New Life.” Dormant images of Liv Tyler in a plaid mini skirt and MTV Unplugged and Kerri Strug landing that dismount and getting a gold medal wash to the front of your mind, and we’re back in the days of power chords, tribal tattoos, the Tibetan Freedom Concert and frosted tips. To listen to these bands is to hop in the time machine for a minute.
Or does it? For Art Alexakis, Summerland has proven that the music of Everclear, Filter, Live, and Sponge has a place for current day fans, and is more than just a victory lap that cashes in on the hits that made him famous 15 years ago. Summerland, each and every night of its 40 well-attended dates (a few more East Coast dates remain), has paved the way for a bit of an artistic breakthrough for Alexakis, in that he’s writing new material and chomping at the bit to get back into the studio for the first time in years. Below, Alexakis unpacks the word “nostalgia” and what it means to a rock musician who’s written off for not only his age but his singles, along with other bits of wisdom one can only glean from spending a decade convincing people you’re more than just memory.
As far as nostalgia goes, people talk about that like it’s a bad word. It’s not a bad word. To me, nostalgia reminds you of a time where you were at an age when things excited you, and those things can still connect with you. I listen to music that excited me and still excites me, but when you’re younger and something comes in and connects with you and you make it your own, it’s like that for the rest of your life. Writing off something as nostalgia and trying to use it as a bad word, I just kind of laugh at it. That being said, I think connecting with and hearing songs that you love and having a crowd full of 2,200 people singing the words to damn near every song of the whole show of every band [at Summerland], what doesn’t sound fun about that? I don’t have a problem with “nostalgia” because I know it doesn’t define me and it doesn’t define my music. Some people have said, “These are people who lived in a different era and are bringing this era back for fiscal and financial gain.” That’s not my reason for doing this. I’ve talked to a lot of younger people who are hungry for something different than what they’re hearing on the radio. The thing I hear over and over again was “Yeah, I miss music of that era. I wish there were new bands that sounded like that. I wish bands from that era were still putting out music.” It just made sense to put together a tour that would happen every summer–Summerland was a no brainer name for it–that went out and played the hits and also played new songs that were coming from those people. I gotta tell you, the new songs I’m hearing are pretty exciting.
On the “Vegas Thing” and the Summerland lineup:
My criteria is that I wanted [Summerland] to have bands that had iconic hits of the ’90s, but unlike a lot of tours that are out there right now, they had to be a band that’s a real band making records now. I’m not interested in the Vegas Thing. I’m not interested in a “Hey, bring the singer back and we’ll put a band together and just do the hits!”-kind of thing, and that’s what you got on a couple of those tours right now. Leave those people in mothballs. If they don’t have the fire in their belly to still make music that’s relevant to them, or relevant to pop radio, who cares? That’s not the reason to make music and do what you want to do. You’re supposed to do it because that’s all you can do. I mean, this is all I do: I play music, I write, I write screenplays and there are other things to do to make money that I love doing as well, but this is my heart and soul, right here. I gotta feed these tattoos, man! I gotta get out there and play every night.