Offbeat yet whimsical, shirt revealing a few strategically placed tattoos, bleached blond or black hair (but never medium brown), an ironic half-twisted smile, and chewing pink bubblegum: the portrait of a rock star. Well, at least that’s what you’d see if looking at Everclear. You’d see a band rimmed with a darker edge that seems to accompany the trappings of rock groups, yet underlying that surface, a sense of optimism often associated with pop music. If anything, Everclear has enjoyed playing with the duality of their musical ability in their newest releases. But, good comes with the bad and these opposites are inextricably linked: not even rock stars escape the common fate of anyone with a heart.
Art Alexakis, the lead singer of Everclear, has been through divorce. Not just of his parents, but his own. He seems to know a thing or two about this increasingly common practice among North Americans, as the divorce rate pans out at fifty percent. Art muses upon these grim odds with a sense of practicality: “…being second generation children of divorce, we’ve learned more about how to have a divorce, which in some ways is better for our children, although it is a bad indictment on our society…whereas back in the late ’60s and ’70s no one knew how to get a divorce.” While the learning process has been invaluable to sparing his own daughter from the pain he felt, Art cannot help but also admit that divorce has become so common that society has become detached.
Art’s youthful exterior is betrayed by his voice, which speaks with the certainty and wisdom of experience. One expects careless anecdotes to come streaming out, but instead, Art takes a look in the past with a calm but not embittered seriousness. As a child, he never really experienced stability. In fact, probably the first lessons life served up were harsher than most can fathom for a child seeking security. “In my experience as a child of divorce, I felt abandoned by my father.” Art says this factually, perhaps because time has distanced some of the more painful emotions, as he recounts the general difficulties of growing up. ” I felt loved by my mother, very much loved, but trying to raise as many kids as my mom did, on very little money made her a little neurotic and crazy. I mean what mom isn’t?…but it made my mom a little more neurotic and crazy,” Art smiles. You get that sense of duality again, that Art is very good at accepting the good with the bad.
Looking over at Craig Montoya, the guitarist, leads to the recounting of a similar scenario of experiencing divorce as a child. ” Since I was so young, and my dad split, I didn’t have a male role model.” An unfortunate common bond between Art and Craig that draws a parallel of their childhoods. ” I was pretty young… I don’t remember a lot of it, but I remember a lot of yelling, a lot of fighting, a lot of confrontation. And I think at such a young age it shaped me in a kind of way that my whole life I basically avoided confrontation. I don’t like to argue with people. I stuffed a lot of things inside.”
Repression is another common bond between Art and Craig. Art plainly states that people just didn’t talk about those kinds of things when he was growing up, and Craig’s family viewed counselling as something to be looked down upon. Neither had anyone to talk to as adolescence reared its rebellious head. Craig remembers his journey as one where the lack of guidance led to a destructive life. “I was just kinda thrown out there on the ice, slipping and sliding until I found a niche or a crack that I fit into, and unfortunately that was drinking, drugs, and music.” Perhaps not so unfortunate for the latter part. But to his own detriment, Craig felt he belonged with the “cool stoner guys.” And so he spiralled downwards. “I started taking things to extremes…to feel more, to experience things quicker…I had to hit rock bottom. Basically lose my job, get kicked out of my house, get busted by the cops, everything to finally realize that drugs and drinking were really bad for me.”
“Hindsight is worth a million dollars,” states Art when asked what he would have done differently while dealing with the divorce of his parents. “Having known then what I know now… I would have believed in myself.” The simplicity is endearing. A man who at a considerable height looks down at the people he speaks to stares off as he says, ” I would have worked it out somehow to make myself feel empowered. I wouldn’t have done drugs, and drank, and tried to escape through that route. It didn’t make me feel better, it made me feel worse.” Art didn’t know what he was about, never mind the world of academia and textbooks. ” I would have paid way more attention in school and just learned more about what made me tick.” Craig looks back and makes a few plainly stated regrets. “I would have communicated with my parents more about it, and the people around me. Going to the sources instead of escaping it, instead of just forgetting about it, and hoping it’ll go away. There’s always a solution, there’s always an answer…” It seems almost too easy to make these comments now, as the many years of experience and knowledge distance them from the pain and uncertainty of their youth.
It seemed as if life was creating an uncanny sense of deja vu for both Craig and Art as they came face to face with their own divorces after experiencing the separation of their parents. It was almost a challenge, or perhaps even a test to see if misfortune had taught them anything. And their approach to the entire process is what made them different than their parents. Art explains, “My ex-wife was a child of divorce as well, and when we got together and knew we were going to have a child, we made the agreement then and there that if anything happened to our marriage, we would never do what our parents did to us…we kept it very amicable. Craig also fought to avoid the past. ” I tried really hard to keep my marriage together even though I knew it was wrong for me. We went to counselling countless times, but she just wasn’t right for me. I didn’t argue with her, I just tried to get a common ground…” Craig’s past came rolling back in the form of his own divorce but accepting the differences and struggling to work diligently was the real turning point. He was glad he didn’t hear his own voice screaming and shouting, not eerily echoing his parents.
After looking back in retrospect one instinctively wonders what the future holds. What realizations can be drawn from these occurrences? Looking at Art, what does he hope his daughter, grown up ten years from now, will take away from her experience as a child of divorce? “Consistency. That we were consistent and that she grew up feeling loved, level, stable, and that she felt secure.” This importance of security becomes even more evident when he puts it into context. “I counted not too long ago, in my life, I have moved place of residence sixty-seven times (he looks away) I have lived in sixty-seven different places.” Suddenly stability seems like a precious gift that he can offer his daughter.
Is Art finally learning how to smile and care about the world again? “I’ve always cared about the world. That’s never been an issue. But with learning how to smile, it’s been learning how to feel comfortable within my own skin, and to feel accepted, and to feel empowered, and to feel worthy.” These are the words of a rock star. Someone who basks in the light of fame and yet realizes that this knowledge is priceless, and hard to come by at a younger age. Craig although somewhat deep in thought, surfaces to say, “I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time…it was getting kinda crazy in my head there for awhile…but I couldn’t ask for anything better right now. I’m ready to hit the road, I’m very happy. I’m in a good place.”