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If she wasn't too busy as a comedian and actress, Janeane Garofalo could make a living interviewing rock stars. She recently had a chat with Art Alexakis of Everclear just before the band hit the road to support its cool new disc, "So Much for the Afterglow."

Let's eavesdrop on the conversation . . .

Janeane: A lot of the reviews I read of you are dark. Because the songs are very moving and seemingly very truthful, do you ever feel like you've given too much of yourself away to the public?

Art: I just write about things I've been through. I think human nature is that people like dirty laundry. People meet me and expect me to be brooding and this and that. I try to write funny, happy songs that have no substance, and they always come out really kind of twisted and kind of sad.

Janeane: I don't know much of music other than what I like, but listening to your albums, I feel like you're this close to country.

Art: There is a strong country influence. I love old country. I grew up with that. To me, the old stuff is basically the white man's blues. My mom played stuff like the Carter Family when I was growing up. I hated it then, because kids would come over and laugh at me because of the music my mom was playing. But it touched a chord inside. As I got older, it became like whatever you wanted to like and let those influences come out. Some of my earlier bands and playing guitar and writing songs that were cow-punkish.

Janeane: I would think that your music, and you as a mouthpiece for it, attracts the troubled teen. They feel like they can talk to you.

Art: Yeah. Early on, when we first started getting a lot of mail, we would read it and answer it. We got a letter from one kid who said, "I met you the other night outside the show and you were so nice to us and you guys were great and I just took a bunch of drugs and I'll be dead by the time you read this." He left it on the dashboard of his car, went up to a hotel room and took an overdose of sleeping pills and killed himself.

Janeane: It's a huge responsibility.

Art: I talk to a lot of kids, and a lot of them have a lot of issues at home. I see a therapist because I'm so messed up, and my therapist says you can't be a father to all these kids. You've got to learn to distance yourself from them. And I still haven't learned to do it. I can't control who likes my music and I can't control the reasons they like it. I just hope they get something positive out of it.

Want to see Everclear perform live? On their current tour, Everclear will play Cleveland on Nov. 8, Toronto on Nov. 9 and New York City on Nov. 11.

-- Knight-Ridder

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