Mention Eels to the average music fan and they immediately think of Daisies Of The Galaxy and its refrain of “God damn right, it's a beautiful day”. Few know of the band's wider history, or of the frequently tortured life of lynchpin and main songwriter Mark 'E' Everett.
However, a new found nostalgia has overtaken the singer, as Everett explains “it's good to clear the decks”. With a new career spanning retrospective in the works, and Everett's autobiography due soon, its a timely point to look back on one of alternative America's most enduring stories.
"videos are one of the few areas where I'm not a bit of a control freak"
Mark Everett was born into an academic family, his father was a millionaire and renowned physicist. However, Everett never got to know his father, the two being alienated from each other at an early point in the singer's life. It was Mark, however, who found his father dead – aged only 19, it was to have a profound affect on Everett. Mentioned in his new autobiography, Everett has found these revelations to be beneficial. “The whole thing with my father has been a real curveball for me”, he revealed to Clashmusic.com. “I'm glad its happening now, if it had happened before any of my own successes I could have become the Julian Lennon of physics”.
A musical child, Everett started on drums before learning other instruments in his own laidback fashion “just picking them up as I went along”. Barring the little known record “Bad Dude In Love” (1985), the first Everett release was “A Man Called E” (1992). Issued on Polydor, the album introduced to the world both Everett's acerbic wit and his pseudonym (well, letter really) – E. The following album marked the first under the Eels name, as Everett released his “Beautiful Freak” collection. A minor hit in the UK, its stark lyrics were matched to a shrewd melodic sensibility and a fondness for musical experimentation. A critical success, it would go on to form part of the “Shrek” soundtrack, after the song “My Beloved Monster” featured in the animated feature.
A traumatic time in Everett's life then followed, as he suffered the suicide of his sister, as well as his mother's death from cancer. He responded in typical E style, channelling his grief into art. The resulting collection of songs formed the album “Electro Shock Blues”, a stark and uncompromising glimpse into the grieving process. One of Eels' most acclaimed albums, it is also representative of Everett's attitude to the studio. Indeed, in an exclusive chat with Clashmusic.com he claimed that “videos are one of the few areas where I'm not a bit of a control freak”.
Trapped in his role as the dark songwriter, who deals with morbid subjects in the way that most bands navigate their way to the hairdressers, E rethought his outlook as a writer. Returning with “Daisies Of The Galaxy” - the band's best known work – Everett cemented himself as the writer of sunshine pop. Lead single “Mr E's Beautiful Blues” - only included at the label's insistence – became a global (semi) hit, as Everett seemed to find new reason to smile.
"I could have become the Julian Lennon of physics"
With a new found profile as a respected, best selling artist Everett took the only option open to him: he veered straight into the left field. Subsequent albums, such as the heavy rock of “Souljacker” or the introspection of “Shootenanny!”, have featured wildly varying themes and styles. The singer hints at his writing methods, saying “sometimes I'll feel like writing a song on the guitar but my hands will feel too comfortable, so I'll move over to the organ. I have to force myself to mix it up a little”. Such variable styles often provoke different reactions from different audiences, but the ever nonchalant E doesn't worry, explaining “I just go along for the ride”.
The new found nostalgia has been therapeutic for the songwriter, explaining “all this looking back is actually good for getting back to the future”. But does this mark the end of Eels? Everett laughs off suggestions of collecting his pension book - “I haven't dried up yet!” Whilst the line up of Eels is always fluctuating Mark “E” Everett remains constant, his acerbic and subversive lyrics representing one of alternative America's greatest songbooks.