Live ’n’ loud: Eels wonderful, glorious Mr E..........................
FOR almost two decades, Eels has been the alter ego of songwriter, singer and musician Mark Oliver Everett.
He began his recording life as a solo artist known as E and chose Eels as a band name thinking it would place those records close to his previous output in the record stores. Of course, Eagles and Earth, Wind & Fire would keep E and Eels apart.
While Everett may have considered Eels as a band, the world still regarded it as his musical alter ego even as he wrote and played with an impressive roll call of collaborators including Grant-Lee Phillips, Peter Buck, Tom Waits and PJ Harvey’s go-to guy, John Parish.
With the line-up of his touring and studio musicians consolidating in recent years, Everett decided the 10th Eels album Wonderful, Glorious would be a band affair.
It will be the centrepiece of their set when they tour Australia with the Harvest Festival in November.
‘‘The only reason this album was made was because I had been on tour with these guys for several years and told them that we should make some new music. Everyone pitched in on the songwriting,’’ Everett says.
Everett may have been motivated to seek wider external creative input after years of documenting his personal life in song and then in the revealing and fascinating autobiography, Things The Grandchildren Should Know, released in 2008.
The album Electro-shock Blues also dealt with the personal trauma of his family after the suicide of his sister and death of his mother from cancer.
And he explored the life and death of his father, controversial physicist Hugh Everett, in the BBC documentary Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives.
Maybe Everett was seeking to restore some of the mystery about his music which he had created by having an alter ego and may have been lost after the book.
‘‘It’s hard to say if I have maintained any mystery after writing a book which detailed every little embarrassing real-life detail,’’ he says.
‘‘I think mystery is an important part of music that has been lost.
‘‘I don’t Twitter what I have had for breakfast. I didn’t think that was important to know about the artists I was interested in when I was growing up.
‘‘I didn’t want them to be my friend, I wanted to them to be the best artists and I think all this information out there takes away from the whole experience.’’
Yet Everett is a fence-sitter on the question of whether the same mystery should extend to the live show experience. Everett argues in favour of some structure. ‘‘We are the kind of guys that like to see a kick-ass show that really impresses us,’’ he says.
‘‘And we want to do our own version of that so we work really hard to create a structure that we can throw a bunch of wildcards at.
‘‘Again, we are only trying to please ourselves and if you are lucky that works for the audience.’’
Wonderful, Glorious was made to be played live and sounds it. The newer material has that raw, played-livein-the-studio sound and a loose, sexy rock feel which is different for Eels.
‘‘That’s because I am full of sexy energy,’’ Everett jokes.
Titling the album Wonderful, Glorious also helped keep most of the lyrics on the brighter side of life although Everett’s love of upbeat music juxtaposed with downer words remains at work.
‘‘You call it Wonderful, Glorious and then I have to f... that up by putting a plane dropping bombs on the cover,’’ he says.
Isn’t the bright orange of the cover supposed to convey happiness? ‘‘Well, yeah, I suppose so. ‘‘It’s bright orange but it has bombs so there’s mixed messages there,’’ he says.
‘‘There are mixed messages on there. If I can’t get a handle on myself, why should anyone else?’’
Eels, Massive Attack, Franz Ferdinand, Primus!, Goldfrapp, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Drones, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and more play the Harvest Festival, at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens, on November 17.
Mark Oliver Everett, aka E, from US rock band Eels, who head to Australia for the Harvest Festival.