EelsEels, aka E, aka Mark Oliver Everett

Eels have just released a new album, The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett. KRISSI WEISS reports.

The latest album from Eels is entitled The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett. For those who didn’t know, Mark Oliver Everett is Eels; it’s just his band of merry women and men who have morphed and changed over time.

Interviewing E – his preferred moniker – is a terrifying experience, not because he is at all unwelcoming (he’s remarkably affable) but because he radiates a no-bullshit air of having seen (and probably done) it all. He’s at once a victim of genetics, commanding respect as presumably his father, the great American physicist, Hugh Everett III, did – and yet he’s also a seminal and seasoned musician seemingly on a decade-long comedown from his youthful trajectory. Pay attention to his cautionary tales, folks.

Inspired by loss, a concept Everett knows all too well (he found his father dead when he was 19, lost his mother to cancer and his sister to suicide), this time he’s exploring loss by choice and the subsequent – albeit delayed – regret that can bring. As always, this album is bleak and beautiful, gravelly and dainty, simple yet deeply orchestrated. It is an Eels album, and a fantastic one at that.

“This record was written entirely before we went into the studio,” Everett says. “And because there were all the orchestral arrangements there was a lot of preparation that had to be done.”

With a project that is so deeply personal, was it hard to open up to the contributions of others? “In this case, all the orchestrations were done by various members of the band, and because I work with them so much it’s a pretty comfortable, in-house feeling,” says Everett. “It’s a long process of trial and error, like any collaboration.”

Everett doesn’t hide behind metaphor to any great degree – he’s even written an autobiography called Things The Grandchildren Should Know – but still he’s pushed and prodded in interviews to talk at greater length about his personal life. After all these years, do those sorts of questions seem annoying or redundant?

“They do because it’s laid out pretty nakedly in the songs already, so it is a little redundant. I gave them an inch and I’m only willing to give them, well, two inches. A lot of the times things I write aren’t actually autobiographical, it just appears that way. If I sing a song in a character’s voice, I do it in the first person – it’s an effective way to tell a story.”

He’s written this album, he’s chosen to release it, he’s standing by the notion of touring it, and yet even the prolific E admits to some trepidation about the whole process. “When it comes to this record, it’s very autobiographical, and that’s a very uncomfortable feeling; I’m not crazy about it,” he says. “I wouldn’t have called it ‘the cautionary tales of me’ if it wasn’t me, you know? The vinyl edition of this album is on clear vinyl because I wanted it to look as transparent as the music is.

“The hardest thing is putting out a record like this, and then the next hardest thing is going out there and singing these songs in front of people, so I’m yet to find out how uncomfortable that may be. Or may not be.”