The music of The Eels is often characterized by a gloomy point of view. This is not without good reason. Eels’ leader Mark Oliver Everett, known to fans as “E,” has endured his share of hardships.
E’s father, Hugh Everett III was a renowned physicist who famously pioneered the Many Worlds interpretation of Quantum Theory. Such an advanced mind left little room for anything resembling human and fatherly interaction with his family. Hugh passed when E was only 19 years old.Just off the heels of the first Eels album, “Beautiful Freak,” E lost his sister to suicide. Shortly thereafter, E endured his mother’s battle with cancer that ended fatally. E has found his way through all of this with his music. It’s been a while since the heavy days of Electro-Shock Blues, but E’s never been a distant stranger to darkness. The Eels are back with the final album in the trilogy that started with Hombre Lobo and End Times. On the new Tomorrow Morning, E has recorded an unlikely record full of happy tones, love, and hope. E sat down with Impose to talk about this change of pace.
A lot of your music and life have been marked with darkness. On Tomorrow Morning, it seems like you are turning the page. I apologize if I’m sounding new-agey, but I hear you embracing a chance at optimism and hope. What brought you to this place lyrically and musically?
Well, I guess if you’re lucky, as you get older, you start to look around you and see the things you should be appreciating. And I suppose I’ve gotten to that point where I’m starting to do that with my life. And I can’t help but notice there’s a lot of very nice things about my life. I think having gone through all those hardships, it made it a lot easier for me to notice the good things.
Unlike other moments in The Eels that reflect happier tones, Tomorrow Morning holds a sense that everything really is going to be all right for you in your personal life. For me, this may be the first time I’ve heard this so convincingly in your work. Is this the beginning of a long line of feel good albums to come?
[laughs] I don’t know. Of course, that makes me think, “Wow, well we don’t really need that!” You know, I don’t want a long line of anything in particular. It’s impossible for me to predict right now. I’m sure I’ll find something to be miserable about eventually.
When gearing up to release an album like Tomorrow Morning, do you ever wonder if your hardcore fans will get bummed out if you sound like you’re in too good a mood?
Honestly I don’t really care how the hardcore fans are going to react because I think those kind of fans tend to look too closely at everything. I’m not here to cater to that kind of thing. I treat myself as the audience and I’m doing what I want to hear.And if other people like it it’s great. It’s a great feeling and I’m very thankful for it. But…whatever. [laughs] You can’t sit down and try and write a song to make a certain kind of listener happy.
Because your music is so personal in a way that seems like there’s a direct line between what’s going on with you and what the audience has access to, is it ever hard for you to be so open when you are performing live or even recording?
I have this thing where when I sit down and write a song, I just don’t have any filter. I try to get to the truth, to the heart of the matter, and then I try to get under that, and then I try to get under that. Just get down to the bone of the matter as far as I can.It never occurs to me, “Whoa, maybe I’ve gone too far,” until I step out onto a stage for the first time to sing some songs. Suddenly I think, “What have I done?” [laughs] When you have to sing in front of a room full of people, sometimes you can get a little embarrassed about it. Ultimately I think that’s a good thing. I think it’s good in the name of getting to the heart of the matter.
I’ve heard you talk about your reclusive tendencies in life. At the same time, the Eels project is marked with a history of collaboration. Do you see music as your means for socializing and connecting?
Yeah, completely. Music serves me on so many levels it’s crazy. My whole life is about music in every way. Right now we’re on tour and it’s really just an excuse to hang out with my friends because my friends are luckily all awesome musicians. That’s my social life, too.
How’s the tour going?
It’s going fantastic.
How far in are you?
About 2 or 3 weeks. We’ve got a long ways to go. It’s about 2½ months. But we’re having a ball.
Do the tours ever get tough for you by the end?
They usually do. This one’s so much fun, I don’t think anyone wants it to end. I don’t know if I’ve ever had that feeling before.
Is songwriting a process of therapy for you?
I suppose it must be because I’ve been compelled to do it for several years now. I’m sure that’s one aspect that I get out of it.
You’ve mentioned how you feel you’re now in chapter II of your life since writing your memoirs.
What do you want out of Chapter II that you didn’t get out of Chapter I?
Some peace and quiet. [laughs]
Are you getting that at all?
Uh, I am in little bits and pieces here and there. I wish someone could have told me when I was younger and everything was so tumultuous, that things would be as nice as they are now. There’d be no way to know that, but it would have been nice. It would have given me some hope. But I hope that I can give other people some hope by showing that things can turn out OK.
The Eels' Tomorrow Morning is out August 24.