By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Two years after Beck released the massive hit single "Loser" in 1994, Mark Oliver Everett's Eels project exploded in turn with "Novocaine for the Soul." And thus began a long line of comparisons drawn between the two.
To be fair, there were some similarities back then: Both boasted distinctively gruff voices, simple arrangements and some blues know-how paired with hip-hop drumming.
Yet, unlike Beck, Everett, also known as simply E, was never able to snowball that hit into mainstream success the way that Beck did. Instead, he intentionally opted to vastly change his sonic style from album to album.
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"That's the challenging part about what we do," Everett says. "There is a great potential to lose people because they see you do something one year and, if they happen to like it, they come back the next time and it's usually quite different, so they could be disappointed. But I've just never been interested in those type of fans. For the fickle fans of the world, there is always something new for them — some new flavor of the month — to get into. We were never built for the masses. We're happy with our 'beautiful freaks.'"
Happy to give them plenty to hear, too. E and his ever-changing rotation of backup musicians have remained busy, recording nine studio albums in the past 15 years, most recently releasing a trio of albums in a brief span in 2009 and 2010. Hombre Lobo, End Times and Tomorrow Morning were each released roughly six months apart — something almost unheard of in modern music.
"Nobody likes the idea of putting out an album every six months — except for me, apparently," Everett says. "It wasn't that hard for me because I didn't make the first one, put it out, and then have to make the next one in a hurry. I had already made all three of them before they came out. And I made them at a leisurely pace. It would have been a lot harder to do it the way bands actually did it in the '60s, where they would put one out and then have to make another one to put out six months later."
It helps that Evertt was especially inspired during these writing sessions. The emergence and subsequent loss of a romantic relationship helped fuel the material of this recent cycle of albums, which each stands alone, telling its own stories, but also paint a more complete picture when considered as a larger work.
"Each one was directly related to stuff I was going through at the time," he says. "I was kind of horny when I made Hombre Lobo, I was sad when I made End Times and I was hopeful when I made Tomorrow Morning, all because of things that were going on in my life. End Times was definitely about the end of a relationship, Hombre Lobo is about before a relationship even starts, and Tomorrow Morning is about getting a second chance to start over again."
But as much as Eels' sound changes from album to album and their live performances vary from tour to tour, Eels' most recent live show promises to be his band's most all-encompassing, crowd-pleasing effort to date.
"We're rocking, we've got electric guitars, we've got horns and we're pretty much mining the entire catalog," Everett says. "I think it promises to be the feel-good show of the summer. There's just a real positive vibe about the whole night every night."