photo by Gus Black
The songs of Mark Oliver Everett pull no punches and cut to the chase, yet hold sly irony and perceptive observations, pairing simplicity with mystery, intentional distance and welcoming finishes. As I waited to speak with Mark, I wondered if the songwriter would resemble his songs. The short is, yeah, pretty much.
Our conversation started with talk of the impending tour, billed as The Triumphant Return of Eels, the World’s Number One Entertainers. “Last year’s shows were so much fun, probably my favorite shows ever,” Mark said, “they made us hungry for more.” So last year’s Eels, who he described as, “a four-piece rock and roll band,” are striking out to places they didn’t hit last time and return for, “an encore,” to those they did. “We love Milwaukee; cheese, the Fonz Statute,” Mark remarks when it’s mentioned that is the tour’s third date, “that will be the sweet spot, after we work out all the kinks,” When asked how the band handles the more orchestrated songs on tour, he states, “I try to make the best record I can and put on the best show I can and consider those two separate things.” The band doesn’t try to recreate the recordings, preferring to reinvent the songs. “Where there were strings on the album, Chet might make a loop on his guitar.” It’s not a democracy according to Mark, but he’s open to ideas, most which get worked out in an intense two week rehearsal before the tour. Normally rehearsals are three weeks long, but last year’s crew is back in the saddle and a big part of going back on the road. “Little Joe, our drummer,” who happens to be the newest Eel, “is one of my favorite drummers to play with.” Mark adds, “He’s little, but packs a wallop.” Big Al returns on bass, so he jokes that Chet’s now Medium Chet. It all sounds like a fun, well-run family.
This time out the band tours nationally for three weeks, gets two months off then sets out for three weeks in Europe. What does Mark do with the time off? “I’m a Dad, so I spend time with my son,” he says, mentioning he was sick recently. Time off is a change of pace for this hard-working musician. A four year gap between albums brought him a freedom of choice a nearly thirty-year career didn’t normally afford. Besides becoming a father while on hiatus, he also got married and divorced. He acted in a few episodes of the Netflix series, “Love,” playing, “an even more pretentious hip asshole than he is in real life.” We talked about how he learned a lot and liked not being the boss, and how acting and performing music share a common requirement to expose yourself. Mark said, “the hardest part is making yourself vulnerable.” I believed him. His songs detail a raw intimacy at times and speak from a place of hard-earned experience. He admits that while he likes to do things differently there’s often a price to pay for not always giving the people what they expect. I asked Mark if it’s an issue that people read things into his songs that aren’t there. “It’s cool - music is suppose to be open to interpretation.” Do you have any requirements or self-prescribed standards to weed out the cheesy clunkers? “It works, if it works,” “I try to cut my losses and not beat a dead horse by working with what works and not ruining it by working on it too much.” Sound advice from a cut to the chase no pulled punches guy.
Eels play Milwaukee’s Turner Hall April 24th promoting last year’s solid, “The Deconstruction.”(972) Page Views Mark Oliver Everett Online:
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Mark Oliver Everett
CD: The Deconstruction Record Label: PIAS
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