Eels get electric again
Five years ago, Mark Oliver Everett called it quits. The founder, front man, multi-instrumentalist, and principal songwriter of long-running indie rock outfit Eels needed a break.
Commonly known by the stage name “E,” the veteran bandleader packed quite a bit into what became a four-year hiatus from music — including getting married, getting divorced, and becoming a first-time father at age 54.
He also used some of that time to appear in multiple episodes of Judd Apatow’s Netflix original series, Love.
Not surprisingly, during his somewhat successful attempt to withdraw from a quarter-century-long music career, the songs still came.
“I set out to not work at all,” said Everett recently from Roanoke, Virginia, between tour stops in New York and Nashville. “But I afforded myself the luxury that if I woke up feeling super inspired to write or record something, I would do it. But it was very sporadic. And at some point during those years, I just started to look at the pile of songs.”
Eventually, that collection would be turned into 2018’s 15-track The Deconstruction, the Eels’ 12th studio album.
In many ways a return to form, The Deconstruction once again mixes lyrical heartache, candid self-examination, and emotional exhaustion with lavish arrangements and a familiar combination of fractured blues and sing-a-long pop. But this time around there’s also a discernible thread of joy and sentimentality — something undoubtedly attributed to the experience of fatherhood — woven throughout the album.
Despite the haphazard way in which it was made, sometimes with six months between writing, The Deconstruction’s diverse yet completely familiar palette is a tribute to Everett’s two-plus decades of pursuing a uniquely singular vision.
“For me,” he said, “it was just about exercising my creative urges. And I was doing it for all the right reasons. There wasn’t a deadline and I wasn’t aware that I was making an album. I was just going song by song. But I got really focused on it towards the end. I listened to how everything was related and knew what it needed to make it work together.”
With the album in place, it was time to head back out on the road. A 48-month respite was more than enough to both recoup from, as well as prepare for, the rigors and exhaustion of tour life. But with the new wrinkle of having a son at home, Everett now schedules long breaks between each stretch of live shows.
“That’s the hard thing about touring now,” he said. “For so long, more people than not on our tour bus had kids at home. And I always heard them talk about how much they missed them and I was always like, ‘Whatever.’ (laughs) Now, of course, I totally get it. It’s difficult.”
Yet through the challenges, Everett claims that last year’s short run of live dates, and the current follow-up performances, are among some of the best he’s ever experienced. Eels is back to playing as a 4-piece band for the first time in years and its members are enjoying a healthy amount of artistic experimentation.
Six or seven new songs have been added to the set list since last summer, and there have already been additions, subtractions, and changes since the second leg started in Denver a couple of weeks ago.
“The shows have been really great,” said Everett. “I think it’s the remarkable combination of every aspect falling into place. And a lot of it has to do with the combination of people that I’m working and playing with. But when all of our imaginations are firing on all cylinders, it becomes like magic.”
He’s also proven to have an otherworldly knack for knowing exactly how much time off was needed to come back completely refreshed and reinvested. And while the bandleader remains uncertain about the future, Everett is more than content to enjoy the moment.
“I guess it really was the right amount of time off because I’m having a ball,” he said. “And I do have my hands full with fatherhood at home, but there will be a day, at some point, where I wake up full of inspiration and know what I want to do next. But for now, I’m in this rare period where I have no idea what’s coming.”
When: 8 p.m. May 11
Where: Observatory North Park, 2891 University Ave., North Park
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