Conversation With a Man Called E
‘Trilogy’ talk with the Eels' E
By Doug Freeman, 12:12PM, Wed. Jul. 20, 2011
A rare appearance by the Eels tonight at Stubb's prompted a call across the Atlantic to its prolific brain, one Mark “E” Everett.
When Mark “E” Everett returned after a four-year hiatus from recording with 2009’s Hombre Lobo, it launched a fury of consecutive Eels releases that combined to form this year's Trilogy. The three LPs, Hombre Lobo, End Times, and Tomorrow Morning, encapsulate Everett's dark, conflicted vision, one that can turn from bleak desperation to wry hope within a single song.
Triogy also serves as a capstone to a long period of introspection for Everett, a period that included his autobiography Things the Grandchildren Should Know and making TV documentary Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives, concerning the theories of and his own relationship to his father, physicist Hugh Everett III.
“I was really busy the whole time, but after writing the book and the documentary and living in my past so much, it was good to get back in the future,” admits Everett from a hotel room in England. “It was ultimately cathartic, but difficult. Anything that’s worth doing, though, often is.
“Writing a book, I found, is a lot harder than writing songs,” he continues. “Writing a book is hard and lonely and very exacting. It’s just you and the words and the paper and everything has to be just right. Whereas in music, there are all sorts of things floating around in the mix that change every second. There are all sorts of variables.”
Everett's never shied away from the intensely personal or tortured within his music. 1998’s Electro-Shock Blues, released after the death of his mother and sister’s suicide, remains one of the most harrowing expressions of grief, guilt, and resilience of the decade. Yet it’s Everett's fusion of raw blues, subtle arrangements, and pop hooks that assuages the darker impulses and often offsets the dire with a particularly light touch.
Trilogy embraces a similar trajectory, following up the wrangled desires of Hombre Lobo with disillusion in End Times, and finally, the promise of resurrection on Tomorrow Morning. Throughout, Everett weaves an ambiguity that cuts with desperation or delight depending on the projections listeners bring to the songs.
“I like for the listener to get whatever they’re going to get out the song and apply it to their own lives,” offers Everett. “I do feel that it’s the listener’s once it’s out there and they will do what they will with it. Like the song on the new album, ‘Spectacular Girl‘ - sometimes people will ask who that's about. If it were about some famous actress that everyone knew, and I say it was, then it would wreck it for the listener. I want them to apply it to their own spectacular girl.”