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Eels Plays New Songs About Love And Loss

Singer-songwriter and musician Mark Oliver Everett, better known as "E," formed Eels in 1995, in California. (Piper Ferguson)

Singer-songwriter and musician Mark Oliver Everett, better known as “E,” formed Eels in 1995, in California. (Piper Ferguson)

In 1998, the band Eels released an album called “Electro-Shock Blues.” The music reflected the losses suffered by the band’s leader, Mark Oliver Everett, who goes by “E.”

His father, noted physicist Hugh Everett III, died when Mark was a teenager, his mother later died from cancer and his sister committed suicide.

His new album, “The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett,” also reflects on these losses but with the perspective of age.

Everett discusses the new album with Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson, and performs three songs with fellow band members The Chet and P-Boo: “Parallels,” “Where I’m From” and “Mistakes of My Youth.”

Full Versions Of The Songs Performed In-Studio

Interview Highlights: Mark Oliver Everett

On his new song “Parallels”

“This is one of those songs that, more often than not, I think I know who I’m singing to, but in this one, we were kind of on a gut level, and I wasn’t sure who I was singing it to. And I’m still not really sure. At different times I sing it, I’m thinking about different people I might be singing it to. It could be about my father, you know, because of the parallel thing. He was the guy who did the parallel universe theory. And then another thing I think is it’s like — to the idea we all have a long-lost twin somewhere, and then the reason that might be a cautionary tale is, maybe that’s not such a good idea to, you know, hold out for your long-lost twin. You might just be looking for yourself. Maybe you should just look for somebody you can let be who they are.”

On his family relationships, and how he deals with that through music

“Once the last of my family died, and I went back to Virginia and I closed up their house, and I just never looked back. I just, like, shut it all off, you know, after making the ‘Electro-Shock Blues’ record, and locking the door on their house. And to some degree, that’s not such a healthy way to — I mean, you do anything you can to survive at that point, but, you know, I realize, all these years later, that it’s not healthy to just shut anything completely off. I realize I should revisit it from time to time. And I also catch myself, you know, having little conversations with them at times. I try to touch base occasionally.”

“Most of the time, I’m always just treating myself as the audience member. I think that’s really the only way to do it, you know? You just do something to try to impress yourself. And then, in this case, it serves me doubly, because it’s also got some therapeutic purpose.”

On what he hopes fans take from his “cautionary tales”

“I would like people to realize that there are some stupid things they don’t need to do because I’ve already done them for them. They can learn from my mistakes. Maybe you have a good situation in your life that you’re not appreciating, and maybe you shouldn’t blow it.”

Guest

Transcript

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

It's HERE AND NOW, and as leader of the band Eels, Mark Oliver Everett has produced a lot of emotional music based on his own life. His father, the scientist Hugh Everett, died in 1982, when Mark was just a teenager. Later his sister committed suicide, and his mother died of cancer. So his entire family was gone.

The songs on the 1998 album "Electro-shock Blues" were written in response to those events, but now Eels is out with "The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett," and that past continues to haunt the songs but now with the perspective of time. Mark is known as E. He joins us from NPR West to talk about his new album. We're also going to hear two other members of the band playing some of the new music. They go by their nicknames, the Chet and P-Boo. Guys, welcome to HERE AND NOW.

MARK OLIVER EVERETT: Thanks for having us.

HOBSON: Well, before we talk about the music, I want to hear some of it. If you could play one of your songs. Could you play "Parallels" for us?

EVERETT: Sure thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PARALLELS")

EELS: (Singing) Woke up lost, a world I didn't know. I shook it off and am trying to make a go. Ever get the feeling that the story isn't done? And you know that you are not the only one? And I know you're out there somewhere, and I know that you are well, looking for an answer, but only time can tell, parallels.

(Singing) All things being equal, I'd rather not forget the things I've seen and the people that I've met. But something down inside me makes me think there's something more, and I don't have any proof, but I'm sure. And I know you're out there somewhere, and I know that you are well, looking for an answer, but only time can tell, parallels.

(Singing) Woke up lost in a world I can't escape. What I'll become slowly taking shape. Start again, it's not the end, but altogether new. I've never giving up 'til I find you. And I know you're out there somewhere, and I know that you are well, looking for an answer, but only time can tell, parallels, parallels.

HOBSON: That was great, thank you so much.

EVERETT: Thanks.

HOBSON: So who are you singing about there?

EVERETT: Well, you know, that's a good question. This is one of those songs that, more often than not, I think I know who I'm singing to, but in this one, we were kind of on a gut level, and I wasn't sure who I was singing it to. And I'm still not really sure. At different times I sing it, I'm thinking about different people I might be singing it to.

It could be about my father, you know, because of the parallel thing, and he was the guy who did the parallel universe theory. And then another thing I think is that it's like to the idea of, you know, we all have like a long-lost twin somewhere, and then the reason that might be a cautionary tale is, maybe that's not such a good idea to think you have - you know, hold out for your long-lost twin. You might just be looking for yourself. Maybe you should just look for somebody you can let be who they are.

HOBSON: You mentioned your father. Your father was physicist, actually, and I am the child of two step-parents who are also physicists. What was that like for you to grow up with a physicist dad?

EVERETT: Well, you know what I'm talking about.

(LAUGHTER)

HOBSON: They're very organized, I think.

EVERETT: I hope it was better for you than it was for me. I only had one in the family, and a very troubled and remote - he was there for 18 years of my life, and - but he was pretty much an utter stranger to me.

HOBSON: Has it gotten easier to sing about that than it was, let's say, back in 1998 with "Electro-Shock Blues"?

EVERETT: Yes, definitely. I mean, that was when, 1998. You know, once the last of my family died, and I went back to Virginia, and I closed up their house, and I just never looked back. I just, like, shut it all off, you know, after making the "Electro-Shock Blues" record and locking the door on their house.

And to some degree, that's not such a healthy way to - I mean, you do anything you can to survive at that point, but, you know, I realize, all these years later, that it's not healthy to just shut anything completely off. I realize I should revisit it from time to time. And I also catch myself, you know, having little conversations with them at times. I try to touch base occasionally.

HOBSON: Well, and I wonder when you're writing about that, and when you're singing about that, are you doing it for yourself, or are you doing it for the person listening on the other end of the radio or to you in concert that might be going through something similar?

EVERETT: Most of the time, I'm always just treating myself as the audience member. I think that's really the only way to do it, you know. You just do something to try to impress yourself. And then, in this case, it serves me doubly because it's also got some therapeutic purpose.

HOBSON: What do you want people to take away from "The Cautionary Tales of Mark Olive Everett"? What is the cautionary tale?

EVERETT: I would like people to realize that there are some stupid things they don't need to do because I've already done them for them. They can learn from my mistakes. Maybe you have a good situation in your life that you're not appreciating, and maybe you shouldn't blow it.

HOBSON: Which brings us perfectly to the song that I want you to play us out on, "The Mistakes of My Youth." So let me say goodbye to you first, but it's been a great pleasure having you guys: Mark, or E; also P-Boo and The Chet. They are the members of Eels, and the CD is called "The Cautionary Tales of Mark Olive Everett." Thanks so much, guys, for joining us.

EVERETT: Thank you so much for having us. It's been a real pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE MISTAKES OF MY YOUTH")

EELS: (Singing) In the waning days ahead, I got to look back down the road. I know that it's not too late. All the stupid things I've said and people I've hurt in my time, well, I hope that it's not my fate to keep defeating my own self and keep repeating yesterday. I can't keep defeating myself. I can't keep repeating the mistakes of my youth.

(Singing) In the dark of night, I might be able to make myself think that I'm still a younger man. But when the light of day shines down, there's no way to get around it. I'm not the younger man.

HOBSON: The Eels, and you can find some more of their songs at our website, hereandnow.org, as well as some tour information. They are starting their tour Wednesday night in Phoenix. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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