EELS on time, anxiety and open heart surgery: ‘I didn’t realise it was going to be such a mindfuck’

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EELS on time, anxiety and open heart surgery: ‘I didn’t realise it was going to be such a mindfuck’

Eels band
Words by Sarah Duggan

Indie stalwarts EELS are set to unveil their seventeenth studio album, EELS TIME, on June 7th, marking a significant milestone in their storied career.

While this is their third release since the onset of COVID-19, it’s the first album conceived and recorded in the post-pandemic era, capturing the essence of years gone by.

Frontman (and currently the only official member of the band) Mark Oliver Everett, better known as E, recently penned a heartfelt open letter to fans via Instagram. In it, he candidly discusses his pandemic struggles, the surreal experience of returning to live performances, and his recent open-heart surgery. With so much to reflect on, it was a true delight to connect with E over Zoom.

We delved into his journey of becoming a parent, his renewed health, and, of course, the music that continues to inspire and resonate with so many.

EELS’ new record, EELS TIME

  • EELS TIME is EELS’ first album conceived and recorded in the post-pandemic era
  • It’s out June 7th, pre-save it here

Keep up with the latest music news, features, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

“I didn’t realise what it had done to me psychologically in some ways,” E says of the pandemic and years spent in lockdown.

“When the pandemic hit, I was still a pretty new father, a divorced father, no less. And you know, I got used to the pandemic years and being a new father. It’s not something I noticed until suddenly when we could finally go on tour again after four years of that.

“I don’t normally like being afraid or nervous about performing, but right before we went on to do the first show, I was practically having a panic attack… I didn’t realise it was going to be such a mindfuck. All of a sudden everybody cared about me a lot, like intensely.”

In his letter, E shared that he had recently undergone open-heart surgery due to a heart condition that also affected his late father.

“If you have something like that in your family history, you’ve got to keep an eye on it, so I’ve always gotten whatever the latest scans are and kept an eye on it. That’s the only reason I knew that this was developing. It got to the point where, quite recently, I needed to go in and have surgery or I was going to die,” E shares, before adding, “The good news is, it totally worked and I’m good as new now.”

With the upcoming release of EELS TIME, I couldn’t help but ponder about the album’s title.

The cover and title almost make this look like an upbeat party album, but as E tells, “It’s sort of complicated. In a way, you can say it’s deceptive because then the first song comes on and it’s not exactly a party song at all.

But also, by putting the exclamation point on the title, it sort of emphasises the point to me, which is like, we all need to be aware that our time is limited and you might as well try to have a good time while you can and make the most of it.”

This album features some incredible names, including All-American Rejects’ Tyson Ritter, who co-wrote a few songs and helped produce the album.

“Most of my collaborators come about very organically… But with him, it was different. It was like his manager contacted my manager about me being on a song that he had written for a movie that he was also acting in.”

E goes on to share that he wasn’t really familiar with All-American Rejects back in the day, although they were on DreamWorks Records at the same time as EELS. “I really liked the song that he did. It didn’t sound like his band at all.

It was like a really different style… And so I did sing on that and that ended up being the end title song in the movie called Prisoner’s Daughter.” This connection also led to E having a small role in the movie, where Ritter beats him up in front of Kate Beckinsale.

After working with Ritter a little bit, the two discovered they were neighbours and lived within walking distance of each other, which made recording during the pandemic easy.

While a lot of the album was recorded in-person, E also recorded some remotely, saying, “When you’ve got a little kid, you don’t want to be the asshole that shuts down your kid’s school because you got COVID. And so I was really always on top of that. And so we kept remotely recording a lot.”

Previously, E has also had small roles in the films This Is 40 and Ant-Man Quantumania, both starring Paul Rudd. “It turns out Paul Rudd’s an EELS fan. He told me he bought the Souljacker album the day it came out,” E says proudly.

“The director of Ant-Man directed a movie I scored, Yes Man, and we’ve known each other since then. I think he thought it would be a cool little Easter egg thing for physics groupies who know that my father is the guy who wrote the theory of parallel universes, which every Marvel movie is based on now.

“So they just thought like, oh, let’s put Hugh Everett III’s son in a little scene,” E says nonchalantly, as if this is not the coolest thing ever.

Becoming a parent is no doubt a life-changing event, and for E, the biggest impact it’s had on his music is that he has less time to do it. His son, now seven years old, has recently started taking an interest in his father’s music.

“Like a lot of kids, he doesn’t give a shit about what his dad’s work is,” E says, laughing. “He only recently started to show a little interest because he discovered that one of his classmates was a fan and so suddenly he’s starting to ask me questions about the EELS and he knows we have songs in Shrek. A couple of days ago he said, ‘Do you sing that song in Shrek that goes ‘Somebody once told me…’?’

“I said, ‘No, buddy, that’s a band called Smash Mouth.’ And he was just so disappointed.”

With the album on the brink of release, E can’t wait to get out there and play some new music live. “There’s a couple of good live ones on there. There’s also a couple that might be pretty hard to do.”

And although there are no tour dates just yet, E says that they’re going to figure it out later down the track, stating, “We’ll put the album out and then we’ll figure out when to tour.”

EELS TIME is out June 7th, available wherever you stream. Pre-save it here.