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Exclusive: Watch Eels Premiere 'Flyswatter' and 'The Sound of Fear' From New Live Concert Film
Eels' Mark Oliver "E" Everett has plenty of good memories from the group's tour to support last year's The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett. But few rank higher than playing the massive pipe organ at London's Royal Albert Hall, which is captured on the group's upcoming concert film and album Eels -- Royal Albert Hall.
"We played Royal Albert Hall once before, in 2005, and of course when I got there the first thing I asked was, 'Can I play the organ?' and they said 'No.' There were some big rules about it or something," Everett tells Billboard. "Then when we came back nine years later, that was the first thing I asked again, and we asked in advance. I got a lot of 'no' and then eventually, somehow, we got a yes. But it wasn't easy."
During the show, Everett teased the crowd with the story -- momentarily leaving out the fact he finally got a green light. Then, for the final encore he emerged from behind a kabuki curtain covering the organ, sporting a cape and top hat and delivering as sinister a laugh as he could muster and performed a two-song encore of "Flyswatter" and "The Sound of Fear." "It was so much fun to surprise the audience with it, and the reception was fantastic," he says. "It was a little over a top with the laugh, maybe, but if you're gonna do it, you've got to do it."
Watch exclusive video of the performance below.
And just as much fun, he adds, was the soundcheck during the afternoon. "It's a terrifying feeling to play that pipe organ; it's such a big sound and you feel like such a teeny person up there. And when I said that I wanted the sound to be even bigger, the pipe organ guy said, 'Pull out all the stops,' so I started pulling them all, like, 500 stops to make each sound, and as I was doing that, I suddenly realized that's where the saying, 'Pull out all the stops comes from.' So that was pretty cool, too."
Pipe organ or not, Everett says he felt it was important for Eels to capture the show it did for The Cautionary Tales..., an ambitious outing for which the group dressed to the nines in suits and jumped through hoops to recreate the orchestrated sound on the album with just the five musicians in the band.
"It was probably our most challenging tour and show to put on," Everett acknowledges. "We always try to stretch ourselves from year to year to keep it interesting, so we really challenged ourselves to play a lot of instruments that in some cases we weren't that familiar with and to make it feel orchestrated even though there's not an actual orchestra there. The rehearsals were like, 'Oh my god, what have we got ourselves into?' but it was very satisfying to get to the shows and see that it was actually working."
The Eels tour also featured a handful of surprise guest appearances by former Journey frontman Steve Perry, a friend of Everett and the band who grabbed headlines each time out. "I thought it was amazing," Everett says. "The idea of Steve Perry singing with us was such a curveball I never saw coming in the crystal ball of my future. And it was really spine-tingling, especially the first night in St. Paul, when I said 'Steve Perry' and he came out, and you could hear the audience slowly figure out that I'm not joking. And it was so heartwarming to see him, as my friend, sing in front of an audience for the first time in 20 years and get to do what he loves doing and hasn't been able to do for so long."
Everett and Eels are currently taking time off after the long tour for The Cautionary Tales..., with no firm game plan about what's coming next. "We're just taking a break from each other," Everett says. "I think it's important to go on input when you've been on output for a long time. Input for me is just living life, letting stuff soak in and wait until it becomes clear to you the next direction is. I'm sure it will be soon, hopefully."