Eels is an American rock band, formed in Los Angeles, California, in 1991 by singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Mark Oliver Everett, known by the stage name E. Band members have changed over the years, both in the studio and on stage, making Everett the only official member for most of the band's work. Eels' music is often filled with themes of family, death, and unrequited love. Since 1996, Eels has released fourteen studio albums, seven of which charted in the Billboard 200.
In 1991, Everett signed a contract with Polydor and released A Man Called E under the name E a year later. The single "Hello Cruel World" was a minor success. Touring to support the album, E opened for Tori Amos.A Man Called E was followed by Broken Toy Shop in 1993. This year also marked the beginning of E's collaboration with drummer Jonathan "Butch" Norton. After Broken Toy Shop, E was released from his record deal with Polydor. E has performed two of the songs from Broken Toy Shop for his own live shows with the Eels.
Eels were officially founded when Butch and E met Tommy Walter. The name "Eels" was chosen so that the band's records would be close to E's solo records in an alphabetical ordering, although it was too late once they realized that numerous Eagles and Earth, Wind and Fire releases were in between. Eels became one of the first groups to sign a record deal with DreamWorks Records, followed by Elliott Smith.
In 1996, the band released their debut album Beautiful Freak. The singles "Novocaine for the Soul", "Susan's House" and "Your Lucky Day in Hell" achieved modest national and international success, with the band winning the Best International Breakthrough Act award at the 1998 BRIT Awards. In 1996 and 1997, Eels toured extensively to support the album, building their name as a live act in the United States and Europe. In September 1997, Walter quit the band.
Released in May 2001, the motion picture soundtrack for the movie Shrek included the song "My Beloved Monster".
Following the success of Beautiful Freak, E experienced a difficult time in his personal life. His sister committed suicide, and his mother was diagnosed with cancer. These events inspired Eels' second album, 1998's Electro-Shock Blues. The album deals with many difficult subjects, including cancer, mental illness, suicide and death. The tragedy of Everett's father's death became prominent once more in the context of his mother's impending death and his sister's suicide, and as a result the song "Baby Genius" is written for his father Hugh Everett III. Contributions to the album were made by Jon Brion, Lisa Germano, Jim Jacobsen, Grant-Lee Phillips, Dust Brother Michael Simpson, and T-Bone Burnett.
The single "Last Stop: This Town" saw minor success, while "Cancer for the Cure", the second single from the album, appeared on the soundtrack for American Beauty .