Eels appear on several film soundtracks, including American Beauty, Holes, The Anniversary Party, Knocked Up, Yes Man, The End of Violence, Hellboy II, Hot Fuzz, and all three Shrek movies.
E solo records
In 1992, Polydor released A Man Called E under the name E. 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.
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 with "Eagles" in between. Eels became one of the first groups to sign a record deal with DreamWorks Records.
In 1996 the band released their debut album Beautiful Freak, a melancholy pop record with tormented lyrics. Musically, it demonstrated a wide range of influences including grunge and hip hop. The singles "Novocaine for the Soul", "Susan's House" and "Your Lucky Day in Hell" achieved modest national and international success, winning the Best International Breakthrough Act award at the 1998 BRIT Awards.
In 1996 and 1997, the Eels toured extensively to support the album, playing at many festivals and building their name as a live act in the United States and Europe. In September 1997, Walter quit the band (or was fired, according to some accounts).
"My Beloved Monster" was featured on the soundtrack for the movie Shrek. Two other songs from the album, "Not Ready Yet" and "Guest List", were featured in the fifth season of the television show Homicide: Life on the Street. The song "Your Lucky Day In Hell" also achieved moderate success, and was used in the horror movie Scream 2.
The song "Beautiful Freak" was written by the lead singer of Eels for his sister who had been suffering from severe depression. The song appears in "Hellboy 2: The Golden Army".
Following the success of Beautiful Freak, E experienced a difficult time in his personal life. Several friends died, his sister committed suicide, and his mother was diagnosed with cancer. These events inspired him to write Electro-Shock Blues, released in 1998. The lyrics deal with many morbid subjects including suicide, death, and cancer.
Contributions to the album were made by Jon Brion, Lisa Germano, Grant Lee Phillips, Dust Brother Michael Simpson, and T-Bone Burnett.
The single "Last Stop: This Town" saw minor success; "Cancer for the Cure", the second single from the album, was used on the American Beauty soundtrack.
Still a three-piece band on stage, Tommy Walter was replaced by Adam Siegel. Part of the American leg of the tour was cancelled after the death of E's mother. They returned to Europe later in the year, to open for Pulp. After the tour, Siegel left the band to focus on his own project The Blondes.
Daisies of the Galaxy
In 2000, Eels released Daisies of the Galaxy. The album, which was recorded almost entirely in E's basement, is lighter and more upbeat than its predecessor. Everett noted, "if Electro-Shock Blues was the phone call in the middle of the night that the world doesn't want to answer, then Daisies of the Galaxy is the hotel wake-up call that says your lovely breakfast is ready". He was joined in the studio by Michael Simpson (Dust Brothers), Grant-Lee Phillips (Grant Lee Buffalo), and Peter Buck (R.E.M.). On the tracks "It's a Motherfucker" and "Selective Memory", E plays the same piano that Neil Young used on his classic album After the Gold Rush.
The first single, "Mr. E's Beautiful Blues", was co-written by Simpson and features the sound of his pager in the beginning. The song was not intended to be on the album, but the record company insisted on its inclusion. Therefore, it is not featured on the track listing but is instead listed as a "bonus track", separated from the rest of the album by 20 seconds of silence. E declared, "You can think of it as buying the album and getting a bonus track, or buying the single and getting a bonus album." The song also appeared on the Road Trip soundtrack and several of the film's cast members are featured in the music video. Because of the use of profanity in "It's a Motherfucker" and "Mr. E's Beautiful Blues" ("Goddamn right, it's a beautiful day") a censored version was released. "It's a Motherfucker" was renamed to "It's a Monstertrucker" with E singing over instances of the 'f-word' in a distorted voice. Dan Bartlett of the presidential campaign for then-Governor George W. Bush cited the album—which was reportedly given as a gift at a Democratic political event—as an example of obscenity-laden entertainment marketed to children. This conclusion was due to the contrast between the aforementioned song title and the cartoon drawings on the album cover, which were inspired by children's books found in the estate of E's mother.
To promote Daisies of the Galaxy another tour took place across the United States and Europe, as well as their first visit to Australia. This time Eels were transformed into an 6-piece orchestra, including Lisa Germano. E also played some solo shows, opening for Fiona Apple.
Souljacker and Shootennany!
In 2001 Souljacker was released, an album with a heavier feel and more rock-orientated sound than Daisies of the Galaxy. John Parish, previously of PJ Harvey's band, co-wrote most of the songs and played guitar on the album and first part of the tour. After Parish became a father, he was replaced with Joe Gore for the American leg of the Bus Driving, Band Rocking Tour. Koool G Murder played bass and keyboards and joined Eels on tour, jokingly introduced by E as "the other guy." Wim Wenders directed the video for the first single, "Souljacker part I".
2003 marked the release of the album Shootenanny!. E now refers to the album as a break from recording the following Blinking Lights album. It was recorded live in the studio in only ten days. "Saturday Morning" was released as a single.
Butch was replaced on drums by Puddin'. In 2003 Eels did another big tour, the Tour of Duty. The live band consisted of E, Golden Boy (guitar), Koool G Murder (bass) and Puddin (drums). Later that year, E composed the score for the film Levity.
Blinking Lights and Other Revelations and Eels with Strings
Eels' next album, Blinking Lights and Other Revelations, was released on April 26, 2005; it was the band's first release for new label Vagrant Records. It is a 33-track double album. Contributions were made by Tom Waits, Peter Buck and John Sebastian (The Lovin' Spoonful). A hand-written lyric-sheet to "In the Yard, Behind the Church" was sold on eBay for $544, which was given to charity.
The first tour in support of the Blinking Lights album, billed as Eels with Strings, featured primarily acoustic guitar-, organ- and piano-based performances by E backed by Allen 'Big Al' Hunter on piano and upright bass; Jeffrey Lyster (also known as Chet Atkins III or 'The Chet') on guitar, mandolin, pedal steel, musical saw and drums; and the string quartet of violinists Paloma Udovic and Julie Carpenter, violist Heather Lockie and cellist Ana Lenchantin.
The tour resulted in a live album, Eels with Strings: Live at Town Hall, recorded in New York City. The performance includes tracks from all of their albums, and was released on CD and DVD on February 21, 2006.
Meet the Eels: Essential Eels Vol. I and Useless Trinkets
In early 2008 Eels released their first "greatest hits" compilation as well as a compilation of b-sides, rarities, soundtrack singles and unreleased tracks.
Meet the Eels: Essential Eels Vol. I spans the first decade of the Eels with singles from all their albums. Attached is a DVD featuring music videos and one live performance video. Useless Trinkets contains 50 B-sides and rarities and a DVD of their Lollapalooza 2006 performances.
To promote those releases the band went on world tour ("An Evening with Eels"). This time only The Chet joined E on stage, both playing a broad cross-section from the Eels repertoire on a variety of instruments. The concerts also featured The Chet reading excerpts from E's autobiography, Things the Grandchildren Should Know. On this tour, the band released a live CD/DVD package of Eels' 2006 performance at the London Astoria - Live and in Person!), documenting a show from the second tour in support of Blinking Lights and Other Revelations.
The soundtrack of the 2008 Jim Carrey comedy film Yes Man features nine songs by the Eels, including "Man Up," a brand new song.
Hombre Lobo, the seventh Eels studio album, was released on June 2, 2009. The album comprises twelve new songs. "Hombre Lobo" is Spanish for "wolf man" or "werewolf" and may be a reference to E's unusually long beard which he originally grew when writing the song "Dog Faced Boy". On March 31, 2009, the band made the track "Fresh Blood" available on Spinner.com, explaining that the song would be the lead single for the album. A Jesse Dylan-directed music video was released on April 29, 2009 as well. The album was released as a single-disc CD and a deluxe edition with a DVD. In September 2009, Eels released a music video for "That Look You Give That Guy" featuring Bobby, Jr., E and "Top Chef" host, Padma Lakshmi.
While promoting this album, Eels released the live EP The Myspace Transmissions Session 2009 on October 14, 2009.
On October 14, 2009, the band's website announced that a new Eels album entitled End Times would be released on January 19, 2010. It has largely been recorded on a four-track recorder and is based on the themes of broken love and E's divorce. Three album tracks—"Little Bird", "In My Younger Days", and "A Line in the Dirt"—were made available as music videos or promotional downloads prior to the release of the album.