NEW YORK — When Steve Perry performed alongside the Eels this week — a first for the reclusive singer in two decades — the band’s frontman wasn’t even sure it would happen.
Mark Oliver Everett said in an interview Wednesday that he and the former Journey leader have become good friends and that Perry is an Eels fan. He said Perry has attended Eels rehearsals over the years, but he was still surprised when the singer told him he would perform at their show in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Monday.
“Even right up to the moment he started singing on the stage, I was prepared for it to not happen,” Everett said.
Perry surprised the audience with the indie rock band at the Fitzgerald Theater. They performed the Journey songs “Open Arms” and “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’ ” and “Open Arms,” as well as Eels’ “It’s a (Expletive).”
Everett, 51, said his relationship with Perry is an odd one: He knew 65-year-old Perry was a fan of his work and attended his concerts, but he didn’t feel the same about Journey’s music.
“He used to send word back to me … that he wanted to meet and it was a little bit of an awkward thing for me because when I was younger, one thing I never really appreciated was Journey,” he said. “And I felt like I didn’t know what to say to him … so I just avoided it for years.”
Everett said film director Patty Jenkins, a friend of Perry’s, advised they meet. Everett then invited Perry to his Sunday croquet matches five years ago, and a friendship grew.
Everett said that his band mates would play Journey songs at their rehearsals hoping Perry would sing, and eventually he budged.
“He finally couldn’t take it anymore and he grabbed the microphone and started singing,” he said. “And at the moment I got a huge appreciation for Journey. … Now when I hear Journey on the radio I turn it up.”
Perry performed with Journey until the late 90s. His former band mates have continued with singer Arnel Pineda, who they discovered on YouTube.
Eels, currently on an international tour through July, released its 11th album last month.
Everett said Perry “is also working on something” when it comes to new music. They haven’t collaborated, though he would be open to it.
“I think I can produce an amazing Steve Perry record, but there’s no way because he would drive me insane,” he said.
But there is a chance they could perform again onstage.
“Personally, I would love that, but that’s all up to Steve,” he said. “All I can do is try to not stop believin’.”