Eagles of Death Metal: A Primer on the Tragedy-Stricken Rock Group

Lyndsey Parker
·Editor in Chief, Yahoo Music

They say any publicity is good publicity, but Eagles of Death Metal would certainly beg to differ. The Southern California desert rockers, previously known for their irreverent humor and party-hardy attitude, unexpectedly and tragically made headlines over the weekend, when their Nov. 13 show at Paris, France’s Le Bataclan became the deadliest concert shooting of all time. All five members of the band, who were onstage when shots first rang out, escaped to safety during the horrific terrorist attack – but their merchandise manager, Nick Alexander, was among the more than 100 victims who were brutally killed.

Now EoDM find themselves at the center of an international tragedy. Although the band’s first album came out in 2004, and their rotating ranks have included some major names, many people are now hearing about them for the first time, under the worst possible circumstances and for all the wrong reasons.

Here’s a primer on the group for those curious to learn more.

They’re not a death metal band.

Over the past few days, many mainstream news outlets have taken Eagles of Death Metal’s name far too literally; worse yet, some online trolls have even dared to suggest that the band brought this tragedy upon themselves by playing supposedly morbid, macabre music. But EoDM – formed in 1998 by Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme and his childhood best friend, Jesse Hughes – actually traffic in feelgood, bluesy boogie-rock reminiscent of bands like Thin Lizzy and Canned Heat. Their moniker is meant to be cheeky and ironic, inspired by what Homme once jokingly imagined an Eagles/death metal hybrid might sound like.

It’s the ultimate irony that an act previously known for celebratory sexygoodtimes and wicked wit (note frontman Hughes’s ridiculous ‘70s-porn-star mustache and album titles like Death by Sexy, Heart On, and this year’s Zipper Down) is now inextricably linked with tragedy. Their debut album was actually titled Peace, Love, Death Metal.

They have many famous friends, fans, and part-time members.

EoDM’s most famous regular member is of course Homme (who rarely tours with the band, and was not with them in Paris this past Friday). But over the years, they’ve jammed with everyone from Jack Black to Dave Grohl (both of whom appeared in their “I Want You So Hard” music video, the latter in a bad wig). Other EoDM collaborators have included Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees), Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters), Homme’s wife Brody Dalle (the Distillers, Spinnerette), Samantha Maloney (Hole, Motley Crue), Dean Fertita (the Dead Weather), Stefan Olsdal (Placebo), Alain Johannes (Eleven), Abby Travis (Beck, Elastica), and Liam Lynch (Sifl & Olly).

But Axl Rose is not among those fans.

While EoDM have successfully toured with the likes of the Strokes and Arctic Monkeys, one trek opening for Guns N’ Roses in 2006 lasted for only one night. Rose kicked them off the tour and called them “Pigeons of S— Metal,” but the dis only elevated EoDM’s public profile. They even had jokey T-shirts printed with Axl’s disparaging catchphrase.

Their Duran Duran cover has become an unofficial Paris anthem.

There’s a new fan campaign (not started or sanctioned by the band) to get EoDM’s 2015 recording of “Save a Prayer” to #1 on the U.K. charts, as a way to “show our solidarity against terrorism and support for peace.” A video of EoDM performing the ballad with Duran Duran themselves on British television, just days before the Paris attacks, has been making the social media rounds. (Side note: Duran Duran were also in Paris on Nov. 13, performing for Al Gore’s “24 Hours of Reality” climate change concert at the Eiffel Tower, before the event was canceled just five hours in.)

Jesse Hughes is surprisingly conservative.

Despite what EoDM’s many wild anthems about sex, drugs, and rock 'n’ roll (and Hughes’s romantic relationship with adult film star Tuesday Cross) might indicate, Hughes is no liberal. A 2015 documentary about the 43-year-old rocker and recently ordained minster, The Redemption of the Devil, portrays an unapologetically outspoken, Ted Nugent-esque Obama-basher who’s a proponent of Ronald Reagan, Donald Trump, George W. Bush, and the Second Amendment. (Video below contains profanity.)