Joel RL Phelps is a songwriter originally from Montana and was part of the indie rock band Silkworm. He left that band in 1994 and since has recorded his own material. He recorded his first non-Silkworm album in 1995 in Seattle with members of other bands such as Jessamine, Citizens' Utilities, Engine Kid, and the Deflowers assisting. The following records pared down the members to a trio including Joel, Bill Herzog (Citizens' Utilities, Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter, Sunn O)))), and Robert Mercer (the Deflowers, Treasure StateZebra Hunt). The instrumentation is somewhat shared but essentially Joel on vocals and guitar, Robert Mercer on bass, and William Herzog on drums. Together they are known as Joel RL Phelps and the Downer Trio.