One story has it that the band was conceived when Merritt, observing that there was no tribute album dedicated to him, decided to make one himself. In the group, Merritt writes and plays songs which are then sung by other artists
a different artist on each track. It has so far produced two well-received albums and many different collaborations.
The two albums the band released to date are Wasps' Nests in 1995 and Hyacinths and Thistles in 1999. Wasps' Nests was preceded by a 7" vinyl single of album track "Heaven in a Black Leather Jacket" in 1993 on Merge Records that contains a B-side, "Rot in the Sun", sung by Merritt himself. The song was also later included on Merritt's Obscurities compilation in 2011.
The names of both albums, as well as the name of the band, are deliberate tongue-twisters. The words are chosen for their abundance of s and th sounds; sixths alone packs one th and three s sounds into one syllable. The band's website refers to the 6ths as "every lisper's nightmare".
The list of singers on Wasps' Nests includes many notable mid-90s indie-rockers, including Barbara Manning, Mary Timony, Dean Wareham (Galaxie 500, Luna, Dean & Britta), Lou Barlow, Chris Knox (Tall Dwarfs), Robert Scott (The Bats, The Clean), and Mark Robinson.
Some of the more notable artists appearing on Hyacinths and Thistles are Bob Mould, Sally Timms (The Mekons), Sarah Cracknell (Saint Etienne), Neil Hannon (The Divine Comedy), Gary Numan, Marc Almond, Momus, Clare Grogan (Altered Images), Melanie, Miss Lily Banquette (Combustible Edison), Katharine Whalen (Squirrel Nut Zippers) and the accomplished toy piano player Margaret Leng Tan. The album also features an improbable duet of singer Odetta accompanied by Lemony Snicket author Daniel Handler on accordion.
"Falling out of Love (with You)" from Wasps' Nests was featured on the popular 90's children's show The Adventures of Pete and Pete.
Their song "Night Falls Like a Grand Piano" was covered by South African group Wonderboom on their 2003 album Tell Someone Who Cares".
- "Heaven in a Black Leather Jacket" b/w "Rot in the Sun" (7" single) (1993)
- Wasps' Nests (1995)
- Hyacinths and Thistles (2000)
- Allmusic.com Biography
- The 6ths home page
- House of Tomorrow Wasps' Nests Track List
- House of Tomorrow Hyacinths and Thistles Track List