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Phil Elvrum of The Microphones
|Origin||Olympia, Washington, United States|
|Genres||Indie rock, indie folk, noise pop, folktronica|
|Years active||1996–2004, 2007|
|Associated acts||Mount Eerie|
|Past members||Phil Elvrum
The Microphones was a lo-fi band based in Olympia, Washington, and fronted by Phil Elvrum. Elvrum is the principal member of the band, but he has collaborated with many other musicians on his records.
In 2004, Elvrum announced that he had changed the name of his band to Mount Eerie, and has since put out many releases as Mount Eerie, including six full-length albums. In January 2007, Elvrum released a new single under the Microphones moniker, titled Two Songs by the Microphones, the only Microphones release since the name change. He has since continued to release music as Mount Eerie.
Phil Elvrum became involved in the Washington music scene while working at The Business, a record store in his home town of Anacortes, in the mid-1990s. Elvrum began experimenting with some recording equipment in the back of the record store, eventually drawing the attention of the store's owner, Bret Lunsford. Lunsford helped Elvrum release two cassettes (Microphone and Wires and Cords) on his label, KNW-YR-OWN. These early cassettes were filled with simple, archaic songs and some strange sound collages, all, however, finely produced considering Elvrum's lack of experience and outdated recording equipment. Elvrum played drums in Lunsford's band, D+, for some time until he moved to Olympia.
While in Olympia, he caught the attention of K Records owner and musician Calvin Johnson. After recording for some time at the Dub Narcotic studios, Elvrum was able to complete his first full-length album, Tests, which was released in 1998 on Elsinor Records. Tests combined songs from his earlier cassette releases and the recently recorded Dub Narcotic recordings. At the same time, Elvrum released his first single, "Bass Drum Dream".
Elvrum slowly gained recognition as a strong talent in the studio. While helping, often anonymously, with many of the area's artists, he began work on his second full-length, Don't Wake Me Up, released on K Records in 1999. Elvrum toured for a few months following the release with fellow K Records artist Mirah, and, showcasing his talents on the road, he was able to build a small but loyal fanbase and gain appreciation in the indie music scene. While performing in another K Records band, Old Time Relijun, Elvrum began recording It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water. Released on K Records in 2000, the album was Elvrum's most ambitious yet. During the recording of the album, Elvrum would have other musicians, K Records employees, and friends help with playing instruments or singing. The collaborative nature of the album did not, however, detract from Elvrum's precise, almost obsessive songwriting and production. The album was layered with harmonic guitars, noise, and Beach Boys-esque harmonies. Elvrum was noted for his gentle, boyish voice and imaginative lyrics. It was widely appreciated by critics.
Elvrum's next release, The Glow Pt. 2, was even more ambitious than It was Hot.... Released by K Records in 2001, The Glow Pt. 2 was noted by critics for its exceptional production and equally impressive songwriting. Probably his best-known album, it explored intensely personal themes, recalling lost loves and childhood memories. Sometimes sad, simple, and gentle ("I Felt Your Shape"), other times intense and layered with noise, guitars, and drums ("The Glow Pt. 2"), the album was immediately a favorite in the underground indie rock scene.
Elvrum's next release was a compilation of singles, b-sides, and early releases, entitled Song Islands. While lacking the consistent theme of It was Hot..., the album offered listeners a glimpse at the versatility of Elvrum's songwriting; the album's collection of songs ranged from folk sing-alongs ("I Can't Believe You Actually Died") to fuzz-pop ("Weird Storm").
Elvrum, after taking a long tour of Europe and North America, began work on his next album Mount Eerie. Released by K Records in 2003, the album was named after the mountain on Fidalgo Island where Elvrum spent much of his childhood. Containing five long songs, the album picked up from where The Glow Pt. 2 left off. In the story, Elvrum dies, is eaten by vultures, and discovers the face of the Universe. It represents a turning point and a realization period in Elvrum's life. Mount Eerie was noted for its stellar production and imaginative songwriting.
Following the release of the Mount Eerie album, Elvrum announced that he would dissolve the Microphones moniker, opting instead to record under the name "Mount Eerie". Elvrum, in an interview with discorder on September 2003, gives his reasons for this change: "Mount Eerie is a new project. The Microphones was completed, or at least at a good stopping point. I did it because I am ready for new things. I am new."
Shortly after this announcement, Live in Japan, recorded during three days during Elvrum's tour in Japan in 2003, was released by K Records. Despite the fact that the album contained all new material, the album was credited to The Microphones. It is widely believed to be the last official Microphones release.
Since the name change, a few of Elvrum's singles have been produced in limited numbers and sold only at his live shows.
Return to the Microphones?
In January 2007, Elvrum released a new 7", "Don't Smoke" / "Get Off the Internet," credited to the Microphones, prompting rumors of a possible return to the moniker. Lyrically, the two songs are firmly rooted in themes associated with Mount Eerie but the recordings utilize Microphones-associated choral arrangements, differing from than the more solitary Mount Eerie material.[original research?]
- Tests (1998)
- Don't Wake Me Up (1999)
- Window (2000)
- It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water (2000)
- The Glow Pt. 2 (2001)
- Mount Eerie (2003)
EPs and other releases
- Blood LP (2001) (limited release, hand made album of miscellaneous recordings from The Glow Pt. 2)
- Little Bird Flies into a Big Black Cloud LP (2002) (limited release, hand made album of Elvrum accompanied by piano and organ)
- Song Islands compilation of singles (2002)
- The Singing from Mount Eerie 10" (2003)
- The Drums from Mount Eerie 10" (2003)
- Live in Japan (2004)
- "Bass Drum Dream" 7" (1999)
- "Feedback (Life, Love, Loop)" 7" (1999)
- "Moon Moon" 7" (1999)
- "I Can't Believe You Actually Died" 7" (2001)
- "The Moon" 7" (2001)
- "Lanterns/Antlers" 7" (2002)
- "Don't Smoke / Get Off the Internet" 7" (2007)
- Collaborate With a 1940's Wire Recorder 7" (Four-way split with Golden Boots, Bishop Allen, and Paleo) (2011)
Books and printed materials
- "It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water sheet music" (2000)
- "Little Bird Flies into a Big Black Cloud" (2001)
- "What Wonder?" (2002)
- "The Headwaters of Mount Eerie book and CD" (2004) (limited release "explanation" of the themes and inspirations for Mount Eerie)
- "Fancy People Adventures" photocopied 2005 cartoon-a-day desktop calendar (2005)
- P.W. Elverum & Sun, Ltd. (Elverum's label)
- The Microphones / Mount Eerie at * List of released materials on official website
- KNW-YR-OWN Records