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Phil Elvrum of The Microphones
|Origin||Olympia, Washington, United States|
|Genres||Indie rock, Indie folk, Noise pop, Low-fi|
|Years active||1996–2003, 2007|
|Associated acts||Mount Eerie|
|Past members||Phil Elvrum
The Microphones was the name of a musical project based in Olympia, Washington, and fronted by Phil Elvrum. Elvrum was the principal songwriter and producer behind the Microphones' albums, but he also collaborated with other local musicians on his recordings and on tour. Many of Elvrum's recordings from this period were released by the label K Records. Since 2003, Elvrum (who now spells his surname Elverum) has recorded and performed under the name Mount Eerie (band).
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 recording equipment in the back of the store, which led to the store's owner Bret Lunsford releasing two cassettes (Microphone and Wires and Cords) on his label, KNW-YR-OWN. Elvrum also played drums in Lunsford's band, D+, before moving to Olympia in 1997 to attend Evergreen State College.
Whilst in Olympia, Elvrum 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, a CD entitled 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 7" single, "Bass Drum Dream" on Up Records.
K Records years
Elvrum slowly gained recognition as talented producer and recording engineer 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, featuring layers of harmonic guitars, noise, and Beach Boys-esque harmonies.
Elvrum's next release was a double album, entitled The Glow Pt. 2. Released by K Records in 2001, The Glow Pt. 2 was noted by critics for its production and 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 Moon"). Pitchfork Media named The Glow Pt. 2 as the top album of 2001, and #73 on their 200 Top Albums of the 2000s. Tiny Mix Tapes named it the 5th best album of the 2000s.
After a lengthy tour of Europe and North America (known as the "Paper Opera Tour"), Elvrum returned to Dub Narcotic to began work on his follow-up to The Glow Pt.2. Released by K Records in 2003, Mount Eerie (album) was named after the mountain on Fidalgo Island where Elvrum spent much of his childhood. Containing five long songs, the album features a narrative arc, in which 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. Like its predecessor, Mount Eerie was also praised by critics for its ambitious and imaginative production.
Dissolution of The Microphones
Elvrum toured North America and Europe again in 2002, playing mostly solo shows (billed as the "I Will Move Away Forever and Never Come Back Ever" tour) before settling in Finnkonevika, Kjerringøy, Norway where he spent the winter living in a log cabin. In February 2003 he toured Japan with Calvin Johnson, Kyle Field, and the Tokyo band Moools which resulted in the album Live in Japan. The album was credited to "The Microphones", with quotation marks to suggest that Elvrum was transitioning between musical projects. Live In Japan was released by K Records in early 2004, by which time Elverum had already begun to perform shows under the name Mount Eerie.
Subsequent Microphones releases
In January 2007, a one-off 7" single was released under the Microphones moniker, titled Two Songs by the Microphones. In 2008, The Glow Pt. 2 was reissued by K Records with an additional disc of outtakes and rarities. In March 2011, Elv(e)rum re-recorded the Microphones' song "I Lost My Wind" for the compilation Collaborate With a 1940's Wire Recorder. In 2013, the Microphones' four studio albums (in addition to the singles compilation Song Islands) were remastered and reissued on Elverum's own label, P.W. Elverum & Sun, Ltd..
- Don't Wake Me Up (CD/LP, K Records, 1999)
- It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water (CD/LP, K Records, 2000)
- The Glow Pt. 2 (CD/double LP, K Records, 2001)
- Mount Eerie (CD/LP, K Records, 2003)
Other albums, cassettes and EPs
- Microphone (cassette, KNW-YR-OWN, 1997)
- Wires & Cords (cassette, KNW-YR-OWN, 1997)
- Tests (CD/cassette, Elsinor, 1998)
- Window (CD mini-album, Yoyo Recordings, 2000)
- Blood (LP, St. Ives Records, 2001)
- Little Bird Flies into a Big Black Cloud (LP, St. Ives Records, 2002)
- Song Islands (compilation CD, K Records, 2002)
- The Singing from Mount Eerie (CD/10" EP, K Records, 2003)
- The Drums from Mount Eerie (CD/10" EP, K Records, 2003)
- Live in Japan (CD/LP, K Records, 2004)
- "Bass Drum Dream" 7" (Up Records, 1999)
- "Feedback (Life, Love, Loop)" 7" (The Bedtime Record, 1999)
- "Moon Moon" 7" (K Records, 1999)
- "I Can't Believe You Actually Died" - as "The Microphones Singers" (Coming In Second, 2001)
- "The Moon" (Instatone Brand, 2001)
- "Lanterns/Antlers" (K Records, 2002)
- "Don't Smoke / Get Off the Internet" (P.W. Elverum & Sun, Ltd., 2007)
- Collaborate With a 1940's Wire Recorder (Four-way split with Golden Boots, Bishop Allen, and Paleo) (People in a Position to Know/Lost Sound Tapes/Alt. Vinyl, 2011)
Booklets and printed materials
- It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water sheet music (2000)
- Little Bird Flies into a Big Black Cloud song booklet (2001)
- What Wonder? song booklet (2002)
- The Headwaters of Mount Eerie booklet/CDr (2003)
- Free Williamsburg - Art and Where You Make It: A Conversation with Phil Elvrum of The Microphones
- "Staff Lists: Top 20 Albums of 2001 | Features". Pitchfork. 2002-01-01. Retrieved 2012-02-18.
- "Staff Lists: The Top 200 Albums of the 2000s: 100-51 | Features". Pitchfork. 2009-09-30. Retrieved 2012-02-18.
- "Favorite 100 Albums of the 2000s". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved 2010-02-12.
- Metacritic - reviews for Mount Eerie by The Microphones
- Pitchfork Media - The Microphones and Bishop Allen Release 7" Single Recorded on Ancient Wire Recorder
- Pitchfork Media - Mount Eerie's Phil Elverum to Reissue Five Albums from The Microphones