The Mountain Goats

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The Mountain Goats
The Mountain Goats in 2014
The Mountain Goats in 2014
Background information
Origin Claremont, CA
Genres Indie folk, indie rock, lo-fi
Years active 1991–present
Labels Merge, 4AD, Shrimper Records, Absolutely Kosher, Ajax, Emperor Jones, 3 Beads of Sweat Records, Yoyo Records
Associated acts The Extra Lens, The Seneca Twins, The Bloody Hawaiians, The Congress, John Vanderslice, Kaki King, Owen Pallett
Members John Darnielle
Peter Hughes
Jon Wurster

The Mountain Goats (stylized "the Mountain Goats") are an American indie folk rock band formed in Claremont, California by singer-songwriter John Darnielle. The band is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.

For many years, the sole member of the Mountain Goats was Darnielle despite the plural moniker. Although he remains the core member of the band, he has gradually worked with a variety of collaborators who have included bassist Peter Hughes, drummer Jon Wurster, singer-songwriter Franklin Bruno, bassist and vocalist Rachel Ware, singer-songwriter/producer John Vanderslice, guitarist Kaki King and Annie Clark.[1]

Throughout the 1990s, the Mountain Goats were known for producing low-fidelity home recordings (most famously, on a boom box) and releasing recordings in cassette or vinyl 7" formats.[2] Since 2002, the Mountain Goats have adopted a more polished approach, recording studio albums with a full band.[2][3]


The band's name is a reference to the Screamin' Jay Hawkins song "Yellow Coat".[2] Darnielle released his first album, Taboo VI: The Homecoming, on Shrimper Records.[2] Many of his first recordings and performances featured Darnielle accompanied by members of the all-girl reggae band The Casual Girls, who became known as The Bright Mountain Choir. One of this group's members, Rachel Ware, continued to accompany Darnielle on bass, both live and in studio, until 1995.[4]

The first five years of the Mountain Goats' career saw a prolific output of songs on cassette, vinyl and CD. These releases spanned multiple labels and countries of origin, often released in limited numbers. The focus of the Mountain Goats project was the urgency of writing.[5] Songs not recorded adequately to tape within days of being written were often forgotten.[citation needed]

By 1995, most of what could be considered classic Mountain Goats conventions (boom-box recording, song series, Latin quotes, and mythological themes) were abandoned in favor of a more thematically focused and experimental sound.[citation needed] This period was marked by Darnielle's collaborations with other artists including Alastair Galbraith and Simon Joyner. In November 1996, Darnielle announced a vow to "clear his musical tendency for profanity" to promote a more optimistic reception to the ideas outlined in his material.[citation needed]

2002 saw the release of two Mountain Goats albums: All Hail West Texas and Tallahassee. These albums mark a distinct change in focus for the Mountain Goats project, being the first in a series of concept albums that explore aspects of The Mountain Goats' canon in depth. All Hail West Texas featured the resurrection of Darnielle's early boom box recording for a complete album. Darnielle considers this album to be the culmination of his lo-fi recording style. Tallahassee, recorded with a band and in a studio, explores the relationship of a couple whose lives were the subject of the song cycle known as the Alpha Series. Also released that year was Martial Arts Weekend, attributed to The Extra Glenns, a collaboration with Franklin Bruno on several previously unreleased Mountain Goats songs.[4] Following that recording, Bruno joined Darnielle in the studio along with bassist Peter Hughes, who is the second official member of the band and accompanies Darnielle on tour. These three musicians form what may be considered the Mountain Goats studio band.

The Mountain Goats performing at the Northstar Bar on September 22nd, 2007
John Darnielle playing a solo show under the name The Mountain Goats at Harvest of Hope Festival in St. Augustine, FL in 2010

In 2004, the Mountain Goats released We Shall All Be Healed. The album marked a number of changes for the Mountain Goats. It was the first time Darnielle worked with producer John Vanderslice and the first album of directly autobiographical material. We Shall All Be Healed chronicles Darnielle's life with a group of friends and acquaintances addicted to methamphetamine in Portland, Oregon, though the album is set in Pomona, California. The following year the band's second Vanderslice-produced album, The Sunset Tree, was released. Again autobiographical, Darnielle tackled the subject of his early childhood spent with an abusive stepfather.[citation needed] Darnielle had previously dealt with this subject in what he often refers to as the only autobiographical song he had written before 2004, the unreleased song "You're in Maya."[citation needed]The Mountain Goats relocated to Durham, North Carolina in 2006 and issued Get Lonely, which was produced by Scott Solter, who had worked with Vanderslice on engineering for prior Mountain Goats records.

Jon Wurster joined the group in 2007, playing drums on the last leg of the Get Lonely tour. The band recorded tracks for its next album at Prairie Sun studios.[6] Entitled Heretic Pride, the album was released on February 19, 2008.[7] Produced by John Vanderslice and Scott Solter, Darnielle, Hughes and Wurster were joined by Franklin Bruno, Erik Friedlander and Annie Clark (better known by her stage name, St. Vincent).[7] Aesop Rock released a remix of the track "Lovecraft in Brooklyn" from the album, and in return Darnielle contributed vocals to his album None Shall Pass.

Darnielle and Vanderslice collaborated on the record Moon Colony Bloodbath. Released in a limited vinyl run of 1000 and sold during their "Gone Primitive" tour, the EP was a concept record about organ harvesting colonies on the moon. This was followed by the next full Mountain Goats album, The Life of the World to Come, which released in October of the same year.[8] In publicising the record the band made their first ever television appearance, performing "Psalms 40:2" on The Colbert Report, hosted by professed Mountain Goats fan Stephen Colbert.[citation needed]

The Mountain Goats signed to Merge Records, home to drummer Jon Wurster's other band, Superchunk, in 2010.[9][10] The label issued a new record by The Extra Lens, formerly The Extra Glenns, entitled Undercard, followed by another Mountain Goats LP, All Eternals Deck, in 2011.[10][11] They were also chosen by Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel to perform at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival that he was due to curate in December 2011 in Minehead, England but were unable to appear due to a rescheduling.[12]

The band's fourteenth studio album, Transcendental Youth, was released in late 2012,[13] and in early 2013 they played at Carnegie Hall in support of John Green and Hank Green in their "Evening of Awesome" performance.[14][15] In July 2013, All Hail West Texas was re-released on vinyl.


Former members and collaborators[edit]


Full-Length Albums

Name Date Label Format
Zopilote Machine 1994 Ajax CD/Cassette/LP
Sweden 1995 Shrimper CD/LP
Nothing for Juice 1996 Ajax CD/LP
Full Force Galesburg 1997 Emperor Jones CD/LP
The Coroner's Gambit 2000 Absolutely Kosher CD/LP
All Hail West Texas 2002 Emperor Jones CD/LP
Tallahassee 2002 4AD CD/LP
We Shall All Be Healed 2004 4AD CD/LP
The Sunset Tree 2005 4AD CD/LP
Get Lonely 2006 4AD CD/LP
Heretic Pride 2008 4AD CD/LP
The Life of the World to Come 2009 4AD CD/LP
All Eternals Deck 2011 Merge CD/LP
Transcendental Youth 2012 Merge CD/LP
Beat the Champ 2015 Merge CD/LP

In other media[edit]

The band's music has been featured in the Showtime television series Weeds. "Cotton" was prominently featured in the season one episode "The Punishment Light", and "International Small Arms Traffic Blues" was featured in the season four episode "Yes I Can."[17] The band performed the Theme to Weeds (Malvina Reynold's "Little Boxes") during the opening credits of Season 8, Episode 5.[18]

The songs "No Children", "Old College Try", and "Love Love Love" were each featured in separate episodes of the television series Moral Orel's third season, which featured major running themes of alcoholism, regret, and domestic discontent.

The band made their television debut on October 6, 2009, playing "Psalms 40:2" on The Colbert Report. On January 19, 2010, they played "Genesis 3:23" on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.[19] On February 23, 2011, they played "Birth of Serpents" in support of their album, All Eternals Deck, on the Late Show with David Letterman.

The song "Up the Wolves", from the band's album The Sunset Tree, was featured in The Walking Dead's season four episode "Still".


  1. ^ "The Mountain Goats Bio". Retrieved June 7, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d Nickey, Jason (2008). "The Mountain Goats: Biography". Allmusic. Macrovision Corporation. Retrieved February 16, 2009. 
  3. ^ "The Mountain Goats". 4AD. Retrieved December 26, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b "the Mountain Goats FAQ". Retrieved February 16, 2009. 
  5. ^ Brown, "Sermon on the Mount", June 1999.
  6. ^ Mountain Goats Hatch Studio Plans -
  7. ^ a b "News Archive | High Heresy". The Mountain Goats. November 20, 2007. Retrieved December 26, 2011. 
  8. ^ "John Darnielle Tells the Story Behind the Mountain Goats' Biblical New LP". Pitchfork Media. September 8, 2009. Retrieved October 7, 2009. 
  9. ^ John Darnielle's Mountain Goats and Extra Lens Sign to Merge Records, Pitchfork, August 5, 2010 [1]
  10. ^ a b "All Lanes Merge Immediately". August 5, 2010. Retrieved December 26, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Mountain Goats All Eternals Deck Details". Stereogum. December 9, 2010. Retrieved December 26, 2011. 
  12. ^ "ATP curated by Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel)". All Tomorrow's Parties. Retrieved December 26, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Just Under 1,000 Words About Our New Album". July 9, 2012. Retrieved July 9, 2012. 
  14. ^ [2], John and Hank Green and Falling in Love With the World, retrieved on 12 May 2013
  15. ^ [3], John and Hank Green taking brother act to Carnegie Hall, retrieved on 12 May 2013
  16. ^ The Mountain Goats at AllMusic
  17. ^ "Weeds Music". Showtime. Retrieved October 7, 2009. 
  18. ^ "Little Boxes". Retrieved July 30, 2012. 
  19. ^ Brown, Jake (January 21, 2010). "The Mountain Goats on Jimmy Fallon". Glorious Noise. Retrieved December 26, 2011. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]