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Julian playing the banjo at ArthurFest 2005 (signature lamb-lamp seen in background)
|Birth name||Julian Koster|
|Born||July 26, 1972|
|Genres||Psychedelic folk, indie folk, lo-fi|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, songwriter, Storyteller|
|Instruments||musical saw, banjo, bass guitar, accordion, keyboards|
|Associated acts||Neutral Milk Hotel
The Music Tapes
Major Organ and the Adding Machine
Olivia Tremor Control
Julian Koster (born July 26, 1972) is an American musician and storyteller. A member of the Elephant 6 Collective, he is the leader of The Music Tapes, a member of Neutral Milk Hotel and a former member of Chocolate USA. He is known for his heavy use of the musical saw in recordings, even releasing The Singing Saw at Christmastime, his only solo album released under his own name, in 2008.
Early career: Chocolate USA
In 1989, Koster formed Miss America with Liza Wakeman, Alan Edwards, Paul Wells and Keith Block. After legal threats from Miss America, they became Chocolate USA. Chocolate USA released two albums on Bar/None before disbanding to follow other projects.
With Neutral Milk Hotel
Koster joined Jeff Mangum, Scott Spillane and Jeremy Barnes to record the second Neutral Milk Hotel album, In the Aeroplane over the Sea, on which he played bass, banjo and singing saw. The success of the album, however, took its toll on Mangum, and the band went on hiatus shortly after its release. In 2013, the full band, including Koster, reunited for a lengthy worldwide tour extending into 2014.
The Music Tapes and other projects
After Neutral Milk Hotel, Koster began to concentrate on his own solo project, The Music Tapes, for which he contributed banjo, singing saw, chord organ, and vocals, among other instruments. 1st Imaginary Symphony For Nomad was released in 1999. Koster, together with Brian Dewan, recorded the story album The 2nd Imaginary Symphony For Cloudmaking, which was distributed by Koster on CD but never officially released for 15 years. After this, nothing was released by The Music Tapes until 2008, when Music Tapes for Clouds and Tornadoes arrived, followed by extensive touring (including the Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise Tour) and an unprecedented level of public appearance by the formerly reclusive Koster.
Koster is believed to be a founding member of Major Organ and the Adding Machine, first contributing a cover of What a Wonderful World to the Kindercore compilation Christmas in Stereo, before releasing an album, Major Organ and the Adding Machine in 2001. He also appears in the Major Organ and the Adding Machine film which was shown on the Holiday Surprise tour and is set to be released with an expanded edition of the 2001 album in 2009.
In 2008, Koster released The Singing Saw at Christmastime, a collection of Christmas carols played on the singing saw. This was followed by a caroling tour, on which he played songs from The Singing Saw at Christmastime and selected tracks from Music Tapes for Clouds and Tornadoes for free wherever fans invited him to play. This evolved into an annual caroling tradition, which transformed into the "Lullabies at Bedsides" house tour of 2010–2011 and 2011–2012 which in turn gave way to the long-planned Traveling Imaginary of 2012–2013. After the EP Purim's Shadows in 2011, in 2012, The Music Tapes released their third full-length LP, Mary's Voice.
On 12 October 2016, The Orbiting Human Circus (of the Air) podcast was released, with Koster starring as Julian the Janitor. As a bonus episode of the podcast, the entirety of The 2nd Imaginary Symphony For Cloudmaking was released as a bonus broadcast in the Spring and Summer of 2017.
Koster's father is noted flamenco guitarist, Dennis Koster.
Koster does not identify as straight.
Julian used to sell pretzels in Union Square Park, NYC.
As Julian Koster
With Chocolate USA
With The Music Tapes
- Please Hear Mr. Flight Control (Elephant Six; 7"; 1997)
- The Television Tells Us (Elephant Six; 7"; 1998)
- 1st Imaginary Symphony For Nomad (Merge; CD/LP; 1999)
- The Music Tapes and Dad (Given free with 'Stop Smiling Magazine' #8; 7"; 2000)
- 2nd Imaginary Symphony For Cloudmaking (Self-released; CD; 2002)
- Music Tapes for Clouds and Tornadoes (Merge; CD/LP; 2008)
- Purim's Shadows: The Dark Tours the World (Merge; MP3/kazoo; 2011)
- Mary's Voice (Merge; CD/LP; 2012)
With Neutral Milk Hotel
- The Music Tapes – "All Official Announcements"
- An interview with Julian Koster: Some other lovely reality intruding into ours August 31, 2012 via Talk Rock To Me
- Hughes, Allen; MUSIC: DENNIS KOSTER, GUITAR, New York Times, June 8, 1985
- "Neutral Milk Hotel FAQ". neutralmilkhotel.org. Retrieved 2017-10-18.
- Cooper, Kim "Neutral Milk Hotel's in the Aeroplane Over the Sea (331⁄3)", 2005