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
Matthew Douglas

The Mountain Goats (stylized "the Mountain Goats")[1] 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 and vocalist Peter Hughes, drummer Jon Wurster, singer-songwriter Franklin Bruno, bassist and vocalist Rachel Ware, singer-songwriter/producer John Vanderslice, guitarist Kaki King, and multi-instrumentalist Annie Clark.[2]

Throughout the 1990s, the Mountain Goats were known for producing low-fidelity home recordings (most notably, on a cassette deck boombox) and releasing recordings in cassette or vinyl 7" formats.[3] Since 2002, the Mountain Goats have adopted a more polished approach, recording studio albums with a full band, while still maintaining organically emotional lyrical motifs.[3][4]


Early years[edit]

The band's name is a reference to the Screamin' Jay Hawkins song "Yellow Coat".[3] Darnielle released his first recording under the band name, Taboo VI: The Homecoming, on Shrimper Records, in 1991.[3] 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.[5]

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.[6] Songs not recorded adequately to tape within days of being written were often forgotten.[citation needed] Cassette releases during this time include The Hound Chronicles, Transmissions to Horace, Hot Garden Stomp, Taking the Dative, and Yam, the King of Crops.

In 1994, the Mountain Goats released their first full-length studio album, Zopilote Machine, on Ajax Records. It is the band's only full album featuring the entirety of The Bright Mountain Choir.

1995–2000: Sweden, Nothing for Juice, Full Force Galesburg, and The Coroner's Gambit[edit]

Peter Hughes in 2007

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]

In 1995, the album Sweden was released. Soon after its recording, a sequel titled Hail and Farewell, Gothenburg was recorded, but never released. It remained unheard by the general public until 2007, when it was leaked against Darnielle's wishes. In 1996, the Mountain Goats released the album Nothing for Juice, and Full Force Galesburg the following year. Rachel Ware left the band between recording the two albums, and bassist Peter Hughes took over her position.

Between 1998 and 2000, the Mountain Goats slowed down their prolific output, releasing The Coroner's Gambit in October 2000. The album partially returned to the band's roots, as most songs were sporadically recorded on Darnielle's old Panasonic RX-FT500 cassette deck boombox, which produced a loud background noise to the songs.

2001–03: All Hail West Texas and Tallahassee[edit]

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 and concludes 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.[5] 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 formed what was considered the Mountain Goats studio band.

2004–09: 4AD years[edit]

In 2004, the Mountain Goats released We Shall All Be Healed. The album marked a number of changes for the Mountain Goats, as 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.[7] Entitled Heretic Pride, the album was released on 19 February, 2008.[8] Produced by John Vanderslice and Scott Solter, the album saw Darnielle, Hughes, and Wurster joined by Franklin Bruno, Erik Friedlander, Annie Clark (better known by her stage name, St. Vincent), and members of The Bright Mountain Choir.[8] American alternative hip hop artist 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, in the song "Coffee".

In 2009, 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.[9] The album is composed of twelve tracks, each one inspired by (and titled after) a single verse of the Christian Bible. In publicizing 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]

2010–present: Merge Records years[edit]

John Darnielle playing a solo show under the name The Mountain Goats at Harvest of Hope Festival in St. Augustine, FL in 2010

The Mountain Goats signed to Merge Records, home to drummer Jon Wurster's other band, Superchunk, in 2010.[10][11] 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.[11][12] 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.[13]

The band's fourteenth studio album, Transcendental Youth, was released in late 2012,[14] and in early 2013 they played at Carnegie Hall in support of John Green and Hank Green in their "Evening of Awesome" performance.[15][16] In July 2013, All Hail West Texas was re-released on vinyl.

The Mountain Goats released its 15th album, Beat the Champ, on 7 April 2015, again with Merge Records.[17] It is a biographic concept album, though unlike The Sunset Tree, it is not specifically and directly about Darnielle.[citation needed] According to Pitchfork Media, the album concentrates on the professional wrestlers Darnielle admired when he was a child and tries to develop and imagine their lives.[18]


Former members and collaborators[edit]


Studio Albums

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."[20] The band performed the Theme to Weeds (Malvina Reynold's "Little Boxes") during the opening credits of Season 8, Episode 5.[21]

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 song "Love, Love, Love" was performed by Lili Rose McKay in the movie Welcome to Me.

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.[22] 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".

The song "Game Shows Touch Our Lives", from the band's album Tallahassee, is quoted in the epigraph of John Green's novel Paper Towns.[23]

The song "Heel Turn 2" premiered in the weather report for the podcast, Welcome to Night Vale.


  1. ^ Going to School with the Mountain Goats. For Paper Airplane Pilots (5). (Interview). 14 May 1995. Retrieved 18 April 2015. ... it's the Mountain Goats, lowercase "t", even though occasionally it appears otherwise (I think the spine of Zopilote Machine is missing the definite article) ... 
  2. ^ "The Mountain Goats Bio". Retrieved June 7, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d Nickey, Jason (2008). "The Mountain Goats: Biography". Allmusic. Macrovision Corporation. Retrieved February 16, 2009. 
  4. ^ "The Mountain Goats". 4AD. Retrieved December 26, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b "the Mountain Goats FAQ". Retrieved February 16, 2009. 
  6. ^ Brown, "Sermon on the Mount", June 1999.
  7. ^ Mountain Goats Hatch Studio Plans -
  8. ^ a b "News Archive | High Heresy". The Mountain Goats. November 20, 2007. Retrieved December 26, 2011. 
  9. ^ "John Darnielle Tells the Story Behind the Mountain Goats' Biblical New LP". Pitchfork Media. September 8, 2009. Retrieved October 7, 2009. 
  10. ^ John Darnielle's Mountain Goats and Extra Lens Sign to Merge Records, Pitchfork, August 5, 2010 [1]
  11. ^ a b "All Lanes Merge Immediately". August 5, 2010. Retrieved December 26, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Mountain Goats All Eternals Deck Details". Stereogum. December 9, 2010. Retrieved December 26, 2011. 
  13. ^ "ATP curated by Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel)". All Tomorrow's Parties. Retrieved December 26, 2011. 
  14. ^ "Just Under 1,000 Words About Our New Album". July 9, 2012. Retrieved July 9, 2012. 
  15. ^ [2], John and Hank Green and Falling in Love With the World, retrieved on 12 May 2013
  16. ^ [3], John and Hank Green taking brother act to Carnegie Hall, retrieved on 12 May 2013
  17. ^ "The Mountain Goats - Beat the Champ". Merge Records. Retrieved 14 April 2015. 
  18. ^ Gordon, Jeremy (6 April 2015). "Album Review: Beat the Champ". Pitchfork. Retrieved 14 April 2015. 
  19. ^ The Mountain Goats at AllMusic
  20. ^ "Weeds Music". Showtime. Retrieved October 7, 2009. 
  21. ^ "Little Boxes". Retrieved July 30, 2012. 
  22. ^ Brown, Jake (January 21, 2010). "The Mountain Goats on Jimmy Fallon". Glorious Noise. Retrieved December 26, 2011. 
  23. ^ "Analysis: What's up with the epigraph?". Shmoop. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]