Mark Kozelek

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Mark Kozelek
Mark Kozelek 2014.jpg
Kozelek performing with Sun Kil Moon in 2014
Background information
Birth nameMark Edward Kozelek
Born (1967-01-24) January 24, 1967 (age 53)
Origin Massillon, Ohio, United States
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • bass
  • piano
Years active1989–present
Labels Caldo Verde
Associated acts

Mark Edward Kozelek (born January 24, 1967) is an American singer, songwriter, guitarist, record producer and occasional actor. He is best known as the vocalist and primary recording artist of the indie folk act Sun Kil Moon, with whom he has recorded ten studio albums, and as the vocalist, guitarist and founding member of the indie rock band Red House Painters, with whom he recorded six studio albums from 1989 until 2001.


Born and raised in Massillon, Ohio, Kozelek developed an interest in music as a child. Upon meeting drummer Anthony Koutsos in Atlanta, Georgia, the pair moved to San Francisco, California and formed Red House Painters alongside guitarist Gorden Mack and bass guitarist Jerry Vessel. Signing with record label 4AD, the band released four studio albums to critical acclaim. In 1996, Kozelek recorded the band's fifth studio album, Songs for a Blue Guitar , mostly alone. The release of the band's final studio album, Old Ramon (2001), was delayed for three years. In the interim, Kozelek recorded both an album and an EP of AC/DC cover songs.

Reconvening with Koutsos and Vessel, the trio continued performing under the new name of Sun Kil Moon, releasing their debut album, Ghosts of the Great Highway , in 2003. Inspired by classical guitar music, Kozelek recorded Sun Kil Moon's fourth studio album, Admiral Fell Promises (2010), as a solo act, and continued to record mostly alone on its follow-up, Among the Leaves (2012). The album introduced a deeply personal lyrical perspective, which continued on the collaborative solo releases, Perils from the Sea and Mark Kozelek & Desertshore , both released in 2013.

In 2014, Sun Kil Moon's sixth studio album, Benji , was released to widespread critical acclaim and increased exposure, with its follow-up, Universal Themes , featuring lengthy compositions and stream-of-consciousness lyrics. In 2016, Kozelek released a collaborative studio album with Jesu, titled Jesu/Sun Kil Moon .

Across his work in Sun Kil Moon, Red House Painters and his own solo material, Kozelek has released thirty-one studio albums, with his most recent being All the Best, Isaac Hayes (2020). Many of his albums have been critically acclaimed, and some commentators have described him as one of the greatest songwriters of his generation. [1] [2] [3]

Life and career

Kozelek was born and raised in Massillon, Ohio. In his teenage years, he led a band named God Forbid. [4] Upon relocating to Atlanta, Georgia, he met drummer Anthony Koutsos. After the pair moved once again to San Francisco, California, Red House Painters formed with the addition of guitarist Gorden Mack and bassist Jerry Vessel. From 1992 to 1996, Red House Painters released a series of acclaimed albums, showcasing Kozelek's intense, highly autobiographical songs.

However, Kozelek's parting with the record label 4AD, followed by a major label merger which left Red House Painters' 1998 album Old Ramon on the shelf, proved highly frustrating and stifled the group's momentum. Kozelek opted to occupy himself with a series of idiosyncratic solo recordings as Red House Painters dissolved.

In 2000, he released the solo EP Rock 'n' Roll Singer , which featured three original songs as well as covers of John Denver's "Around and Around" and three AC/DC songs ("Rock 'n' Roll Singer," "Bad Boy Boogie," and "You Ain't Got a Hold on Me"). Two of the AC/DC cover versions on Rock 'n' Roll Singer were radical re-arrangements of the originals which removed the Bon Scott-penned lyrics from their hard rock context and placed them into gentle, acoustic "folk ballad" settings. [5]

Kozelek expanded on this idea in 2001, releasing a full-length album composed solely of AC/DC covers titled What's Next to the Moon . [6] These new arrangements sounded so unlike the originals that a KCRW radio executive insisted that the title track was a Leonard Cohen song.

This was not the first time Kozelek had drastically re-arranged others' material to his own ends. With Red House Painters, he had previously done similar reconstructions with Simon & Garfunkel's "I Am a Rock," The Cars' "All Mixed Up," Kiss's "Shock Me," Yes's "Long Distance Runaround," Paul McCartney's "Silly Love Songs," and Francis Scott Key's "The Star-Spangled Banner."

In the years between his band projects, Kozelek's music made a number of appearances on compilations and tribute albums. He contributed the song "New Partner" to the Will Oldham (a.k.a. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy) tribute album, I Am Cold Rock. I Am Dull Grass. Around this time, Kozelek commandeered a tribute album to John Denver titled Take Me Home: A Tribute to John Denver, featuring Will Oldham, The Innocence Mission and Low to name a few. The compilation also featured Kozelek covering "Around and Around" as a duet with Rachel Goswell.

A limited edition live recording, White Christmas Live , was released by the Sub Pop label in late 2001. In addition to his solo material, it featured several Red House Painters songs done in a stripped-down, acoustic guitar-and-vocals style, and one a cappella rendition. An early version of his current project Sun Kil Moon's "Lily and Parrots" is tacked onto the end as an uncredited bonus track. It also features one previously unreleased song, "Admiral Fell Promises".

Sun Kil Moon debuted with Ghosts of the Great Highway in 2003, and also features former RHP members Jerry Vessel and Anthony Koutsos as well as new collaborators Geoff Stanfield (formerly of Black Lab) and Tim Mooney of American Music Club. Their follow-up effort appeared in 2005 on Kozelek's newly formed label, Caldo Verde Records. Titled Tiny Cities , the album is made up entirely of covers of songs by Modest Mouse. Once again, Kozelek's cover versions varied greatly from the originals. In a February 2014 interview with Seattle's The Stranger, Kozelek commented that he's "never heard from Modest Mouse" as to what they think of the record. [7]

In 2006, Kozelek was invited by Toronto indie rock label Paper Bag Records to exclusively contribute to their See You on the Moon! Songs for Kids of All Ages compilation with his original song "Leo and Luna." Then in November 2006, Kozelek released a live album titled Little Drummer Boy Live . On the album's two discs, he plays songs from his solo career, covers, and material from the catalogs of both Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon.

Kozelek returned in 2008 with the release of Sun Kil Moon's third album April . The album features 11 brand new recordings, including guest vocal contributions by Ben Gibbard, Will Oldham and Eric Pollard.

The release of the new album also brought the re-issue of Nights of Passed Over, a 256-page, hard-cover book of all the lyrics to Kozelek's solo songs, Red House Painters' songs, and Sun Kil Moon's songs. It also features setlists, handwritten lyrics, and a preface by Kozelek himself. The original edition of this book was released in 2002 in Portugal, and featured all the lyrics up to that point, printed in both English and Portuguese. The updated edition spans to his current Sun Kil Moon days, and the book also includes a 12-track bonus CD titled Nights LP , featuring live and rare versions of songs dated 1996 to 2007. The edition is sold exclusively on his label's website and is limited to 2,500 copies. [8]

On December 9, 2008, Kozelek and Caldo Verde Records issued The Finally LP , a CD collection of 10 unreleased tracks, including covers of songs by Stephen Sondheim, Will Oldham, Hüsker Dü, and Low among others, as well as two previously unreleased instrumentals. Two newly recorded live albums, Find Me, Ruben Olivares: Live in Spain and Lost Verses Live , followed in spring 2009.

On April 23, 2010, the release of Sun Kil Moon's fourth album, Admiral Fell Promises , was announced. The album was released on July 13, 2010. [9] [10] [11]

Mark Kozelek performing with Sun Kil Moon in Paris in 2014 Mark Kozelek Sun Kil Moon Paris 2014.png
Mark Kozelek performing with Sun Kil Moon in Paris in 2014

A documentary film titled Mark Kozelek: On Tour was released via Caldo Verde Records on August 16, 2011. The movie was filmed during portions Mark Kozelek's European/North American tours of 2010 and early 2011.

In 2012, an article at by staff writer Mark Ortega detailed Kozelek's fascination with the sport of boxing, which inspired the name of his Sun Kil Moon project as well as a few songs on a Desertshore album.

"Their backgrounds are extremely harsh and they work very hard to move up in their careers. I was in attendance at the Manny Pacquiao-Agapito Sanchez fight in San Francisco in 2001. When I heard Sanchez was murdered shortly after, it had a profound effect on me. It hurts when anyone dies young, but when you see the backgrounds of these guys and the path they've taken to try to find some light in their lives, it hurts to see them die young." [12]

Sun Kil Moon's fifth album, Among the Leaves , was released on Caldo Verde Records on May 29, 2012. On the whole its 17 tracks display by far the most lighthearted approach to songwriting Kozelek has ever taken, though the songs remain autobiographical and poignant.

Kozelek also contributed as a vocalist and bass player to Desertshore, a group featuring Red House Painters guitarist Phil Carney, classically trained pianist Chris Connolly, and more recently Sun Kil Moon drummer Mike Stevens. His first collaboration with Desertshore came on the group's second studio album, Drawing Of Threes (released November 22, 2011, Caldo Verde Records). Kozelek appeared in 6 out of 10 tracks as a vocalist and bass player. He played a more major role in the third studio album titled Mark Kozelek & Desertshore (released August 20, 2013, Caldo Verde Records), where he is featured as vocalist and bassist on all 10 tracks. In the same year, Kozelek released Perils From the Sea , a collaboration album with multi-instrumentalist Jimmy LaValle of The Album Leaf, and covers album Like Rats . [13]

In 2014, Sun Kil Moon released Benji to wide acclaim, garnering a score of 85 from the critical rating aggregate website, Metacritic. No Ripcord calls it Kozelek's "most intimate work yet" and Kitty Empire of Observer added, it "might well be this difficult artist's most direct work." Soundblab rated it the best album of 2014, stating "When I remember 2014 in music, there will be Sun Kil Moon’s Benji and there will be everything else." [14]

Sun Kil Moon's sixth album of original material, Universal Themes, was released on June 2, 2015. [15] The album again featured drummer Steve Shelley, who previously played drums on Benji and then released an album in 2017 Common as Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood . Kozelek toured Europe, the United States, and South America in support of the album in 2017 and 2018. On May 11, 2018, Kozelek released an eponymously titled double CD album, which "was recorded in San Francisco hotels and studios between May 2017 and January 2018." [16]

Vocal style

During his time with both Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon, as well as during his solo career, Kozelek has been known for his haunting, baritone style of vocals. [17] [18]

Production work

Kozelek, who acted as record producer on every album released by his bands Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon as well as his solo releases, produced the debut album by friend and Low singer-guitarist Alan Sparhawk, in Sparhawk's side-project Retribution Gospel Choir .


Kozelek has also dabbled in acting. Friend and director Cameron Crowe cast him in his film Almost Famous (2000) as Larry Fellows (the bass player in Stillwater) and in Vanilla Sky (2001) as a clubgoer who mocks Tom Cruise's character. [19] In 2005, he appeared in Steve Martin's film Shopgirl , playing a musician who befriends and mentors Jason Schwartzman's character. Kozelek also performed "Lily and Parrots" (a Sun Kil Moon song) live in the film.

Kozelek appears as himself, and contributed to the soundtrack to Paolo Sorrentino's 2015 film, Youth . His 2015 Sun Kil Moon album, Universal Themes , often references his experiences while filming Youth.


Mark Kozelek in 2011 Sun Kil Moon.png
Mark Kozelek in 2011

Solo albums



Live albums

Related Research Articles

Sun Kil Moon American folk rock act from San Francisco, California

Sun Kil Moon is an American folk rock act from San Francisco, California, founded in 2002. Initially a continuation of the defunct indie rock band Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon is now the primary recording moniker of vocalist and guitarist Mark Kozelek. The project is named after the Korean super flyweight boxer Sung-Kil Moon.

<i>Ghosts of the Great Highway</i> 2003 studio album by Sun Kil Moon

Ghosts of the Great Highway is the debut studio album by San Francisco quartet Sun Kil Moon, led by Red House Painters' founder Mark Kozelek, who composed all of the lyrics and music on this album. The other members are Anthony Koutsos, Geoff Stanfield, and Tim Mooney.

<i>Tiny Cities</i> 2005 studio album by Sun Kil Moon

Tiny Cities is the second studio album by American indie folk act Sun Kil Moon, released November 1, 2005 on Caldo Verde Records. The album features the same lineup as the band's debut, Ghosts of the Great Highway (2003). This album was chosen as one of's Top 100 Editor's Picks of 2005.

Little Drummer Boy Live is a double live collection by Mark Kozelek, released by his own label Caldo Verde Records on November 28, 2006. Former Red House Painters guitarist Phil Carney guests on guitar on some of the songs. The set is a limited edition release of 10,000 copies.

Caldo Verde Records is a San Francisco-based indie rock and folk record label founded by Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon frontman Mark Kozelek in 2005. The label primarily features releases by Kozelek and Sun Kil Moon, but has also released albums by Jesu, Corrina Repp, Retribution Gospel Choir, and Kath Bloom. Photographer Nyree Watts is the commissioned artist for Caldo Verde, as almost all of the releases on the label feature her photography.

<i>April</i> (Sun Kil Moon album) 2008 studio album by Sun Kil Moon

April is the third studio album by American folk rock band Sun Kil Moon, released in the US on April 1, 2008 through Caldo Verde Records, and on April 18, 2008 in Japan via P-Vine Records. The album was recorded at Hyde Street Studios in San Francisco and Well Recording in Seattle during a seven-month stretch from spring to late summer in 2007. The album was produced and written by Mark Kozelek. Will Oldham, Ben Gibbard and Eric Pollard lend their backing vocals throughout the album. The album also comes with a bonus disc of 4 alternate recordings.

White Christmas and Little Drummer Boy Live is a limited edition, 4-piece vinyl-only release by Mark Kozelek. It is a compilation of two previously released limited edition live CD releases, White Christmas Live (2001) and Little Drummer Boy Live (2006). The fourth record features an exclusive bonus track, an alternate recording of "Have You Forgotten."

<i>The Finally LP</i> 2008 compilation album by Mark Kozelek

The Finally LP is a compilation album by Mark Kozelek. The CD was released on December 9, 2008 via Caldo Verde Records. From the press release:

Over the years, Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon and his earlier band, Red House Painters, has gained well deserved praise for his extraordinary songwriting. At the same time, he has developed a parallel reputation for his unique covers of other people's material. Many of these tracks were recorded for tribute albums that are now unavailable. Caldo Verde Records has now collected them in a cohesive, 10-song CD titled The Finally LP.

Red House Painters band

Red House Painters were an American rock band, formed in San Francisco, California in 1988. They were one of the most prominent acts associated with the slowcore/sadcore subgenre. Fronted by primary songwriter Mark Kozelek, the band also included drummer Anthony Koutsos and bass guitarist Jerry Vessel. Guitarists Gorden Mack and Phil Carney both performed with the band during separate six-year tenures.

<i>Admiral Fell Promises</i> 2010 studio album by Sun Kil Moon

Admiral Fell Promises is the fourth studio album by American indie folk act Sun Kil Moon, released on July 13, 2010 on Caldo Verde Records. Despite being released under the Sun Kil Moon moniker, the album features Mark Kozelek performing solo on acoustic nylon-string guitar. Along with the standard CD release, the album was also released on vinyl in October 2010, which includes liner notes, lyrics, and two bonus tracks recorded live in Saint-Malo, France.

<i>Among the Leaves</i> 2012 studio album by Sun Kil Moon

Among the Leaves is the fifth studio album by American indie folk act Sun Kil Moon, released on May 29, 2012 on Caldo Verde Records. Similar to Sun Kil Moon's previous studio album, Admiral Fell Promises (2010), the album is predominantly performed by founding member Mark Kozelek on a nylon-string guitar.

Tim Mooney was an American drummer, producer, and sound engineer. He drummed in the Sleepers, Toiling Midgets, Negative Trend, Sun Kil Moon and American Music Club.

<i>Perils from the Sea</i> 2013 studio album by Mark Kozelek and Jimmy LaValle

Perils from the Sea is a collaborative studio album by American singer-songwriter Mark Kozelek and multi-instrumentalist Jimmy LaValle, released on April 30, 2013 on Caldo Verde Records.

<i>Live at Phoenix Public House Melbourne</i> 2013 live album by Mark Kozelek

Live at Phoenix Public House Melbourne is a live album by American singer-songwriter Mark Kozelek, released on February 19, 2013 on Caldo Verde Records. Recorded on June 11, 2012, and released on the same day as Kozelek's covers album, Like Rats (2013), the album predominately features tracks from the then-recently released Sun Kil Moon album, Among the Leaves (2012).

<i>Mark Kozelek & Desertshore</i> 2013 studio album by Mark Kozelek and Desertshore

Mark Kozelek & Desertshore is a collaborative studio album by American singer-songwriter Mark Kozelek and indie rock band Desertshore, released on August 20, 2013 on Caldo Verde Records. The album was Kozelek's third studio album of 2013.

<i>Benji</i> (album) 2014 studio album by Sun Kil Moon

Benji is the sixth studio album by American indie folk act Sun Kil Moon, released on 11 February 2014 on Caldo Verde Records. Self-produced by primary recording artist Mark Kozelek, the album shares its name with the 1974 film Benji, and was recorded between March and August 2013 at Hyde Street Studios in San Francisco.

<i>Live at Biko</i> 2014 live album by Mark Kozelek

Live at Biko is a live album by American singer-songwriter Mark Kozelek. It was released on July 1, 2014, through Kozelek's own record label Caldo Verde Records.

<i>Jesu/Sun Kil Moon</i> 2016 studio album by Jesu and Sun Kil Moon

Jesu / Sun Kil Moon is a collaborative studio album by American indie folk act Sun Kil Moon and British experimental act Jesu, released on January 21, 2016 on Caldo Verde Records and Rough Trade. The album also features guest musicians Will Oldham, members of Low, Rachel Goswell of Slowdive, and Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse. Jesu and Sun Kil Moon including drummer Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth played six shows in February and March 2016 to support the album.

<i>Yellow Kitchen</i> 2017 studio album by Mark Kozelek & Sean Yeaton

Yellow Kitchen is a collaboration album between American musician and singer Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon and Sean Yeaton, bassist of Parquet Courts, released on June 30, 2017 by Caldo Verde Records, though available for streaming shortly prior to that. Kozelek and Yeaton met at a Dutch festival in summer 2016, and recorded and self-produced Yellow Kitchen from December 2016 to May 2017 in the United States. Guest appearances on the album include Steve Shelley and Jim White on drums and Holly Throsby and Will Oldham on vocals.

I Also Want to Die in New Orleans is the tenth studio album by American band Sun Kil Moon. It was released in March 2019 under Caldo Verde Records.


  1. Slaughter, Matthew. "Mark Kozelek". Retrieved 2019-12-27. One of the truly great and largely overlooked songwriters of our times, [...]
  2. "Mark Kozelek, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down". Stereogum. 2014-10-06. Retrieved 2019-12-27. I was convinced he would be discovered posthumously, and eventually recognized as one of the greatest songwriters of his generation, maybe one of the greatest songwriters in the history of American rock music.
  3. "Here's Five: Saddest Songs By Mark Kozelek aka Sun Kil Moon". UnderTheRadarNZ. Retrieved 2019-12-27. He is also responsible for some of the most deeply melancholy music ever recorded, and is, by my reckoning, one of the greatest living American songwriters.
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  6. allmusic ((( What's Next to the Moon > Overview )))
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