The Mountain Goats

Last updated
the Mountain Goats
The Mountain Goats5.jpg
The Mountain Goats in 2014
Background information
Origin Claremont, California, United States
Years active1991–present
Associated acts

The Mountain Goats are an American 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 worked with a variety of collaborators over time, including bassist and vocalist Peter Hughes, drummer Jon Wurster, multi-instrumentalist Matt Douglas, 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-inch 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

The band's name is a reference to the Screamin' Jay Hawkins song "Yellow Coat". [3] Darnielle released his first recording as the Mountain Goats ( 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

Peter Hughes in 2007 Peter hughes 9 23 07.jpg
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

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

Record producer John Vanderslice in 2006 John Vanderslice.jpg
Record producer John Vanderslice in 2006

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. [7] [8] 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." 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. [9] Entitled Heretic Pride , the album was released on 19 February 2008. [10] 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. [10] 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. [11] 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. [12]

2010–present: Merge Records years

John Darnielle playing a solo show under the name The Mountain Goats at Harvest of Hope Festival in St. Augustine, FL in 2010 John Darnielle The Mountain Goats HOH Fest 2010.JPG
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. [13] [14] 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. [14] [15] 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. [16]

The band's fourteenth studio album, Transcendental Youth , was released in late 2012, [17] and in early 2013 they played at Carnegie Hall in support of John Green and Hank Green in their "Evening of Awesome" performance. [18] [19] In July 2013, All Hail West Texas was re-released on vinyl. During an interview with Stereogum in August 2012, John Darnielle said that Amy Grant was his favorite pop artist, and noted that "Rich Mullins is one of the best songwriters I know of." [20] Mullins was the songwriter who penned many of Grant's hits.

The Mountain Goats released their 15th album, Beat the Champ , on 7 April 2015, again with Merge Records. [21] 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. [22] Multi-instrumentalist Matt Douglas assisted the group in recording the album, and soon thereafter became a full-time member. [23]

In January 2017, the Mountain Goats recorded a humorous song per request of director Rian Johnson, depicting an alternate story of his upcoming movie, Star Wars: The Last Jedi . The song, titled "The Ultimate Jedi Who Wastes All the Other Jedi and Eats Their Bones", was published on Johnson's SoundCloud page. [24]

In May 2017, they released their sixteenth studio album, Goths . [25] The band has stated that Goths was inspired by an adolescence listening to The Cure, Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Joy Division, as well as hearing songs on the Californian radio station KROQ-FM. [26]

In January 2019, the band announced the April 26 release of their Dungeons & Dragons inspired album, In League with Dragons (and released initial single, "Younger"), via Merge Records. The announcement was accompanied by a live music stream from the Wizards of the Coast headquarters. [27]

In March 2020, while the COVID-19 pandemic left the band unable to tour, Darnielle retrieved his old Panasonic RX-FT500 tape deck and recorded 10 new songs, using the direct-to-boombox method for the first time since 2002's All Hail West Texas. The resulting album, entitled Songs for Pierre Chuvin , was inspired by Darnielle's reading of Pierre Chuvin's 1990 book A Chronicle of the Last Pagans, and was released digitally on April 10, 2020, with a limited physical release on cassette through Merge Records. [28] [29]

The Mountain Goats announced in August 2020 that the band's nineteenth studio album, Getting Into Knives , would be released on October 23, 2020 on CD, vinyl, cassette, and digital. [30]


Former members and collaborators


Studio albums

In other media

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." [32] The band performed the Theme to Weeds (Malvina Reynolds’ "Little Boxes") during the opening credits of Season 8, Episode 5. [33]

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

Throughout the third season of the Adult Swim animated series Moral Orel , the songs "No Children", "Old College Try", and "Love Love Love" are featured.

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 . [34] On February 23, 2011, they played "Birth of Serpents" in support of their album, All Eternals Deck , on the Late Show with David Letterman . On April 6, 2015, the band performed "Foreign Object" on Late Night with Seth Meyers while promoting Beat the Champ . [35] In July 2019, the band performed on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert , with Stephen Colbert joining in to sing "This Year". [36]

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 . [37] Additionally, the song "Used to Haunt" was played in the credits of the film adaptation.

The songs "Heel Turn 2" and "Sicilian Crest" originally premiered on the "weather report" section of the podcast Welcome to Night Vale .

On September 28, 2017 a podcast premiered entitled I Only Listen To The Mountain Goats, hosted by John Darnielle and Joseph Fink, co-creator of the podcast Welcome to Night Vale. The first season features track-by-track discussions of The Mountain Goats' album All Hail West Texas and features a guest artist performing a cover of that episode's featured song. [38] A compilation album of all the covers featured on the show was released on April 6, 2018, the day after the season finale. [39] A second season premiered in Spring 2019.

The song "No Children" was prominently featured in the series finale of You're the Worst . [40]

In December, 2020, Guardian readers voted "This Year" as the number one song for the "Good Riddance 2020" playlist. [41]

Related Research Articles

John Vanderslice American musician

John Vanderslice is an American musician, songwriter, record producer, and recording engineer. He is the owner and founder of Tiny Telephone, an analog recording studio with locations in San Francisco Mission District and North Oakland. He released 10 full-length albums and 5 remix records and EPs on Dead Oceans and Barsuk Records and has collaborated with musicians such as The Mountain Goats, St. Vincent, and Spoon.

John Darnielle

John Darnielle is an American musician and novelist best known as the primary, and originally sole, member of the American band the Mountain Goats, for which he is the writer, composer, guitarist, pianist, and vocalist.

<i>All Hail West Texas</i> 2002 studio album by the Mountain Goats

All Hail West Texas is the sixth studio album by the Mountain Goats. After the slight increase in production values on The Coroner's Gambit album of 2000, All Hail West Texas was the last Mountain Goats album recorded entirely on John Darnielle's trademark Panasonic RX-FT500 boombox until 2020's Songs for Pierre Chuvin. Similarly, it marked the end of an era for the band, as it was the last album by the Mountain Goats to feature only John Darnielle until 2020.

<i>The Sunset Tree</i> 2005 studio album by the Mountain Goats

The Sunset Tree is the ninth studio album by the Mountain Goats, released on April 26, 2005 by 4AD. The album's songs revolve around the house John Darnielle grew up in and the people who lived there, including his mother, sister, stepfather, friends, and enemies.

<i>Tallahassee</i> (album) 2002 studio album by the Mountain Goats

Tallahassee is the seventh studio album by the Mountain Goats. It was the band's second new album to be released in 2002, and it marked quite a few changes. After releasing records on small record labels such as Shrimper, Ajax, and Emperor Jones, Tallahassee was the first Mountain Goats album to be released on a widely known independent label, the British alternative rock label 4AD. It was also the first Mountain Goats album to have an official single released, for the song "See America Right."

<i>We Shall All Be Healed</i> 2004 studio album by the Mountain Goats

We Shall All Be Healed is the eighth studio album by The Mountain Goats. The album focuses on semi-fictional accounts of band leader John Darnielle's years as a teenager, particularly his friends' and acquaintances' experiences in California and in Portland, Oregon as methamphetamine addicts. As The Mountain Goats' official website puts it: "All of the songs on We Shall All Be Healed are based on people John used to know. Most of them are probably dead or in jail by now." Like Tallahassee, but unlike the rest of Darnielle's repertoire up to its release, We Shall All Be Healed was recorded with a full band in a recording studio, and produced by John Vanderslice, as opposed to The Mountain Goats' previous practice of recording at home on a boom box with, at most, one or two backup vocalists or a bassist. "Palmcorder Yajna", when played in concert, is often played with the backing of members of one or more of the opening acts on tour with The Mountain Goats. The song "Cotton" was featured in an episode of the television series Weeds.

Franklin Bruno

Franklin Bruno is an American singer-songwriter, academic and writer originally from Upland, California. He has been a member of Nothing Painted Blue since its inception in 1986.

<i>Heretic Pride</i> 2008 studio album by the Mountain Goats

Heretic Pride is the eleventh studio album by the Mountain Goats, released in the UK on February 18, 2008, and in the US on February 19 by 4AD, their sixth album on the label. It is the first to feature the band's lineup of John Darnielle, Peter Hughes, and Jon Wurster. The album was produced by Scott Solter and John Vanderslice.

The Mountain Goats discography

The Mountain Goats is an American, Durham, North Carolina-based band, led by American singer-songwriter John Darnielle. Darnielle began recording in 1991, and is known for his highly literate lyrics and his lo-fi recording style. The Mountain Goats' albums have featured a constantly changing line-up of musicians, with Darnielle the only constant; when performing live, the band commonly comprises only Darnielle backed by Peter Hughes on bass guitar and Jon Wurster playing drums.

<i>The Life of the World to Come</i> (album) 2009 studio album by the Mountain Goats

The Life of the World to Come is the twelfth studio album by the Mountain Goats, released on October 6, 2009. The third track, "Genesis 3:23", was released as a free download via the band's website on July 28. The album peaked at #110 on the Billboard Top 200 albums on its chart debut.

<i>All Eternals Deck</i> 2011 studio album by the Mountain Goats

All Eternals Deck is the thirteenth studio album by the Mountain Goats, released on March 29, 2011 by Merge Records. "All Eternals Deck" refers to a fictional set of Tarot cards, the history and details of which are described in the album's liner notes.

<i>Transcendental Youth</i> 2012 studio album by the Mountain Goats

Transcendental Youth is the fourteenth studio album by the Mountain Goats. The album focuses on outcasts, recluses, the mentally ill, and others struggling in ordinary society. The album is loosely unified around a group of people living in Washington state. At least one character is confirmed to be recurring from All Hail West Texas, an earlier album.

"Lovecraft in Brooklyn" is the eighth track on the Mountain Goats' Heretic Pride album released in 2008 on 4AD.

<i>Beat the Champ</i> 2015 studio album by The Mountain Goats

Beat the Champ is the fifteenth studio album by The Mountain Goats, released on April 7, 2015 on Merge Records. The release is a concept album on professional wrestling, though frontman John Darnielle has stated that several of its songs are "really more about death and difficult-to-navigate interior spaces than wrestling."

<i>Goths</i> (album) 2017 album by The Mountain Goats

Goths is the sixteenth studio album by the Mountain Goats, released on May 19, 2017, on Merge Records. The band has stated that Goths was inspired by an adolescence listening to The Cure, Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Joy Division, as well as hearing songs on the radio station KROQ-FM. The album also marked the band's first release as a four-piece outfit, having added touring member Matt Douglas (keyboards/woodwinds) as a permanent fixture of the band following the By, For, and About the Trees Southeastern Fall Tour that supported their previous record, Beat the Champ.

<i>In League with Dragons</i> album by The Mountain Goats

In League With Dragons is the seventeenth studio album by the Mountain Goats, released on April 26, 2019, on Merge Records. Inspired by tabletop role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons, the album has been described as a "partial rock opera" with influences from noir literature.

"No Children" is a 2002 song by American band the Mountain Goats from their album Tallahassee, about a married couple who hate each other. Songwriter John Darnielle said that he is "not laughing with " but rather "laughing at them".

<i>Songs for Pierre Chuvin</i> 2020 studio album by the Mountain Goats

Songs for Pierre Chuvin is the eighteenth studio album by the Mountain Goats, released on April 10, 2020. It is the first album since 2002's All Hail West Texas to feature only the band's frontman, John Darnielle, as well as the first since then to be recorded entirely on a boombox.

<i>Getting Into Knives</i> 2020 studio album by the Mountain Goats

Getting Into Knives is the nineteenth studio album by indie folk band the Mountain Goats, released on October 23, 2020, through Merge Records. The album was recorded in March 2020 over six days at Sam Philips Recording in Memphis, in the same room where psychobilly band the Cramps tracked their 1980 debut album Songs the Lord Taught Us. Getting Into Knives was produced, engineered, and mixed by Matt Ross-Spang, who previously engineered In League with Dragons (2019). In addition to being available on streaming and download services, the album also saw physical release on CD, vinyl, and cassette.


  1. Hodgkinson, Will. "Pop: The Mountain Goats: Goths". The Times . Archived from the original on 11 July 2017. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
  2. "The Mountain Goats Bio". Archived from the original on July 7, 2013. Retrieved June 7, 2013.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Nickey, Jason (2008). "The Mountain Goats: Biography". Allmusic . Macrovision Corporation . Retrieved February 16, 2009.
  4. "The Mountain Goats". 4AD. Retrieved December 26, 2011.
  5. 1 2 "the Mountain Goats FAQ". Retrieved February 16, 2009.
  6. Brown, "Sermon on the Mount", June 1999.
  7. Monger, James Christopher. "The Sunset Tree – The Mountain Goats review".
  8. Stosuy, Brandon. "The Sunset Tree album review Pitchfork".
  9. [ dead link ]
  10. 1 2 "News Archive | High Heresy". The Mountain Goats. November 20, 2007. Archived from the original on 2012-03-06. Retrieved December 26, 2011.
  11. "John Darnielle Tells the Story Behind the Mountain Goats' Biblical New LP". Pitchfork Media. September 8, 2009. Retrieved October 7, 2009.
  12. "Watch the Mountain Goats on "Colbert"". Pitchfork Media. October 7, 2009. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
  13. Tom Breihan (2010-08-05). "John Darnielle's Mountain Goats and Extra Lens Sign to Merge Records". Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  14. 1 2 "All Lanes Merge Immediately". August 5, 2010. Archived from the original on 2012-03-06. Retrieved December 26, 2011.
  15. "Mountain Goats All Eternals Deck Details". Stereogum. December 9, 2010. Retrieved December 26, 2011.
  16. "ATP curated by Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel)". All Tomorrow's Parties. Retrieved December 26, 2011.
  17. "Just Under 1,000 Words About Our New Album". July 9, 2012. Archived from the original on July 12, 2012. Retrieved July 9, 2012.
  18. "John and Hank Green and Falling in Love With the World – The Atlantic". Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  19. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2013-05-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  20. Locker, Melissa (August 24, 2012). "Turntable Interview: The Mountain Goats". Stereogum. Stereogum. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
  21. "The Mountain Goats – Beat the Champ". Merge Records. Retrieved 14 April 2015.
  22. Gordon, Jeremy (6 April 2015). "Album Review: Beat the Champ". Pitchfork. Retrieved 14 April 2015.
  23. Darnielle, John (20 August 2016). "John Darnielle's Twitter". Twitter . Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  24. Kaye, Ben. "John Darnielle's song "The Ultimate Jedi Who Wastes All the Other Jedi and Eats Their Bones" is about Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi — listen". Consequence of Sound .
  25. Arcand, Rob (22 February 2017). "New Music: The Mountain Goats Announce New Album Goths, Share "Andrew Eldritch Is Moving Back to Leeds"". Spin . Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  26. Lindsey, Cam (18 May 2017). "John Darnielle Lived the Teenage Goth Life I Never Did". noisey. Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  27. Kreps, Daniel (28 January 2019). "Mountain Goats Create 'Dragon Noir' Genre With New Album 'In League With Dragons'". Rolling Stone . Penske Media Corporation . Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  28. Darnielle, John (April 10, 2020). "Songs for Pierre Chuvin". Bandcamp. Retrieved April 10, 2020.
  29. "the Mountain Goats - Songs for Pierre Chuvin". Merge Records. April 10, 2020. Retrieved April 10, 2020.
  30. "Getting Into Knives". Bandcamp. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  31. The Mountain Goats at AllMusic
  32. "Weeds Music". Showtime. Archived from the original on October 2, 2009. Retrieved October 7, 2009.
  33. "Little Boxes". Consequence of Sound . Retrieved July 30, 2012.
  34. Brown, Jake (January 21, 2010). "The Mountain Goats on Jimmy Fallon". Glorious Noise. Retrieved December 26, 2011.
  35. Brodsky, Rachel. "Watch the Mountain Goats Introduce a 'Foreign Object to 'Seth Meyers'". Spin. Retrieved 17 October 2019.
  36. Zemler, Emily (17 July 2019). "Watch Stephen Colbert Perform 'This Year' With the Mountain Goats". Rolling Stone . Penske Media Corporation . Retrieved 24 September 2019.
  37. "Analysis: What's up with the epigraph?". Shmoop. Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  38. Rettig, James (September 7, 2017). "Hear A Preview Of New John Darnielle Podcast I Only Listen To The Mountain Goats". Stereogum. Retrieved December 12, 2019.
  39. Breihan, Tom (April 5, 2018). "Stream The Mountain Goats Tribute Compilation I Only Listen To The Mountain Goats: All Hail West Texas". Stereogum. Retrieved December 12, 2019.
  40. Adams, Erik (April 3, 2019). "Interview: You're The Worst creator Stephen Falk on the show's emotional finale". Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  41. Culture, Guardian (2020-12-20). "Good riddance 2020: the ultimate New Year's Eve songs, as voted by you". The Guardian. ISSN   0261-3077 . Retrieved 2020-12-24.

Further reading