Sun Kil Moon - Biography
When the Red House Painters finally ran out of creative paint, singer/songwriter Mark Kozelek focused his attention on a new band with a new line up and a new sense of purpose. Never quite comfortable releasing material under his given name, Kozelek usually dreams up inventive band names to slap on albums that are largely solo works. Sun Kil Moon is no exception. The band is basically Kozelek armed with a revolving cast of outside musicians who rarely perform on more than one Sun Kil Moon release. An avid boxing enthusiast, Sun Kil Moon is a play on words of bantamweight Korean boxer Moon Sung-Kil. Song titles from the band’s debut album, Ghosts of the Great Highway (2003 Jetset) are elusions to past and present boxing icons like “Pancho Villa” and “Salvador Sanchez”. Truth be told, there is very little aesthetic difference between late Red House Painters material like Old Ramon (2001 Sub Pop) and Sun Kil Moon material. The songs still center on Kozelek’s brutally honest confessionals of love, loss, and disillusion sung as acoustic folk ballads or plugged in melancholia. Yet Sun Kil Moon showcases a more mature Kozelek with lyrics written more like prize winning poetry than late night journal entries and harder edged songs that almost come across as upbeat and (dare it be said) rocking. When the slowcore Red House Painters formula became stale Kozelek deserves kudos for reinventing himself no matter how subtly.
Sun Kil Moon came about in earnest after long time Red House Painters drummer Anthony Koutsos exited the group to focus on his growing family. As the sole surviving member of the band, Kozelek initially formed Sun Kil Moon with American Music Club drummer Tim Mooney and former Black Lab bassist Geoff Stanfield. The group’s debut album, Ghosts of the Great Highway flawlessly intermingled Kozelek’s disparate musical personalities from acoustic folk balladeer to plugged-in disconsolate troubadour. The album was not only a huge critical success but a long overdue commercial victory as well. Still disillusioned with record labels from his Red House Painter days, Kozelek invested in his own imprint, Caldo Verde Records, which has released all Sun Kil Moon albums and Kozelek solo material to date. Kozelek spent the next few years touring the world as Sun Kil Moon (usually with different members for every tour) or as Kozelek solo performances.
The sophomore Sun Kil Moon release is still viewed as an oddity by fans and critics alike. Rather than focus on an album of new material, Kozelek recorded a covers album of stripped down acoustic Modest Mouse songs, much like the AC/DC covers record What’s Next To The Moon (2001 Badman Recording Co.) released as a solo Kozelek album a number of years prior. The brash lo-fi flair of Modest Mouse couldn’t be more different from the melancholy of Sun Kil Moon, but Kozelek possesses a knack for not only making a song his own but almost rewriting the music entirely, leaving only the lyrical content intact. Tiny Cities (2005-Caldo Verde) was released to positive reviews but the album didn’t do much to increase a fanbase still hungry for original Sun Kil Moon material. After releasing a two disc expanded edition of Ghosts of the Great Highway (2007-Caldo Verde), Kozelek set to work on the third Sun Kil Moon release.
The year 2008 promises to be busy for Sun Kil Moon. The band is slated to release another full length of original material entitled, April (2008 Caldo Verde), featuring notable contributions from Will Oldham (aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy), along with a book of Red House Painters/Mark Kozelek/Sun Kil Moon lyrics, artwork, and rare photographs titled, Mark Kozelek: Nights of Passed Over (2008 Caldo Verde). Kozelek will also be releasing the self-titled debut album from his plugged-in rock side project, Retribution Gospel Choir, with Low frontman Alan Sparhawk. Both bands are expected to tour throughout 2008.