The Mountain Goats began life in a Norwalk employee-housing studio apartment that had awesome deco tiling on the bathroom floor but little more to recommend the place as a living space. Still, you take what you can get, and it was ridiculously cheap. In this room, equipped with a dual-cassette recorder, John D. started setting some of his poetry to music, using a guitar he’d gotten for a few bucks at a nearby strip mall music store. His idea at the time was that eventually his day job would be “poet.” Young men have all kinds of crazy ideas about what they’re going to end up doing for a living.
After a while the songs became more like songs than poems set to music, and John started playing them for his friend Rachel, who as it turned out, played bass. John and Rachel toured the eastern U.S. & Europe once, the midwest twice (if “Chicago, Columbus and Madison” count as “the midwest”), and played San Francisco a few times, and they recorded two albums and a couple of EPs. Then John graduated from college and moved to Chicago, and the Mountain Goats became Mainly Just John, except for a couple of European tours where John’s friend Peter Hughes played bass. In 2001, though, 4AD called up and asked if the Mountain Goats wouldn’t like to make records with them. John called Peter. They hit the studio.
As a duo, the two toured at a pace that can fairly be called “relentless” from 2002 until 2007. They made records: Tallahassee, We Shall All Be Healed, The Sunset Tree, Get Lonely. They took to recruiting drummers from their opening acts to play the last few songs with them. And then they met Jon Wurster, and the three took to the road in support of Get Lonely, from Fairbanks, Alaska to Hobart, Tasmania, and a few points even further south. They enjoyed playing together so much that when it came time to repair to the studio again, all three went in. In 2008, the three recorded Heretic Pride, and in early 2009, The Life of the World to Come.