The Microphones

The Microphones

Infobox musical artist |
Name = The Microphones

Img_capt = Phil Elvrum in May 2004. Photo by David Greenwald.
Img_size = 200
Background = group_or_band
Birth_name =
Alias =
Born =
Died =
Origin = Olympia, Washington, U.S.
Instrument =
Genre = Indie rock
Indie folk
Noise pop
Occupation =
Years_active = 1998 – 2004, 2006
Label = KNW-YR-OWN Elsinor Records K Records
Associated_acts = Mount Eerie
Current_members = Phil Elvrum
Past_members = Mirah Zeitlyn, Anna Oxygen, Khaela Maricich, Calvin Johnson, Karl Blau, Adam Forkner, Kyle Field, Dennis Driscoll, Jenn Kliese
Notable_instruments =

The Microphones was a lo-fi band based in Olympia, Washington, and fronted by Phil Elvrum. Elvrum is the principal member of the band, but he has collaborated with many other musicians on his records.

In 2004, Elvrum announced that he had changed the name of his band from the Microphones to Mount Eerie. However, in late 2006, Elvrum released a new single using the old moniker, titled "Two Songs by the Microphones". It is unclear if he plans to readopt the band name.


Phil Elvrum became involved in the Washington music scene while working at a record store in his home town of Anacortes in the mid-1990s. Elvrum began experimenting with some recording equipment in the back of the record store, eventually drawing the attention of the store's owner, Bret Lunsford. Lunsford helped Elvrum release two cassettes ("Microphone" and "Wires and Cords") on his label, KNW-YR-OWN. These early cassettes were filled with simple, archaic songs and some strange sound collages, all, however, finely produced considering Elvrum's lack of experience and outdated recording equipment. Elvrum played drums in Lunsford's band, D+, for some time until he moved to Olympia.

While in Olympia, he caught the attention of K Records owner and musician Calvin Johnson. After recording for some time at the Dub Narcotic studios, Elvrum was able to complete his first full-length album, "Tests", which was released in 1998 on Elsinor Records. "Tests" combined songs from his earlier cassette releases and the recently-recorded Dub Narcotic recordings. At the same time, Elvrum released his first single, "Bass Drum Dream".

Elvrum slowly gained recognition as a strong talent in the studio. While helping, often anonymously, with many of the area's artists, he began work on his second full-length, "Don't Wake Me Up", released on K Records in 1999. Elvrum toured for a few months following the release with fellow K Records artist Mirah, and, showcasing his talents on the road, he was able to build a small but loyal fanbase and gain appreciation in the indie music scene. While performing in another K Records band, Old Time Relijun, Elvrum began recording "It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water". Released on K Records in 2000, the album was Elvrum's most ambitious yet. During the recording of the album, Elvrum would have other musicians, K Records employees, and friends help with playing instruments or singing. The collaborative nature of the album did not, however, detract from Elvrum's precise, almost obsessive songwriting and production. The album was layered with harmonic guitars, static, and Beach Boys-esque harmonies. Elvrum was noted for his gentle, boyish voice and imaginative lyrics. It was widely appreciated by critics.

Elvrum's next release, "The Glow Pt. 2", was even more ambitious than "It was Hot...". Released by K Records in 2001, "The Glow Pt. 2" was noted by critics for its exceptional production and equally impressive songwriting. Probably his best-known album, it explored intensely personal themes, recalling lost loves and childhood memories. Sometimes sad, simple, and gentle ("I Felt Your Shape"), other times intense and layered with noise, guitars, and drums ("The Glow Pt. 2"), the album was immediately a favorite in the underground indie rock scene.

Elvrum's next release was a compilation of singles, b-sides, and early releases, entitled "Song Islands". While lacking the consistent theme of "It was Hot...", the album offered listeners a glimpse at the versatility of Elvrum's songwriting; the album's collection of songs ranged from folk sing-alongs ("I Can't Believe You Actually Died") to fuzz-pop ("Weird Storm").

Elvrum, after taking a long tour of Europe and North America, began work on his next album, the epic "Mount Eerie". Released by K Records in 2003, the album was named after the mountain on Fidalgo Island where Elvrum spent much of his childhood. Containing five long songs, the album picked up from where "The Glow Pt. 2" left off. In the story, Elvrum dies, is eaten by vultures, and discovers the face of the Universe. It represents a turning point and a realization period in Elvrum's life. Although not as highly regarded by critics as "The Glow Pt. 2", "Mount Eerie" was noted, once again, for its stellar production and imaginative songwriting.

Mount Eerie

Following the release of the "Mount Eerie" album, Elvrum announced that he would dissolve the Microphones moniker, opting instead to record under the name "Mount Eerie". Elvrum, in an interview with [ discorder] (September 2003), gives his reasons for this change: "Mount Eerie is a new project. The Microphones was completed, or at least at a good stopping point. I did it because I am ready for new things. I am new."

Shortly after this announcement, "Live in Japan", recorded during three days during Elvrum's tour in Japan in 2003, was released by K Records. Despite the fact that the album contained all new material, the album was credited to The Microphones. It is widely believed to be the last official Microphones release.

Since the name change, Elvrum has released a few singles, printed in limited numbers and sold only at his live shows. Elvrum has also created an ambitious 3-LP recording of Mount Eerie titled "Live in Copenhagen", released by Burnt Toast Vinyl in late 2004. The first Mount Eerie studio album was "No Flashlight", released on Elvrum's own label, P.W. Elvrum & Sun, Ltd at the "What the Heck Fest" In Anacortes, WA on July 16, 2005 and commercially released on August 16, 2005. Released on both vinyl and compact disc (although the vinyl version contained a burned copy of the CD), the record contained an extremely large sheet of paper containing track-by-track liner notes and pictures.

Return to the Microphones?

In January 2007, Elverum released a new 7", "Don't Smoke / Get Off the Internet," credited to the Microphones, prompting rumors of a possible return to the moniker. Lyrically, the two songs are firmly rooted in themes associated with Mount Eerie (specifically: preachiness, natural living) but the recordings utilize Microphones-associated choral arrangements, differing from than the more solitary Mount Eerie material.


tudio albums

*"Microphone" (1996)
*"X-Ray Means Woman" (1996)
*"Wires and Cords" (1997)
*"Tests" (1998)
*"Don't Wake Me Up" (1999)
*"Window" (2000)
*"It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water" (2000)
*"The Glow Pt. 2" (2001)
*"Mount Eerie" (2003)

EPs and other releases

*"Blood" LP (2001) (limited release, hand made album of miscellaneous recordings from "The Glow Pt. 2"
*"Little Bird Flies into a Big Black Cloud" LP (2002) (limited release, hand made album of Elvrum accompanied by an organ)
*"Song Islands" compilation of singles (2002)
*"The Singing from Mount Eerie" 10" (2003)
*"The Drums from Mount Eerie" 10" (2003)
*"The Headwaters of Mount Eerie" CD and book (2003) (limited release "explanation" of the themes and inspirations for "Mount Eerie")
*"Live in Japan" (2004)


*"Bass Drum Dream" 7" (1999)
*"Feedback (Life, Love, Loop)" 7" (1999)
*"Moon Moon" 7" (1999)
*"I Can't Believe You Actually Died" 7" (2001)
*"The Moon" 7" (2001)
*"Lanterns/Antlers" 7" (2002)
*"Don't Smoke / Get Off the Internet" 7" (2007)

Books and printed materials

*"It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water" sheet music" (2000)
*"Little Bird Flies into a Big Black Cloud" (2001)
*"What Wonder?" (2002)
*"The Headwaters of Mount Eerie" book" (2004)
* "Fancy People Adventures" photocopied 2005 cartoon-a-day desktop calendar (2005)


* [ List of released materials on official website]

External links

* [ The Microphones / Mount Eerie official website]
* [ K Records]
* [ KNW-YR-OWN Records]
* [ P.W. Elverum & Sun, Ltd.] (Elvrum's label)
* [ Coming in Second Records]
* [ Up Records]
* [ Mt. Eerie Preservation Society: Comprehensive Fansite]
* [ Microphones.Mount Eerie KOLYMPIA Website]
* [ Complete Microphones/Mount Eerie discography (with artwork, release details, etc.)]

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