Red House Painters was an American alternative rock band, formed in San Francisco, California, in 1989.
Fronted by primary songwriter Mark Kozelek (vocals, guitar), 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.
In 2001, Red House Painters quietly dissolved, with Koutsos, Vessel and Carney continuing to record and perform with Kozelek under his new guise Sun Kil Moon until 2010.
While in Atlanta, Georgia, Ohio-born Kozelek became friends with Anthony Koutsos, a drummer. He then moved to San Francisco, California, adding guitarist Gorden Mack and bassist Jerry Vessel to complete the line-up for Red House Painters. After forming, the group played the San Francisco scene extensively, and recorded demos from 1989 to 1992. The band were signed to 4AD in 1992, on the strength of a demo tape passed to 4AD boss Ivo Watts-Russell by American Music Club frontman Mark Eitzel.
Journalist Martin Aston passed on a tape that Mark Eitzel had given to him. Never before or since had I received a demo that was 90 minutes long! In fact, it was quite some time before I actually listened to the whole thing all the way through. Every morning and evening, driving to and from work, I would start at the beginning, “24” (I know, I know, what more do you need to hear, right? What a song.), but only get about half way through that and whatever the second song on the tape was before arriving home/at 4AD. When I finally did listen to the full 90 minutes I called young Mark K. and left him a message. I learned later he was sitting in the bath listening to me talk. It was a perfect time for me to hear that brilliant band.— Ivo Watts-Russell
Between September 1992 and March 1995, the band released three LPs, one double LP, and one EP. Their first 4AD release was an album made up of demos entitled Down Colorful Hill. In 1993, the group came out with two self-titled records (now commonly referred to as Rollercoaster and Bridge because of their cover artwork).
In early 1994, they released an EP entitled Shock Me, featuring two cover versions of an Ace Frehley-written KISS song. The introspective Ocean Beach followed in spring 1995. Founding guitarist Gorden Mack left shortly after the album’s release, and he was replaced shortly thereafter by Phil Carney.
While Kozelek was beginning work on a solo project, he parted ways with 4AD after a tumultuous relationship, so Songs for a Blue Guitar was eventually released on Island Records subsidiary Supreme Recordings/Polygram in summer 1996. The album featured lengthy guitar jams and cover songs, and was the band’s biggest seller in the U.S. By early 1998, their sixth album was completed. However, the band was beginning to dissolve, and major label mergers during the late 1990s would leave the record in limbo; it was not until 2001 that Old Ramon was issued on the Sub Pop label.
Dissolution and post-breakup
Prior to the release of Old Ramon, Kozelek released a solo seven-song EP entitled Rock ‘n’ Roll Singer in 2000. The record consisted of three original acoustic compositions with minor full-band arrangements and four covers (three from Bon Scott-era AC/DC, and John Denver‘s “Around and Around”) that further revealed Kozelek’s fascination with 1970s classic rock. Six months later, Kozelek released his first solo album, What’s Next to the Moon, which was made up entirely of acoustic covers of even more Bon Scott-era AC/DC songs, including re-recorded versions of the tracks that had appeared on the previous EP. The record was uncharacteristic of Kozelek (though he was prone to covering songs by his favorite artists) in that it is one of the shortest full-length albums of his to date, clocking in at just over thirty minutes. Both the EP and album were released by Badman Recordings.
4AD would release the best-of package, Retrospective, in July 1999. Kozelek subsequently contributed to the AIDS benefit album The Shanti Project Collection, and organized and appeared on Take Me Home: A Tribute to John Denver, a John Denver tribute album (along with like-minded artists like Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Low, and The Innocence Mission). He also dabbled in acting, playing small parts in the Cameron Crowe films Almost Famous and Vanilla Sky, as well as appearing more prominently as a rock musician alongside Jason Schwartzman in the 2005 Steve Martin vehicle Shopgirl.
Phil Carney occasionally accompanies Kozelek on tour dates, playing second guitar. Drummer Anthony Koutsos is also a real estate agent in San Francisco.
Sun Kil Moon
In 2003, Kozelek and Koutsos, along with Geoff Stanfield and Tim Mooney, reformed as Sun Kil Moon, releasing the acclaimed album Ghosts of the Great Highway on Jetset Records. In a 2005 interview with The Onion‘s AV Club, Kozelek confirmed that he considered Sun Kil Moon essentially a continuation of Red House Painters, but that he changed the band name to grab the interest of critics who had gotten bored with, or stopped paying attention to, his previous band.