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Based on their roots and their hometown, it's not surprising that Chicago's Joan of Arc blend post-rock's atmospherics and punk's volume and dynamics. Singer/guitarist Tim Kinsella, drummer Mike Kinsella, and bassist Sam Zurick came from the emocore band Cap'n Jazz; when that band broke up, the trio wanted to change their musical direction. They did just that when they started playing with keyboardist/guitarist Jeremy Boyle and guitarist Erik Bocek in summer 1996, removing the boundaries and structures of punk and including more experimental elements like tape loops and electronics.
Calling themselves Joan of Arc, the group went on tour with their friends the Promise Ring (who also featured ex-Cap'n Jazz members) in August 1996. Joan of Arc's live set met with a strong, positive audience, just in time for their first 7" single, Method & Sentiment. After spending the fall of that year writing and recording, the band re-emerged in 1997 with A Portable Model of Joan of Arc, their full-length debut. The album continued Joan of Arc's evolution into an equally hard-hitting and progressive outfit that appealed to emo and post-rock fans alike. The following year they returned with How Memory Works, a more clearly stated version of their ambitious style. Joan of Arc rang in 1999 with the release of Live in Chicago 1999. Gap was released a year later. In February 2003, the band returned with So Much Staying Alive and Lovelessness, although plans for a much bigger release were skirted to the side. Three months later, that extra material found its way onto In Rape Fantasy and Terror Sex We Trust, capturing Tim and Mike Kinsella's darkest work yet. After moving to Polyvinyl, the band recorded the experimental Joan of Arc, Dick Cheney, Mark Twain and released the album in 2004. Eventually, All at Once, which the band described as a "casual folk-drone record," arrived in 2006 on Record Label. In October 2007, the band scored the creepy and instrumental Orchard Vale Soundtrack, and Boo! Human arrived in 2008.
Joan of Arc's lineup remained in flux throughout the 2000s, with Tim Kinsella always remaining at the center of the group. In 2009, the frontman decided to reach out to his former bandmates and assemble Don't Mind Control, a unique record featuring 18 different bands. Each group included a onetime member of Joan of Arc, and the resulting album included songs by Vacations, Ghosts and Vodka, and Pillars & Tongues. Another collaborative record, Oh Brother, followed in 2011, although by that time the core band was a four-piece: Tim Kinsella, bassist Bobby Burg, and drummer Theo Katsaounis, joined by guitarist Victor Villareal. (Villareal and Kinsella were longtime friends who forged a new working relationship after Cap'n Jazz reunited in 2010.) The quartet returned from a month-long European tour and immediately entered Electrical Audio to record Life Like with Steve Albini. The release followed in May 2011. Testimonium Songs, an album that was high concept even for Joan of Arc, was released in 2013. The record was a document of songs written for a live collaboration with experimental theater group Every House Has a Door in the group's production based on poet Charles Reznikoff's Testimony, a translation of courtroom transcripts in cases of workplace negligence in early America.