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Beachwood Sparks amicably parted ways in 2002, at which point Christopher Gunst and his new girlfriend, former Aislers Set member Jen Cohen, moved to Santa Cruz. Gunst was enrolled in grad school, training to become a special education teacher, but he continued doodling around on his guitars and keyboards when he wasn't in the classroom. Cohen would pitch in, and their informal jams quickly turned into serious writing sessions. Rough Trade approached Gunst at this point, seemingly out of the blue, and offered him a record deal. Gunst accepted, and he and Cohen released their first album as the Mystic Chords of Memory in 2004. Gunst came up with the band's name after visiting Mount Rushmore. "I saw the quote etched under Lincoln's face at Mount Rushmore," he said. "I love it, alluding to this idea that music is like a memory, a fantasy, or maybe something real. I think a lot of the music I make comes from some imaginary world." This certainly seemed true on their self-titled debut, which was comprised of dreamy, psychedelic folk tunes that sounded similar to Songs of Green Pheasant. Gunst and Cohen released their sophomore effort, a reverb-heavy, drowsy affair called Tree Colored See, in 2006.