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Raised in Florida, Georgia, and Maryland, indie rock innovator John Vanderslice grew up listening to a mix of Led Zeppelin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Kinks, and Southern rock, which instilled an eclectic musical vocabulary that informed his own songwriting. Forced into piano lessons as a child, he eventually picked up the guitar in the eighth grade and formed several bands during his teen years. His songwriting added influences from David Bowie, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, King Crimson, XTC, and early Genesis, culminating in his five-year tenure with the much-heralded experimental pop band MK Ultra. Their collaboration produced three well-received albums and resulted in an opening spot on two Sunny Day Real Estate American tours.
Meanwhile, Vanderslice also started Tiny Telephone, a small San Francisco recording studio, in 1997. Boasting a variety of respected and experienced house engineers, Tiny Telephone gained a reputation as an affordable recording outlet for the city's indie rock community. It also produced Vanderslice's solo debut, Mass Suicide Occult Figurines, in 2000. The album drew a substantial amount of critical praise for its meticulously crafted pop-perfect sound. The prolific Vanderslice issued the Time Travel Is Lonely and Life and Death of an American Fourtracker LPs over the next two years, and solidified his reputation as a literate, ever-curious songwriter and sonic technician. As he experimented with character-driven themes, he recorded the brilliantly convoluted Cellar Door in 2004 and Pixel Revolt in 2005. A series of tours followed.
In July 2007, Barsuk Records released Emerald City, yet another highly conceptual endeavor hailed for its politically charged lyrics and subtle mix of electronics and acoustic guitars. Romanian Names followed in 2009. For his next release, Vanderslice collaborated with Minna Choi and her Magik*Magik Orchestra, as well as producer John Congleton. Together, the musicians recorded White Wilderness in three days, releasing it in early 2011 via the Dead Oceans label. In 2013 he followed with Dagger Beach, a record funded entirely by fans on a quickly over-successful Kickstarter campaign. Along with the album of new original material, fans were offered Vanderslice's track-for-track remake of David Bowie's Diamond Dogs record as exclusive rewards for their donations.