There are plenty of examples of bands reinventing themselves or musicians resetting their careers, and while often times these examples are brought up in a negative light (Lana Del Rey/Lizzie Grant, anyone?), it’s kind of an industry standard that most of our favorite musicians have taken advantage of. Here’s a quick look back at some well known bands in their fledgling forms.
Sun Kil Moon // Red House Painters
Mark Kozelek and friends released Sun Kil Moon’s debut album, Ghosts of the Great Highway, to widespread critical acclaim in 2003, but at that point it had only been a couple of short years since the same band members had been releasing material under the name Red House Painters. Formed in 1989, Red House Painters’ six full length albums never achieved the critical success that Sun Kil Moon’s Ghosts would, but Kozelek had no qualms about admitting that Ghosts “was actually a Red House Painters album with a different name” and that the name change was mostly an effort to generate new interest from the press.
The Shins // Flake Music
The Shins are said to have formed in 1996 but their debut album, Oh, Inverted World, wasn’t released until 2001. In fact, during those in-between years, James Mercer’s band was actually called Flake Music and they released an EP as well as an 11-track album, When You Land Here, It’s Time to Return. Several of the tracks are short instrumentals and the sound is definitely more lo-fi alt-rock than what The Shins would later become known for, but it’s worth a listen.
Bon Iver // Justin Vernon
I guess he didn’t make it big as himself because he has a pretty boring self, to be honest. Justin Vernon was originally in DeYarmond Edison, a band that included future members of Megafaun and Field Report. The band officially broke up in 2006, but by then Justin had already released two solo albums: Hazeltons in ’06 Self Record in ’05. It was only a year after recording Hazeltons that Justin had a mini-meltdown and created Bon Iver, releasing For Emma, Forever Ago in 2007. Check out this track from Hazeltons, which sounds oddly familiar (hint: check out “Holocene” from Bon Iver).
Caribou // Manitoba
Dan Snaith began recording his smooth electronic music under the name Manitoba in 2001, releasing Start Breaking My Heart to very favorable reviews. The moniker stuck through a second album, Up in Flames, but it was shortly after his sophomore release that Snaith was threatened with a lawsuit by Richard Manitoba, lead singer of punk rock band The Dictators. By the time Snaith’s third album, The Milk of Human Kindness, came out in 2005, he had already become Caribou.