Taking the name from the Screamin' Jay Hawkins song "Big Yellow Coat," Darnielle first donned the Mountain Goats moniker in 1991 while working as a nurse in a California state hospital, and began releasing cassette-only albums for the Shrimper label. Despite attracting a devoted underground following (or, possibly, because of it), The Mountain Goats continued to release songs in cassette form only for many years, using tape hiss virtually as an additional instrument. Besides innumerable compilation tracks, The Mountain Goats have also released many 7" singles for over a dozen labels. Their full-length albums include Nine Black Poppies and Zopilote Machine (both released in 1995), Sweden (1996), Full Force Galesburg (1997), and Nothing for Juice (1997). Protein Source of the Future...NOW! and Bitter Melon Farm (both 1999 releases) collected many early tape tracks and singles.
Darnielle began the new millennium with The Coroner's Gambit for Absolutely Kosher before signing to 4AD for the release of the surprisingly polished Tallahassee in 2002. We Shall All Be Healed followed in 2004, and one year later Darnielle was back with The Sunset Tree. Remaining prolific as ever, Darnielle turned away from the intensity of The Sunset Tree for a calmer, more reflective set of songs on 2006's Get Lonely. The accessible and assured Heretic Pride appeared in 2008. Next up was the Bible verse-inspired The Life of the World to Come, the group's sixth album for 4AD, in 2010. Switching to Merge Records in 2011, Darnielle released All Eternals Deck, which was recorded in four different studios in Brooklyn, Boston, North Carolina, and Florida with four different producers -- John Congleton, Scott Solter, Brandon Eggleston, and Morbid Angel guitarist and Hate Eternal frontman Erik Rutan -- helming various tracks. That year the band was also hand-picked by Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel to perform at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival that he was curating in Minehead, England but were ultimately unable to appear due to scheduling issues. In 2012 a reissue collecting long out-of-print Mountain Goats cassettes surfaced on Shrimper. The collection gathered together 1992's The Hound Chronicles and 1993's Hot Garden Stomp.