Sun Kil Moon is an American folk rock act from San Francisco, California, founded in 2002. Initially a continuation of the defunct indie rock band Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon is now the primary recording moniker of vocalist and guitarist Mark Kozelek. The project is named after the Korean lightweight boxer Sung-Kil Moon.
Following the delayed release of Red House Painters' final studio album, Old Ramon (2001), vocalist and guitarist Kozelek began recording new material under the name Sun Kil Moon with bandmates Jerry Vessel (bass) and Anthony Koutsos (drums). The resulting album, Ghosts of the Great Highway, was released in 2003 to widespread critical acclaim. The project's second studio album, Tiny Cities (2005), was composed entirely of Modest Mouse cover songs.
In 2008, the band released its third studio album, April. Recorded as a three-piece, with bass guitarist Geoff Stanfield joining Kozelek and Koutsos, the album was well received and featured guest vocal appearances from noted indie rock musicians Will Oldham and Ben Gibbard.
Inspired by classical guitar music, Kozelek recorded Sun Kil Moon's fourth studio album, Admiral Fell Promises (2010), as a solo act, and continued to record mostly alone on its follow-up, Among the Leaves (2012). In 2013, Kozelek released three studio albums under his own name before releasing Sun Kil Moon's sixth studio album, Benji, in February 2014, to widespread critical acclaim.
Following the dissolution of Red House Painters after the tumultuous release of their last album, Old Ramon, Kozelek released a handful of solo recordings before forming Sun Kil Moon in 2002. The band's debut album, Ghosts of the Great Highway, was released in November 2003 by Jetset Records. It contains several songs concerned with true-life stories of deceased boxers, such as Mexican featherweight champion Salvador Sánchez, Filipino flyweight champion Pancho Villa, and also Korean boxer Duk Koo Kim, all three boxers died at the age of 23. The album was well received by critics, garnering an overall rating of 84/100 on Metacritic.com.
The band's follow-up Tiny Cities was released in November 2005 on Kozelek's own label Caldo Verde Records. The album covers eleven songs by the indie/alternative group Modest Mouse. Ghosts of the Great Highway was re-issued as a double CD in February 2007 on Caldo Verde. The second disc features six bonus tracks, including a cover of "Somewhere" written by Leonard Bernstein.
Sun Kil Moon's third studio album April was released in April 2008 and features guest vocals from Will Oldham and Ben Gibbard. The album was issued as a double CD, featuring a bonus disc of alternate recordings of album tracks. The album was met with further critical acclaim, including a 4.5/5-star rating from Allmusic and 4-star reviews from Billboard, Mojo, The Boston Globe, and Drowned in Sound.
Admiral Fell Promises was released on July 13, 2010, and whilst credited to Sun Kil Moon, only Kozelek plays on the record, on nylon stringed guitar, and vocals.
Among The Leaves, Sun Kil Moon's fifth studio album, was released on May 29, 2012. Tim Mooney, the band's former drummer, died in June 2012.
In 2013, Mark Kozelek released three studio albums credited to his own name: a cover album, Like Rats, and two collaborative albums, Perils from the Sea and Mark Kozelek & Desertshore.
On September 26, 2013, Kozelek announced the forthcoming release of Sun Kil Moon's sixth studio album, Benji, which was released on February 4, 2014.
Kozelek is fascinated with the sport of boxing, which was the inspiration for the Sun Kil Moon moniker as well as several of their songs including the song Duk Koo Kim. According to Kozelek, "Their backgrounds are extremely harsh and they work very hard to move up in their careers. I was in attendance at the Manny Pacquiao-Agapito Sanchez fight in San Francisco in 2001. When I heard Sanchez was murdered shortly after, (actually, it was four years later) it had a profound effect on me. It hurts when anyone dies young, but when you see the backgrounds of these guys and the path they've taken to try to find some light in their lives, it hurts to see them die young." Duk Koo Kim was a Korean boxer who died after a nationally televised bout with Ray Mancini on November 13, 1982. Mancini is from Youngstown, Ohio, which is very close to Kozelek's hometown of Massillon. The triumph of the local hero soon turned into a tragedy that included the suicide death of both Kim's mother and the bout's referee, Richard Green.
The name Sun Kil Moon was inspired by that of boxer Moon Sung-Kil. One of the band's songs, Pancho Villa, is named after the famous Filipino boxer of the same name, and it mentions Salvador Sanchez and Benny Paret.