The Ugliest Indie Feud of 2014

Sun Kil Moon's Mark Kozelek performing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in 2012.
Sun Kil Moon's Mark Kozelek performing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in 2012.

Let's assume you don't follow the indie-rock blogosphere. You may never have heard of Mark Kozelek or his project Sun Kil Moon. Think of him as like an acoustic guitar-playing, folkie version of Trent Reznor; he's a brilliant musician who performs under the name Sun Kil Moon. It's a "band" in the same sense Nine Inch Nails is a band, but at the end of the day, Sun Kil Moon is Mark Kozelek.

I used to be a fan of his, but I am no longer. If you don't know who Sun Kil Moon is, you likely don't know why that is, so here's a little background on exactly why Kozelek may be the most immature, idiotic person in the indie world and why I can no longer stomach even his older recordings.

It all started during a Sun Kil Moon set at this year's Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina, when the Ohio-born Kozelek became enraged over the crowd talking during his set. This is an understandable concern, but he exploded, telling them to "shut the fuck up" and calling them "fucking hillbillies."

I'm used to abusive musicians; I'm even a fan of many. But this reaction was uncalled for, and ironically funny considering Kozelek plays music that finds its roots in places like North Carolina, performed by people he'd probably describe as "hillbillies." But I digress. If this had been a one-off incident, I'd have forgotten it quickly.

It wasn't. First, he made a shirt with "all you fuckin' hillbillies shut the fuck up" printed on it, exacerbating the issue. He could have let it go. Instead, he tried to turn it into a joke and dug himself a deeper hole. This has become a recurring theme in Kozelek's life lately.

The War on Drugs' front man, Adam Granofsky
The War on Drugs' front man, Adam Granofsky
Photo by Dusdin Condrin/Courtesy of Secretly Canadian

Next, he was performing at the Ottawa Folk Festival when he overheard a band called The War on Drugs playing at the same time as him. Bleed-through is to be expected at festivals of this nature, and it irritated the apparently ornery Kozelek enough that he launched into a rant about them and their "beer commercial lead guitar shit." Then he made a joke about playing a song called "The War on Drugs Can Suck My Fucking Dick."

Again, relatively forgettable, normal incident among musicians. I've heard things like this a million times at shows. But Kozelek is never one to let something die.

After The War on Drugs, who were fans of Kozelek's as well, expressed sadness on Twitter over his comments, Kozelek issued a sort-of-kind-of apology. He explained he would have made the same jokes regardless of who was bleeding through into his set, but he said some nice things about them. At that point, it should have been over.

Instead, Kozelek freaked out immediately about this being reported as an apology and once again had a go at The War on Drugs. In his somewhat incoherent rant, he insulted the band all over again, then challenged them to play a song called "The War on Drugs: Suck My Cock/Sun Kil Moon: Go Fuck Yourself" with him.

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Fine. You might be saying to yourself at this point, sure, Kozelek was really dragging the joke out, but giving him the benefit of the doubt, it was still sort of tongue-in-cheek. Remember, The War on Drugs still had yet to comment back on all of this. It was purely Kozelek ranting to himself about it, like a mental patient screaming in an empty room.

But apparently, The War on Drugs did not respond to the "challenge" fast enough for Kozelek, who recorded the song "War on Drugs: Suck My Cock" by himself. It was a petty, childish move filled with insults toward the band and the aforementioned "fucking hillbillies."

And for what? With the joke firmly beyond stale, Kozelek was slinging mud for no reason than meaningless self-satisfaction. Was his ego that badly damaged by the fact that they weren't giving him attention through all this bullshit?

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It just got worse. Adam Granofsky finally responded to Kozelek, taking the highest road possible after all the shit Kozelek had talked, while also explaining some of the facts of the situation that Kozelek had purposely left out.

See, apparently he did actually send his PR guy to ask The War on Drugs to accept the "challenge." They did accept the challenge. Then he told them the offer had expired and recorded the stupid, immature dis track by himself. God knows why, but even when The War on Drugs graciously accepted playing a dis track Kozelek had written about them, it wasn't good enough for him. He needed to talk more shit.

The Ugliest Indie Feud of 2014
Photo by Dusdin Condrin/Courtesy of Secretly Canadian

So we reach the latest chapter in this saga: Kozelek has recorded another song, reading Granofsky's comments and cackling. If anyone needed a reminder, and it seems very appropriate to bring it up at this juncture, Kozelek is a 47-year-old man.

Why anyone would have time for this crap, I have no idea. Why Kozelek, a decently successful musician and ostensibly an adult, would need to engage in this, I have no idea. It is pathetic, long past the point of being a joke, and bordering on deranged obsession.

So where does that leave fans like myself? Getting off the train, at least in my case. I'm willing to give a lot of leeway to musicians, and I like to separate artists from their art for the most part because lots of them are assholes. Kanye West is a prime example. But Kanye didn't continue to dog Taylor Swift for weeks after bum-rushing the stage during her acceptance speech at the Video Music Awards. He apologized and moved on.

Kozelek seemingly simply can't move on from whatever perceived slight The War on Drugs made against him, and it's sad. It is sad, immature and annoying. I find myself, at least for now, unable to listen to his music without thinking about the ridiculous cackle during his "Adam Granofsky Blues."

It makes me sad to say it, but for the time being, I'm done with Sun Kil Moon's music. I'm sure I'm not the only one, either. Hopefully, Kozelek comes to his senses soon so we can at least enjoy his music again, even if he may never be the most agreeable person in the world.


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