Before Bon Iver became one of the most beloved acts in indie rock, Justin Vernon was just a guy making music with three Wisconsin high school friends under the moniker DeYarmond Edison (his two middle names). The group’s eight-year existence from 1998-2006 was little-known in real time but will be chronicled in grand fashion this summer on the five-LP, four-CD, 83-song box set Epoch, arriving on Aug. 18 from Jagjaguwar.
Vernon, multi-instrumentalist brothers Phil and Brad Cook, and drummer Joe Westerlund met in 1997 at the Neil Young- and Beck-headlined H.O.R.D.E festival and released two albums of sensitive, atmospheric folk rock songs: a 2004 self-titled effort and the following year’s Silent Signs. In search of fresh inspiration and a new musical direction, the members moved to Raleigh, N.C., on Aug. 1, 2005, but broke up a year later amid creative and personal issues.
Vernon returned to Wisconsin and recorded Bon Iver’s 2007 breakthrough album For Emma, Forever Ago, while the Cooks and Westerlund formed Megafaun and earned acclaim amid the era’s experimental folk scene. The members remain dear friends and have frequently collaborated in the years since, but haven’t fully revealed their backstories until now.
Two songs from Epoch are out today digitally for the first time: DeYarmond Edison’s “As Long As I Can Go,” and Phil Cook and Justin Vernon’s previously unreleased “Feel the Light.” A new lyric video is also out for “Bones” from Silent Signs, which is the group’s only album currently available for streaming.
Epoch begins with All of Us Free, which spans the band’s earliest 1998 recordings to the period in July 2005 just before its move to North Carolina. It also includes the remastered vinyl debut of Silent Signs, an expanded edition of the once MySpace-only Epoch EP with tracks from DeYarmond Edison’s Raleigh period, Vernon’s pre-For Emma solo release hazeltons, and Where We Belong, which gathers the first Megafaun rehearsal and recordings from various DeYarmond Edison reunions after Bon Iver became Vernon’s primary outlet.
The CDs on Epoch comprise rare live recordings from DeYarmond Edison’s monthly residency at the Bickett Gallery and a 2006 concert back in its Wisconsin home base. A 114-page book from Epoch executive producer and journalist Grayson Haver Currin rounds out the package, which can be pre-ordered here.
Meanwhile, Bon Iver will tour Europe and North America this summer and is working on its first album since 2019’s I, I.