Mark Kozelek has released his track “War On Drugs: Suck My Cock”

Mark Kozelek photo by Bill Ellison; Adam Granduciel of The War on Drugs photo by Dusdin Condren

Mark Kozelek photo by Bill Ellison; Adam Granduciel of The War on Drugs photo by Dusdin Condren

To best depict Mark Kozelek’s reasoning behind writing a song that was aimed to diss a Philadelphia band – who delivered one of the year’s most highly regarded albums – is a story best told chronologically.

Let’s kick off with Kozelek’s Sept. 5th performance at Lincoln Theatre during Raleigh’s Hopscotch Music Festival. Currently, Kozelek is still operating his live shows behind his early 2014 release, Benji, which is an 11-song arrangement that stirs a deep vulnerability with its listeners over the subject of his life’s experiences with love and death. (It’s a remarkably personal album that is largely considered one of the year’s best, as well.) Mid-set, he felt the audience was being overly chatty and turned to insult the crowd, calling out, “everybody – all you fuckin’ hillbillies – shut the fuck up.” Indy Week linked to audio from his show via an Instagram post that was matched with an attendee’s chalk art saying “Sun Kil Moon Go Fuck Yourself.” (Sun Kil Moon is the stage moniker Kozelek has gone by since 2002 and the same one Benji was published under.)

To commemorate this night, Kozelek announced four days later that his label would be selling t-shirts that would read “All You Fuckin’ Hillbillies Shut The Fuck Up.” They are available for order here for $18.

The next instance came on Sept. 14th during the Ottawa Folk Festival. According to Exclaim’s review of that night, Kozelek was strumming through songs off Benji, soon reaching “Dogs” before tripping over a few false starts. From the main stage was the ongoing performance by the War On Drugs, a sizably louder show whose sound was bleeding over Kozelek’s own. This triggered Kozelek to address the crowd, asking, “Who the fuck is that?” When the audience shouted back to inform him it was the War On Drugs, he replied, “I hate that beer commercial lead-guitar shit” before introducing his next song as “The War On Drugs Can Suck My Fucking Dick.” Kozelek’s spats towards the main stage didn’t stop there, as he also referred to them as “John Cougar Mellencamp.”

Mark Kozelek during his Ottawa Folk Festival performance // photo by Kamara Morozuk

Mark Kozelek during his Ottawa Folk Festival performance // photo by Kamara Morozuk

The following day, the War On Drugs took to Twitter to inquire about Kozelek’s comments. They said:

In condolences to his on-stage words, Kozelek then took to his Sun Kil Moon site to deliver this apology:

To War On Drugs from Mark Kozelek in regards to Ottawa:

I had never heard of your band prior to taking the stage in Ottawa the other night. But to give you an idea of how bad the bleed was, my drummer said that it would have been easier for him to play along to your set than ours. It could have been any band’s music blaring from over the hill, and I still would have made jokes.

I hope to catch your set someday when it’s not drowning out my own. The schedule wasn’t your fault — I get it. That was my third rodeo with The Ottawa “Bleed” Fest. They’re still figuring things out over there. I hope they get it together someday.

Peace and all the best,
-Mark Kozelek

Figuratively, the battle would stop there, right? Not under Kozelek’s terms. He took to his Sun Kil Moon site again to revoke his previous apology and issue a new challenge:

To Pitchfork, Stereogum, and anyone reading this: I did not apologize to “War On Drugs.” I gave them an explanation of the events that lead to my comments. I do not, and will not, apologize for stage banter. I was just letting WOD know that it wasn’t personal.

There is an epidemic of people being ‘offended’ by things as some kind of hobby. Anyone offended by the “H” word needs to be glad their country isn’t being invaded by missiles. Rock-A-Billy is still a genre of music so spare me your whining about “Hillbilly” being offensive.

War On Drugs. Due to all of the fuss, I checked out your live track on Pitchfork, and I called it right. You sound like Don Henley meets John Cougar meets Dire Straits meets “Born In The USA” era Bruce Springsteen. It’s not a criticism, it’s an observation.

I challenge War On Drugs to let me join them onstage and play a hilarious song I’ve written called: “War On Drugs: Suck My Cock/Sun Kil Moon: Go Fuck Yourself” at the Fillmore, October 6th, provided they let me handle the beer commercial lead guitar.

I don’t have Twitter or Facebook ( I make albums) so if you’re interested in having a laugh with me onstage, contact my publicist Robert Vickers.

-Mark Kozelek

This letter has since been removed, however, his proposal for an on-stage collaboration still stood apart from the War On Drugs dismissal of every statement he has directed their way. Instead, on October 6th at 9 p.m. PST – at the approximate time the War On Drugs would take stage at the Fillmore – Kozelek released the track “War On Drugs: Suck My Cock” for free download.

Kozelek has bandwagoned a lot of new critics over his past month’s public behavior – some positive, some negative. Stereogum wrote an essay titled “Mark Kozelek, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” around the same time Perfect Pussy’s lead singer Meredith Graves released a lengthy piece which shunned his behavior, called “Sun Kil Moon Yells At Cloud: “War On Drugs: Suck My Cock” and the Language of Male Violence.” Fellow musical artist Tom Krell, aka How to Dress Well, took stake with Kozelek stating a mutual understanding for frustration during shows and why audiences should be reciprocative to the music they’re performing live.

Have a listen to “War On Drugs: Suck My Cock” here. Or if you’re looking for the free download, click here.

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