One of the seminal figures in the San Francisco garage punk and lo-fi communities, Mike Donovan first attracted attention outside the Bay Area with his noisy, psych-leaning project the Sic Alps, founded in 2004. He also founded two independent labels, worked with a number of other bands, and launched a solo career where he has explored low-key acoustic material (2013's Wot) and experimental keyboard-based soundscapes (2018's How to Get Your Record Played in Shops).
Born on October 6, 1971, Donovan grew up in Illinois, and sang in a band called Noise with his friends when he was a preteen. He began playing guitar when he was 18, and while attending community college in DuPage, Illinois, he made friends with a guy who worked at a record store and introduced him to bands like the Fall, Can, and the Flaming Lips.
After enrolling at the University of Maryland, Donovan started attending shows in Washington, D.C., and became a fan of the band the Ropers. When the Ropers lost their drummer, Donovan took over behind the traps, and appeared on their final EP, 1997's The World Is Fire, as well as joining them for a U.S. tour.
One of the best-received shows on the Ropers' tour was in San Francisco, and when the group split up, Donovan opted to move there. After settling in the Bay Area, he made his way into the local music scene, launching an indie label called Dial Records and performing with the bands Delevelum and Mesh.
In 2004, Adam Stonehouse from the Hospitals relocated to San Francisco, and he and Donovan decided to put together a group. The band proved to be the Sic Alps, who became a mainstay on the S.F. garage/noise scene, staying together in one form or another until 2013, releasing four albums with Donovan as the sole constant. While working with the Sic Alps, Donovan also recorded and played with a variety of side projects, including the Church Steps, Big Techno Werewolves, Yikes, and Sounds of the Barbary Coast. He also closed down Dial Records and started a new label, Folding Cassettes, saying the tape format made it easier for him to put out short-run releases of bands he enjoyed.
While Donovan made a handful of limited-edition cassette releases in 2003 and 2004, after the breakup of the Sic Alps he made his proper solo debut with the 2013 album Wot. In 2015, Donovan introduced a new band, the Peacers, which briefly featured fellow Bay Area garage punk notable Ty Segall. The Peacers released their self-titled debut album in 2015, and a second LP, Introducing the Crimsmen, followed in 2017. During downtime from the Peacers, Donovan recorded a second solo album, a collection of experimental lo-fi keyboard pieces titled How to Get Your Record Played in Shops, which was released by Drag City in April 2018. ~ Mark Deming