High school friends Ben Crum (b. 12 January 1974, Huntsville, Alabama, USA; guitar, vocals) and Dan Donahue (b. 9 February 1974, Menasha, Wisconsin, USA; lyricist) began writing songs together in 1990, bonding over their love of 60s psychedelic pop. After meeting Jamey Huggins (b. USA; drums, keyboards, vocals) the trio moved to Athens, Georgia, USA where they came together for their first live performances under the Great Lakes name in 1996. They shared many of the same influences as those acts that were part of the town’s Elephant 6 scene and logically, their first major break came when Apples In Stereo’s Robert Schneider agreed to mix and master their 2000 self-titled Kindercore debut. It was a charming, delicately performed minor psychedelic classic that owed much to late period Zombies and Sunflower - era Beach Boys. While Crum’s vocals recalled the delivery of Sam Coomes from Quasi, it was Great Lakes’ whimsical, dreamlike approach that set them apart from the sometimes harsh and abrasive production methods adopted by the Portland, Oregon duo.
Released after the collapse of Kindercore, and essentially a collection of singles and rarities, 2002’s The Distance Between, was an eclectic set, and further proof that Great Lakes were not afraid to wear their influences on their sleeve. Their obsession with the Zombies’ 1968 magnum opus Odessey & Oracle reached fruition with a faithful and moving cover of ‘This Will Be Our Year’, while a version of Michael Nesmith’s ‘Some Of Shelley’s Blues’ betrayed their previously hidden love of country rock.
During this period Donahue stepped into the shadows, preferring to concentrate on lyric writing and artwork than live performance. By the release of 2006’s mature and organic Diamond Times, Huggins had left the band to concentrate on his work with fellow Athens, Georgia act Of Montreal. He went on to record witty slices of lo-fi pop under the solo moniker, James Husband, flitting between Athens and Stockholm, Sweden while Crum and Donahue relocated to Brooklyn, New York. By 2007, Great Lakes had included no less than 25 different musicians as part of their live set up. Their tour in support to Diamond Times featured Kyle Forester, a bass player who in the same year also joined Crum in fleshing out Brooklyn’s Ladybug Transistor.