Chicago indie-rock outfit I Rowboat was led by singer/guitarist Eric Johnson--not to be confused with the guitar god, the Archers of Loaf member or any of the multitudes of other Eric Johnsons littered throughout pop music history, this particular Johnson was born and raised in the Windy City suburb of Naperville, teaching himself guitar and banjo as a teen. Upon moving to Chicago in 1996 he accepted a desk job with the Old Town School of Folk Music, later teaching classes on subjects ranging from Syd Barrett to Skip Spence. Johnson formed I Rowboat with fellow Naperville products Dan Strack on guitar and Brian Belval on drums--drawing inspiration from the Velvet Underground and the Modern Lovers, the group built a small fanbase but never managed to earn much attention within the crowded Chicago music scene. However Johnson, Strack and Belval also mounted a folk-inspired side project, the Fruit Bats, that was shelved when Johnson went on tour with Califone. I Rowboat quietly dissolved, but in mid-2001 the Fruit Bats recorded their debut LP, Echolocation; only Johnson remained from the original line-up for the follow-up, the 2003 Sub Pop release Mouthfuls.
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