John Grant began his career as frontman of the Czars, a Colorado-based band whose music split the difference between shoegaze, dream pop, and alternative country. Fueled by Grant's songwriting and rich baritone vocals, the band released a pair of independent albums in the '90s before signing with Bella Union, a British label run by two former members of the Cocteau Twins. The Czars established a small international audience during the new millennium, but albums like Before...But Longer and The Ugly People vs. the Beautiful People failed to attract a larger following, and the group ultimately broke up in 2004.
After the split, Grant moved to New York and began working as a sideman for bands like Midlake and the Flaming Lips. He also continued writing songs. In 2009, members of Midlake joined Grant in the recording studio, serving as his backup band during the creation of his first solo project. The resulting album -- a quirky, cynical record titled Queen of Denmark -- was released by Bella Union in 2010. Recorded in Reykjavik with Biggi Veira of Icelandic electro-pop outfit GusGus, Grant's sophomore solo outing, Pale Green Ghosts, arrived in 2013, followed by the concert album John Grant and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra: Live in Concert, the following year.
Having found a new home in Iceland, Grant further established himself there by co-writing Iceland's entry in the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest, "No Prejudice," which was performed by Pollapönk. That year, he also contributed his version of "Sweet Painted Lady" to the 40th anniversary edition of Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and appeared on Hercules & Love Affair's third album, Feast of the Broken Heart. For 2015's Grey Tickles, Black Pressure -- which took its name from the Icelandic term for "midlife crisis" and the Turkish phrase meaning "nightmare," respectively -- Grant collaborated with Tracey Thorn, Amanda Palmer, and former Siouxsie and the Banshees drummer Budgie. ~ Andrew Leahey