While they claimed in nearly all their interviews that their conceptual starting point was the folk music of Bolivia, Bombadil's frolicsome take on indie pop shares much more in common with the cutesier side of the Elephant 6 stable (early Of Montreal, etc.) and indie label Kindercore Records. They released their first album, A Buzz, A Buzz, in 2008. Bombadil continued to release albums regularly through a series of setbacks including lineup changes and health issues, with constant member Daniel Michalak remaining at the helm. In the meantime making fans of other alternative songwriters, 2013's Metrics of Affection and 2015's Hold On featured R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe on trumpet, and the group's sixth long-player, 2017's Fences, was produced by John Vanderslice.
Bassist/keyboardist Daniel Michalak and guitarist Bryan Rahija really did hatch the initial idea of the band — named for the J.R.R. Tolkien character Tom Bombadil — and began writing songs together while spending a semester abroad in Bolivia. In the early days, Bombadil's on-stage costumes included an approximation of itinerant Bolivian folk musicians. Students at Duke University, Michalak and Rahija returned to North Carolina and added a mutual friend, multi-instrumentalist Stuart Robinson, and Michalak's younger brother, drummer John Michalak.
After a live demo recorded at a campus concert got the band signed to local indie Ramseur Records, a self-titled EP saw release in 2006. A heavy touring schedule combined with academic requirements caused John Michalak to leave the band prior to the recording of its full-length debut; he was replaced by James Phillips. Bombadil's first album, A Buzz, A Buzz, arrived in April of 2008. Tarpits & Canyonlands followed in 2009.
The group was on hiatus for parts of 2009 and 2010 due to Daniel Michalak suffering from a recurring nerve condition in his hands that left him unable to play for periods of time. With Michalak's health improving, All That the Rain Promises arrived in 2011, with Metrics of Affection following in the mid-2013. Rahija left the official lineup soon thereafter, and a fifth long-player was written as a trio and recorded with guests including Rahija on guitar and ukulele and Michael Stipe, who had also appeared on one track of Metrics of Affection, on trumpet. Shortly before the heartache-themed Hold On was released in March 2015, the band announced that Robinson was leaving to pursue other interests and would not be joining the promotional tour.
Michalak and Phillips regrouped with guitarist Stacy Harden and, still with Ramseur, released Fences in 2017. It featured production by John Vanderslice, who claimed to take a light hand to their songs and acoustic performances. The same trio lineup returned in 2019 for the band's seventh album, Beautiful Country, which was produced, recorded, and mixed by Scott Solter (The Mountain Goats, John Vanderslice). ~ Stewart Mason & Marcy Donelson