They've made hits, gained an international following and sold millions of records. With a changing entertainment industry, 10,000 Maniacs have taken a 21st century approach for their first album since the 1990s.
During the band's 30th anniversary tour last year, fans from across the U.S. told keyboardist Dennis Drew what they wanted.
"People were always asking us, 'When are you going to make another record? Do you have any new songs? Play some new songs,'" he said, noting the band had begun recording music but hadn't finished much of it. "We started to realize, 'Maybe people would buy the record.'"
10,000 Maniacs haven't recorded an album in 13 years. With the support of their fans, the band plans to release a new record in January through PledgeMusic, an online, direct-to-fan music platform.
The band began gaining those fans after forming in Jamestown in the early 1980s. Founded by Drew, Rob Buck, Steve Gustafson, John Lombardo and Natalie Merchant, the band moved to Atlanta in 1981 in hopes of finding gigs. 10,000 Maniacs made connections in the music industry. However, band members slept on floors, and raked leaves and sold their plasma so they could eat.
"We were close to homeless," Gustafson told The Post-Journal this spring. "We were making rent, but we didn't have any furniture. We were eating pasta every night sort of living in this communal house."
The band eventually returned to Jamestown, and Jerry Augustyniak joined in 1983. By the end of that year, 10,000 Maniacs had produced two independently released records: "Human Conflict Number Five" and "Secrets of the I Ching" on their own Christian Burial Music label.
After signing with Elektra Records, the band released "The Wishing Chair" in 1985 and toured with R.E.M. Lombardo left the band following a European tour, and 10,000 Maniacs became a five-piece group.
The band's 1987 release, "In My Tribe," sold more than 2 million copies and peaked at No. 37 on the Billboard charts. The album featured hits "Don't Talk," "Hey Jack Kerouac," "Like The Weather" and "What's The Matter Here?" Rolling Stone named "In My Tribe" one of the 100 most important releases of the 1980s.
10,000 Maniacs made several national TV appearances in the late 1980s and released "Blind Man's Zoo" in 1989. The album, which included singles "Trouble Me" and "Eat For Two," peaked at No. 13 and went platinum.
With the release of "Our Time in Eden" in 1992, 10,000 Maniacs scored more hits with "Candy Everybody Wants" and "These Are Days."
The band then performed on "Saturday Night Live" and at Bill Clinton's "MTV Inaugural Ball."
"More people responded to this (Inaugural Ball) than anything we have ever done," Drew told The Post-Journal in 1993. "There was a whole lot of energy in (Washington). It was exciting to see the president come out. It was a highlight to be in the same room with him."
After appearing on "MTV Unplugged," 10,000 Maniacs packed the Chautauqua Institution Amphitheater in July 1993, as more than 5,500 people gathered.
Merchant left the band later that year to pursue a solo career. In 1994, Mary Ramsey stepped in, and Lombardo rejoined the band.
With Geffen Records, the new-look Maniacs released "Love Among the Ruins" in 1997. The album included a cover of Roxy Music's "More Than This," which became the band's highest-charting single, landing at No. 24 on the Billboard charts.
A year after the release of 1999's "The Earth Pressed Flat," tragedy struck when Buck, the band's founding guitarist, died of liver failure at age 42.
"Rob was such a writer," Drew said. "So many of the musical ideas from the Maniacs were really based around Rob's ideas, especially the signature 'What's the Matter Here?' 'These are Days' kind of sound that he had."
Buck had been named one of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time by Guitar Player Magazine.
The band took a three-year hiatus but returned with longtime friend and guitar tech Jeff Erickson and continued to tour.
"We've been back on the road for the last (several) years," Drew said. "Even if we're only doing six, 10, 12 shows a year, we've been getting around. We've been to California. We've been to Wisconsin, Florida. We've been around."
10,000 Maniacs - now made up of Erickson, Ramsey, Augustyniak, Drew and Gustafson - played more than 20 shows during their 30th anniversary tour in 2011. The celebration included a pair of concerts at Jamestown Community College, where the band formed.
"We're still having fun doing it," Gustafson said. "It's not like a job. We're still enjoying it."