With a wild beard and oddball songs that display a fascination with everything from nature to the human body, Devendra Banhart emerged as one of the central figures in the “freak folk” movement of the 2000s — a loosely connected group of singer-songwriters who paired acoustic songs with vivid, surrealistic lyrics and idiosyncratic arrangements. Banhart’s albums are often charmingly childlike, filled with pianos, cellos, and handclaps, plus big doses of neo-hippie whimsy. But when he wants to, the Cali-based singer can also be a serious craftsman, and as the 2000s wore on he deployed his gorgeous vibrato and melodic skills with more and more focus.

Banhart was born in Texas, but he moved shortly thereafter with his mother to her home country of Venezuela. According to a 2006 interview, he wrote one of his first songs during this time period, “We’re All Going to Die,” as a response to the curious underground Venezuelan practice of having plastic surgery performed on pets. The family moved to California, upon the marriage of Banhart’s mother and stepfather, where Banhart quickly immersed himself in skate culture and developed a fondness for hip-hop. Banhart enrolled in the San Francisco Art Institute in 1998, but became quickly jaded by the experience.

While Living in San Francisco, Banhart was enlisted to play for friends at their wedding and began writing his own fanciful songs. From there a fruitful and decorated career spanning more than 8 studio albums took off in earnest, releasing via both Young God and XL to consistently high levels of critical acclaim.

While Living in San Francisco, Banhart was enlisted to play for friends at their wedding and began writing his own fanciful songs. From there a fruitful and decorated career spanning more than 8 studio albums took off in earnest, releasing via both Young God and XL to consistently high levels of critical acclaim.