The Innocence Mission

The Innocence Mission is an indie folk band composed of Karen Peris (née McCullough), her husband (and fellow guitarist) Don Peris, and Mike Bitts (on bass guitar). The band was formed in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, when the members met during a Catholic school production of Godspell.[1] Although all members of the band have contributed to their music, Karen Peris is their main writer.

The Innocence Mission
Background information
OriginLancaster, Pennsylvania, United States
GenresAlternative rock, indie pop, dream pop, orchestral folk
Years active1989–present
Associated actsSufjan Stevens, Joni Mitchell, Natalie Merchant, Denison Witmer, The Ocean Blue
MembersKaren Peris
Don Peris
Mike Bitts
Past membersSteve Brown


Before being signed to a record label, the band originally played local clubs, events and at Lancaster Catholic High School (the alma mater of the band members).[2] Their self-titled debut album was released in 1989 on A&M Records and was produced by Larry Klein, then-husband of Joni Mitchell. Recorded in Mitchell's Los Angeles studio, the album spent 10 weeks on the Billboard charts, peaking at #167 in 1990.[3] Klein also produced their 1991 follow up, Umbrella.

Their third A&M album, Glow (1995), was produced by Dennis Herring, who had previously produced two records for Camper Van Beethoven. This album is a departure from Klein's heavier production style. Herring's lighter touch gave more emphasis to the group's guitar work and to Karen's vocals and lyrics. Glow contains songs that appear on the soundtracks of the films Empire Records and Dream for an Insomniac, as well as the television series Party of Five. The album's second track, "Bright as Yellow," peaked at #33 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks.[4] After the band completed the recording of a follow-up album to Glow, A&M Records was bought by Universal Music Group. The group decided to mutually part ways with the label, shortly before it was merged with other companies to form Interscope-Geffen-A&M.

1999's Birds of My Neighborhood inaugurated The Innocence Mission as they are today, following three albums as a quartet that drew comparisons to The Sundays and 10,000 Maniacs. When drummer Steve Brown left to become a chef, Karen Peris (guitars, piano, pump organ, accordion, voice), Don Peris (guitars, drums, voice) and Mike Bitts (upright bass) forged ahead with an orchestral and sometimes cinematic folk-pop sound, which they felt was truer to their real nature – in any case, a sound rich in atmosphere, innately sad, but ultimately hopeful. The album was followed by the release of The Lakes of Canada EP, which contains a remix of "Snow" by Icelandic electronic group GusGus, the band's only remix thus far.

The 2000 release, Christ Is My Hope, featuring folk songs and hymns that had inspired them over the years, was independently distributed by their own label, LAMP, with all proceeds from sales of the record being donated to hunger relief charities. An exclusive one-album deal signed with independent label WhatAreRecords? saw Small Planes following a year later.

Their first album on Badman Records in the US and Agenda in Europe, Befriended, was released in 2003 and was followed a year later by a collection of lullabies, standards, traditional and classical songs called Now the Day Is Over. Recorded over two weeks in August 2004, the album contained their well-known cover of Henry Mancini's "Moon River."[5] Badman Records acquired license to re-master and re-issue the then-out-of-print Birds of My Neighborhood album in 2006.

We Walked in Song was released in 2007 and included the song "Brotherhood of Man", which appeared in two acclaimed films: the documentary The Human Experience and the short film Weathered, starring Tony Hale and Nicole Parker, which also featured a new version of the song "Our Harry". Also on this album are "Happy Birthday" and closing song "Over the Moon", both of which are featured in the Julia Roberts film Fireflies in the Garden.

On June 6, 2008, "Bright as Yellow" was played as the official NASA wake-up call for the crew of Space Shuttle mission STS-124 on flight day 7.[6]

Street Map was released in December 2008 and was the second record to be distributed independently on their own LAMP label, while their eighth studio album, My Room in the Trees, was released on July 13, 2010. Their ninth studio album, Hello I Feel the Same, was released on October 17, 2015,[7] followed by Sun on the Square in 2018.[8] Their next studio album, See You Tomorrow, is due for release on January 17, 2020.[9]

Don Peris has recorded four solo albums: Ten Silver Slide Trombones (2001), the mostly instrumental Go When the Morning Shineth (2006), which features a vocal contribution from Karen Peris on "North Atlantic Sand", and an instrumental solo guitar album, Brighter Visions Beam Afar (2007), which raised money for local food banks. His fourth studio album, The Old Century, was released on May 7, 2013. Karen Peris released her first solo album, Violet, on December 3, 2012.[10] The ten-song album was performed mainly on piano, and features six instrumental compositions. Don Peris appears as guitarist on two songs, while the couple's two children performed violin and viola on a further two songs.[11] A version of the album containing two bonus tracks, "First Days in the City" and "Getting Here", was released in Japan through P-Vine Records on May 15, 2013.[12][13]

Sufjan Stevens calls The Innocence Mission "moving and profound"[14], adding, “What makes Karen Peris’ lyrics so remarkable is the economy of words, sensory language, concrete nouns – everyday objects take on tremendous meaning.”[15]


Film and Television

Guest Recordings


  1. Boehm, Mike (April 13, 1996). "Innocence Regained : Cacophony Was Silenced When the Mission of Dreamy, Intelligent Introspection Was Heard". LA Times. Tribune Company. Retrieved September 1, 2013.
  2. Rea, Steven (December 18, 1987). "Innocence Mission Is Catching On". Philadelphia Media Network. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
  3. "The Innocence Mission - Album Chart History". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
  4. "The Innocence Mission - Singles Chart History". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
  5. "The Innocence Mission: Lullabies for All Ages". NPR. February 5, 2005. Retrieved September 1, 2013.
  6. "STS-124 Wakeup Calls". Audio Wakeup Call Index. NASA. Retrieved November 27, 2015.
  7. "The Innocence Mission - Hello I Feel The Same". Bandcamp. Retrieved September 14, 2015.
  8. Gray, Julia (June 22, 2018). "Stream The Innocence Mission's New Album Sun On The Square". Stereogum. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  9. Rettig, James (October 29, 2019). "The Innocence Mission Announce New Album, Share "On Your Side": Listen". Stereogum. Retrieved October 29, 2019.
  10. " Violet: Karen Peris". January 16, 2013.
  11. "the innocence mission - Violet - Karen Peris". Retrieved April 21, 2013.
  12. "Violet - P-VINE, Inc". P-Vine Records. Retrieved September 1, 2013.
  13. "iTunes - Karen Peris - Violet". iTunes Japan. Retrieved September 1, 2013.
  14. "NPR: All Songs Considered: The Perfect Song: Artist Picks". Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  15. "NPR: All Songs Considered: The Perfect Song: Artist Picks". Retrieved 2018-04-17.
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