While pursuing his music degree at Lawrence University in Appleton, WI., Schaaf had the opportunity to open for Michael Tapper's then project Bishop Allen, for whom he played drums at the time. The two musicians made a connection, and when Schaaf moved to Brooklyn at the same time as Tapper in 2010, they decided to perform together officially under the Yellow Ostrich name. The first release of Yellow Ostrich as a duo came with the third album under the moniker, 2011's The Mistress; which featured the single "Whale." The song picked up support from stations such as KEXP and NPR, attracting a new audience to the band. After the release of the album, the band enlisted multi-instrumentalist Jon Natchez to flesh out the song's layered production live on stage. Natchez provided bass, percussion and trumpet; and would become a permanent member of the band in 2012, following the release of the fourth Yellow Ostrich album, Strange Land.
The album was released through Barsuk Records, an independent Seattle label; marking the first Yellow Ostrich album to be released through a label. A 6-track EP, Ghost, was also released in 2012. January 2013 saw the band release a free live album, recorded at the Bowery Ballroom in New York in November 2012, via the band's Bandcamp page. That same month saw the band play for the first time as a four-piece, including new guitarist Jared Van Fleet (formerly of Voxtrot) and fill-in bassist Zach Rose. In June, Natchez announced his departure from Yellow Ostrich to pursue solo work and his continued touring with David Byrne & St.
Vincent. Both Van Fleet and Rose were introduced as full-time members of the band. The only album to be released with this iteration of lineup, entitled Cosmos, was released in February 2014. It would also serve as the fifth and final Yellow Ostrich record. On November 7, 2014 the band announced their final show would be December 8, 2014.
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