McCombs was born in Concord, California in 1977. He has led a nomadic existence for most of his adult life, moving from one city to the next, living in cars, on couches and at campsites. McCombs spent time developing his songwriting abilities in New York City, until the events of 9/11 (coupled with running out of money) sent him back, via Greyhound bus, to San Francisco, where he recorded his debut E.P., entitled Not the Way E.P.
It would be released by the small Baltimore-based Monitor Records in 2002. After relocating there, his first full-length album, A
, was released early the following year on Monitor in the U.S. and in Europe and the U.K. by 4AD. McCombs and his band spent much of 2003 and 2004 touring, performing everywhere from the All Tomorrow's Parties festival to house shows. McCombs otherwise divided his time amongst the Pacific Northwest, England and Baltimore. After a week of recording in Michigan, his second LP, PREfection
, arrived in spring 2005. Later that year, he decamped to Southern California to begin work on his third full-length, Dropping the Writ
, which was released on October 9, 2007, by Domino Records and later named one of Amazon.com’s Best Albums of 2007. Following a period in Chicago, he returned to California to record Catacombs
before its eventual U.S. release on July 7, 2009. The album was named one of the top 50 albums of 2009 by Pitchfork Media. His fifth LP, Wit's End
, was released by Domino on April 26, 2011. It was followed by another LP, entitled Humor Risk
and released on November 8, 2011 - less than 7 months after the release of his previous LP. Like Catacombs
and Wit's End
, it was produced by Ariel Rechtshaid and McCombs.He has performed or toured with Honeyboy Edwards, Mike Bones, Band of Horses, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, White Magic, Cat Power, The Anomoanon, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Andrew Bird, Blonde Redhead, Modest Mouse, Girls, Sleepy Doug Shaw, Beach House, The Decemberists, Arcade Fire, Peter Bjorn and John, Papercuts, Fiery Furnaces, José González, The Shins, Iron and Wine, Arboretum, Deerhoof, The Walkmen, John Webster Johns, Lightspeed Champion, The Donkeys, OXES, Gang Gang Dance, Convalescent Surprise, Frank Fairfield, Michael Hurley, Jana Hunter, Lower Dens, Thurston Moore, and Mt. Egypt.His songs have been featured in films such as Thomas Campbell's 2009 surf film The Present
and Ralph Arlyck documentary Following Sean
, as well as notable skate videos featuring Jason Dill, Jerry Hsu Chima Ferguson and Dylan Rieder. His song "Bobby, King of Boys Town" appeared in HBO show "Girls" (Season 2, Episode 9 - "On All Fours").McCombs has stated that his tombstone will read "Home At Last."