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Neutral Milk Hotel’s Julian Koster Accused of Grooming, Sexual Assault

Anna “Nesey” Gallons, a musician who has been associated with the Athens, Georgia-based Elephant 6 collective since the 2000s, made an Instagram post on July 9 accusing Neutral Milk Hotel bassist Julian Koster of grooming her as a teenager and sexually assaulting her.

“I began to communicate by telephone and correspond via email with Julian Koster routinely in early Y2K at age 15, each exchange gradually becoming more intimate, though seemingly innocent,” Gallons wrote. “He imparted the notion that our connection was like none he had ever known. … He invited me to visit him in New York, had no qualms letting me have cannabis and stare dreamily into his eyes. Less than a year later, in April 2001, about six weeks before I turned 17, that relationship became sexual. This, by all common definitions, constitutes ‘grooming.’” She alleged further that he assaulted her twice in the summer of 2005.

In a statement posted on Instagram on July 11, Koster conceded the basic details of their past relationship, which he characterized as consensual, but strongly denied any assault occurred. “This is painful and scary to share,” Koster wrote. “I have been the victim of intimidation, manipulation, and abuse by Nesey Gallons for many years. Nesey’s recent statements are part of a campaign against me, which is documented in thousands of disturbing, abusive, and obsessive messages.”

Koster continued: “Nesey and I entered a consensual relationship in 2001, which continued until 2008. When the relationship began I was 28 and Nesey was 16, just before her 17th birthday. Though this put her over Georgia’s legal age of consent when our relationship began, it was wrong to allow the relationship to happen at all and I’ve apologized to Nesey many times for that. I should have been more responsible about the age gap, but I deny all the other accusations she’s made.”

In her initial posts, Gallons wrote that she kept the alleged assaults a secret and supported Koster’s career, but that Koster distanced himself from her in late 2008. “I felt compelled to protect my friends in the [Elephant 6] community and our fans, holding to that until 2020 when the first utterances of this story escaped my shattered lips in any capacity that named names, and was quickly silenced once I was approached with the possibility of reconciliation, and then erased by his eager PR team,” Gallons wrote.

She added that she did get some support from members of the Elephant 6 community, which includes Neutral Milk Hotel as one of its key acts. She also asked Neutral Milk Hotel frontman Jeff Mangum in the post why he didn’t speak out.

“The point of this is to find peace and move on,” Gallons wrote. “I’m so done with this nonsense, and ready [to] start living.”

Koster’s statement presented a very different version of recent events, which he characterized as a manipulative and abusive pattern of behavior by Gallons and her spouse. He alleged that his efforts “to listen to [Gallons] and acknowledge the pain that she feels” have led to “increasingly disturbing behavior on the part of both Nesey and [her spouse], including thousands of threatening and manipulative messages, which are meant to punish me for not agreeing to what they want. In these messages, they’ve demanded that I be in a romantic relationship with them, marry Nesey, move in with them away from my friends and family, finance their living expenses, and let them control me, emotionally, physically, and sexually. They have repeatedly threatened to harm me or themselves if I do not ‘obey’ them…. I have lived in fear for years and I am no longer able to tolerate being abused and controlled.”

Koster added that he is seeking an order of protection against both of the Gallons.

In an Instagram comment posted shortly after Koster’s statement, Gallons wrote: “Sigh. I need a gallon of coffee before I can possibly say anything about that disappointing rubbish.”

Neutral Milk Hotel began as a solo project for Mangum, whose 1996 debut, On Avery Island, was part of the first wave of Elephant 6 releases. Koster joined the band for 1998’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, playing instruments including banjo and singing saw; on the tour for that album, he played bass. The album became a cult phenomenon that far outpaced anything else in the Elephant 6 universe, routinely cited as an influence by other indie-rock acts and ultimately landing on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. After Mangum’s abrupt withdrawal from public life following the album’s release, Koster continued making music with other Elephant 6 projects. When Neutral Milk Hotel reunited in 2013, he toured alongside his Aeroplane-era bandmates Mangum, Scott Spillane, and Jeremy Barnes.

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In a statement, Robert Schneider, a founding Elephant 6 member who produced both of Neutral Milk Hotel’s albums, said, “I am shocked by Nesey’s account. I don’t have personal knowledge of the details of her account since we met later and Elephant 6 had dissolved by the time of the events. There is no place in the Elephant 6 community for abuse.”

In response to a comment in which the poster said they found Koster’s music inspirational, Gallons agreed. “My love for Julian has simultaneously been life saving and been killing me, despite some of his actions there is no denying he has a beautiful mind and soul, and creates beautiful inspiring art,” she wrote. “The dark parts complicate things but nothing can change the reality that he is truly luminous. No one in the world has ever loved him more than I have and still do.”

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