Over the next two years, the group toured and refined its lineup, adding multi-instrumentalist Gillian Lisee to the fold while embracing more elements of pop and experimental rock. In 2002, Fruit Bats signed with Sub Pop and released their sophomore effort, Mouthfuls, the following spring. Two years later, having relocated to Seattle and expanded to a quartet, the band released Spelled in Bones. The album continued moving away from the folk-rock foundation of Echolocation, although elements of that rootsy sound remained.
Following the release of Spelled in Bones, Johnson took a break from Fruit Bats to serve as a sideman for several other bands, including the Shins and Vetiver. He reconvened the group in 2008, having revised the lineup to include Christopher Sherman, Ron Lewis, Graeme Gibson, and Sam Wagster. The band returned to Chicago to record at Clava, the same studio that housed the sessions for Echolocation, and emerged with 2009's The Ruminant Band.
After The Ruminant Band, Johnson began devoting more time to scoring independent films (among them Our Idiot Brother, Ceremony, and Smashed), and 2011's Tripper reflected the more stripped-down approach of his movie work, with Johnson handling most of the instruments himself. In November 2013, Johnson announced that he was retiring Fruit Bats, releasing a statement that noted "it's been a long run and time for a change." However, after less than two years of working under his own name, which included the eponymous EDJ LP, he re-embraced his more familiar moniker, posting on social media in May 2015 that he intended to release a new Fruit Bats album. A tour with My Morning Jacket followed, and Absolute Loser arrived in the spring of 2016 via Easy Sound Recording Company, with Johnson as the only official bandmember. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi