Long Fin Killie's core line-up consisted of Luke Sutherland (vocals, violin, guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, saxophone, hammer dulcimer, thumb piano, etc.), Colin Greig (electric and upright bass), David Turner (drums/percussion), and Philip Cameron (electric guitar). Sutherland had previously been in a band called Fenn, based in Glasgow, who played many support gigs, including Ride and Catherine Wheel. Their name was taken from a family of ornamental freshwater fishes known as killifishes, noted for their interesting drought survival and reproductive habits.
The members were all highly trained, enabling them to create complex, atypical music which usually featured hypnotically-bowed violins/celli, jazz-influenced drumming, and meandering ambient passages. Allmusic cited them as having "staggering levels of musicianly talent". Vocalist Luke Sutherland often delivered his cryptic, highly literate lyrics in an androgynous falsetto voice.
Their debut EP Buttergut was released in 1994, with debut album Houdini following the next year. The band's sound, though diverse, was influenced by the likes of dream pop mainstays A R Kane, Cocteau Twins, and Slowdive, 1970s German krautrock groups like Can, and labelmates Moonshake, Pram and Laika. Mark E. Smith of The Fall contributed "guest rants" to the song "The Heads of Dead Surfers," which appeared in 1995 on the EP of the same name, as well as on Houdini. (Listeners to British DJ John Peel's radio show voted this the No. 10 best song of 1995 in the "Festive Fifty" list of that year.) LFK toured America in 1995 with the band Medicine; a split EP was released to promote it.
The band received widespread critical acclaim, but little to no radio play, though they did tour on the 1996 edition of Lollapalooza as part of its "second stage," in support of their 1996 second LP Valentino. While driving from Sweden to Norway in late 1996, the band's tour bus was involved in a major accident on a patch of ice, causing Sutherland to suffer a collapsed lung, broken ribs and collar bone, and other injuries. He began writing his first novel while recuperating from the crash. In 1997, Turner was replaced by Kenny McEwan on drums. Subsequent album Amelia (1998) featured songs of shorter lengths and more conventional structures, but it proved to be their last. The group disbanded shortly afterwards, to little mainstream notice, in 1998 or 1999.
- All of their albums had one-word titles honouring public icons who died at early ages: Escape artist Harry Houdini, actor Rudolph Valentino, and pilot Amelia Earhart, respectively.
- Their releases almost all featured intricate woodcut-style graphic design; Valentino used woodcuts by 16th-century printmaker Albrecht Dürer.
Following the break-up, the former members of the band moved on to other projects. Sutherland helmed the slightly more accessible group Bows, which has released its albums on Too Pure. Sutherland now lives in London and has written the novels Jelly Roll (described by L.S. as "vaguely autobiographical"; Anchor, 1998), Sweetmeat (Anchor, 2002), and Venus As A Boy (Bloomsbury, 2004). He has also played violin with fellow Scottish band Mogwai. He is currently in the band Music A.M.
Greig now lives in Stockholm, Sweden, and runs the independent record label Cocohippo. He also performs his own music under the moniker Wilma Cakebread. Turner lives in London and records his own music under the name disco haircut astronaut.
- Houdini (1995, Too Pure/ American) (PURE 47) End of CD has hidden 4.5-minute track with hammer dulcimer/ gamelan-style instrumentation
- Valentino (1996, Too Pure/ American/ Warner Bros.) (PURE 54)
- Amelia (1997/98, Too Pure) (PURE 74)
- Buttergut EP (1994, Too Pure) (PURE 39)
- The Heads of Dead Surfers EP (1995, Too Pure) (PURE 44)
- Split EP with Medicine (1995, Too Pure/ American) (AMR CD0017) (3 songs by each band)
- Hands And Lips EP (1996, Too Pure) (PURE 58)
- Lipstick EP (1997, Too Pure) (PURE 75)
- The Camden Crawl (1995, Love Train) (PUBE 07) LFK's song: "The Heads Of Dead Surfers"
- Monsters, Robots And Bug Men: A User's Guide To The Rock Hinterland 2xCD (1996, Virgin) LFK's song: "(A) Man Ray"