Cass McCombs was born in Concord, California in 1977, but spent most of his adult life travelling the United States. Moving from one city to the next, McCoombs eventually settled long enough in Baltimore to record his first EP, Not the Way, which was released in 2003 by Monitor Records. Debut album A followed early the next year and was again released on Monitor. McCoombsâ€™ startling turn of phrase and ambiguous storytelling had also drawn the attention of 4AD, who distributed the album in Europe and the UK in what was to be the starting point of a relationship that was to last for one further album.
McCombs and his band spent much of 2003 and 2004 touring in promotion of A, playing the All Tomorrow's Parties festival and supporting labelmates Blonde Redhead. Chased by a smattering of critical acclaim, McCoombs returned in early 2005 with the â€˜Sacred Heartâ€™ single, revealing the more polished and pop-orientated direction of second album, PREfection. Although the sparse, downhome stylings of A were superseded by the superior production of PREfection, the dark subject matter which characterised the early material remained, McCoombsâ€™ doomed romanticism now hidden beneath rich pop hooks and subtle melodic flourishes. McCoombs toured with Modest Mouse after the album's release, before parting ways with 4AD.