Polly Esther were formed during the summer of 1999 in Hollywood, FL, by longtime friends and bandmates Rafael Solorzano (guitar) and David Farache (drums) after the breakup of their previous band, United 82. With the lineup completed by Josh Katzker of local favorites Bum Ruckus on vocals and close friend John Genoese on bass, the band quickly got to work writing songs and playing out at local clubs. Genoese left early on to attend college at Drexel University in Philadelphia, and his replacement, Dave Anderson, also left after only a few months to join the Army. The lineup didn't truly come together until the band joined forces with Justin Brackett from Miami punk band Caught Inside, who brought a newfound energy and stage presence to the act's live show. The new lineup saw the band transitioning from a traditional pop-punk sound to a tighter, more refined rock hybrid that combined the raw energy of the group's punk roots with the showmanship of '80s rock and metal bands, the passion and urgency of hardcore, and the heartfelt and emotional lyrical content of emo, while still retaining the catchy and melodic sensibilities that endeared Polly Esther to so many of their fans early on.
After self-releasing a four-song demo CD-R that they sold at shows and online, Polly Esther were approached by California-based indie label Missing Words Records, who put out their first official release, Wish You Were Here, a split full-length album with friends and fellow Florida scenesters Standstill, in 2001. That summer, Polly Esther ventured out on their first U.S. tour in support of the record, a trip that took them up and down the East Coast and included select dates on the Vans Warped Tour. The crew returned to Florida with a renewed sense of purpose and a much tighter show, and found their local fan base growing, as they landed opening slots for other touring acts such as Midtown, Autopilot Off, Dynamite Boy, and Something Corporate. The following summer of 2002, they were asked to join the Warped Tour for all of the East Coast dates, and followed that up with another U.S. tour in the fall. Things seemed to be going strong for the young group from an outside perspective, but internally, the strain of touring eventually wore on the members, and despite a loyal and dedicated fan base across the Eastern United States, the band called it quits in March of 2003 in order to pursue other interests.