VAST is comprised of one man and one man only: Jon Crosby. The songwriter grew up in Humboldt County, CA, and was profiled as a promising guitarist in Guitar Player Magazine at the age of 13. He was nearly signed to the guitar-based label Shrapnel, but he turned down the offer and focused on honing his songwriting chops instead. Crosby soon left high school to do home study, and he began assembling a band in order to perform some demos he recorded all by himself, under the name VAST. Although he was able to play shows, the band proved to be a revolving door of members, with Crosby serving as the frontman and focal point.
VAST's material was original, as it encompassed elements of industrial/alternative (in the vein of Nine Inch Nails) and ambient music, with unpredictable samples added. One such demo started to receive heavy airplay on a local radio station, leading to a major-label bidding war. VAST eventually signed to Elektra and released the debut album Visual Audio Sensory Theater in mid-1998. At the time of its release, auditions for a backing band for a subsequent tour were under way. Two years later, Crosby hooked up with producer Blumpy and assembled a band comprising guitarist Justin Cotta, bassist Thomas Froggatt, and drummer Steve Clark to create the 2000 release Music for People. Although "Free" gained some popularity as a single, Music for People only enjoyed modest success, and Elektra dropped the band soon after its release.