A longstanding cult figure of the New Zealand music scene, singer/songwriter Bill Direen was born in Christchurch in 1957; receiving his first guitar at the age of 15, he made his first public appearances at area open-mike folk showcases. After dropping out of college, Direen accepted a factory job; inspired by the music of the Velvet Underground and the 13th Floor Elevators, he soon bought an electric guitar, and with bassist Stephen Cogle, drummer Peter Stephenson, and violinist Theresa McGuire formed the Vacuum. In 1980, Cogle and Stapleton exited to form the Pin Group; the Vacuum briefly changed their name to Kaza Portico, but in early 1981, Direen quit to join the short-lived Six Impossible Things. He soon founded an avant-garde theatrical troupe dubbed the Soluble Fish Ensemble, and with group members Alan Meek and Malcolm Grant also formed a band, the Builders.
Amidst this flurry of activity Direen found time to mount yet a third project, a band named the Urbs; after winning a battle-of-the-bands competition, the Urbs were awarded studio time at the Auckland 3ZM Studios, recording a 1983 LP titled Beatin' Hearts, which, for reasons unknown, was issued under the Builders' name. Direen soon recorded a solo EP, High Thirties Piano, and in late 1982 also issued a Soluble Fish effort titled Dance of Death. Yet another band, Above Ground, released the cassette Gone Aiwa in 1983; that same year Direen and his wife Carol announced a new theatrical venture, Blue Moon. Another Direen solo effort, Split Seconds, preceded the 1985 formation of a new Builders lineup including bassist Greg Bainbridge and drummer Stuart Page; CoNCH3, a solo release on Flying Nun, followed. Beginning in 1986, Direen recorded another LP, Let's Play, as well as a succession of EPs, beginning with Cup and continuing with Life Behind Bars and The Coolest Cats in the World; he then spent the next several years out of the limelight, resurfacing only in 1994 with Cup.