Brainiac formed in 1992 with a sound that perfectly epitomized the uptight, herky-jerky tension of the early-'80s movement, as well as its warped sense of song structure and electronic breakdown. The band came together in Dayton, OH, originally the basement experiments of vocalist/keyboard player Tim Taylor and bassist Juan Monasterio. After recruiting guitarist Michelle Bodine and drummer Tyler Trent, Brainiac began playing around the Midwest and hooked up with Limited Potential Records, which released the single "Super Duper Seven" in September 1992. After another single, a split with Bratmobile on Dayton's 12X12 label, Brainiac signed with Grass Records. The group's debut album Smack Bunny Baby, produced by Girls Against Boys' Eli Janney, appeared in mid-1993. During 1994, Brainiac replaced Bodine with guitarist John Schmersal and released their second album, Bonsai Superstar. After a tour on Lollapalooza's second stage, a performance in Chicago impressed the indie label heavyweight Touch & Go, which signed the band and issued their third album, Hissing Prigs in Static Couture, in early 1996.
Brainiac released an EP, Electro-Shock for President, in April 1997, prior to entering the studio to record their fourth album. Over the course of 1996-1997, their profile had grown, and there were rumors that major labels like DreamWorks were interested in signing them after the new album was completed. As the group was recording during the summer, Tim Taylor was tragically killed in a one-car accident, driving home from the studio.