The Orange County collective known as Motor Totemist Guild began in 1984 under the leadership of James Grigsby. The ramshackle experimental group toured and self-released albums through 1989, when Grigsby and vocalist Emily Hay formed U Totem. The duo reunited the group in 1997 with a largely expanded lineup, including former members Lynn Johnston (clarinets, saxes) and Eric Johnson-Tamai (bassoon), along with musicians from the '90s West Coast new jazz scene such as Vinny Golia (clarinets, saxes), Jeff Kaiser (trumpet), and Brad Dutz (marimba and vibraphone). Grigsby's record label, Rotary Totem, released all of their albums as well as distributing albums by like-minded musicians. The band continued to release albums into the next century, still keeping their visionary sound and unique outlook on music the entire time.