Between leading rock band the Giants of Science and performing solo, Ben Salter hosted a weekly open-mike night with his friend Ben Tuite at an Irish pub in Brisbane named Mick O'Malleys. There they met and befriended a wide variety of the city's talented musicians and eventually came to the conclusion that, rather than competing with each other over concert venues, they would do better to combine forces like a '70s supergroup, hip-hop crew, or Japanese giant robot cartoon. The resulting band was eight members strong, with every one of those eight members being a singer/songwriter and most of them multi-instrumentalists. With the addition of affiliate members to plug gaps on-stage they swelled to as many as 15 members; a difficult size to fit at the small venues they debuted at. Unable to reach a consensus about their name, they performed under a variety of monikers until the staff of one venue billed them as the Gin Club because of the amount of the spirit they consumed while playing, and the name stuck.
Every member of the core lineup contributed vocals, as well as playing instruments: Ben Salter played guitar, bass, and drums; Ben Tuite played guitar; Bridget Lewis played cello and keyboard; Ola Karlson played guitar, keyboard, harmonica, and banjo; Conor MacDonald played guitar, harmonica, and percussion; Brad Pickersgill played guitar, bass, and percussion; Scotty Regan played drums, guitar, and percussion; and Adrian Stoyles played guitar, accordion, and keyboard. This lineup recorded the majority of the songs on their first two albums, The Gin Club (2004) and Fear of the Sea (2005). The first album they recorded by themselves in a single day for the amount of $AU300. For the follow-up, they signed with Plus One Records, which enabled them to record their second album for the relatively princely sum of $AU500. Each song was written by a single member of the band, with the rest rotating through backing instruments. This resulted in famously chaotic live shows with constant instrument swapping, whose shambolic quality was accentuated by the fact that the band refused to work from a set list and continued consumption of their trademark drink throughout each performance.
Ben Tuite left after the recording of Fear of the Sea, but the slot was quickly filled by other musicians who had been drawn to the group by the sheer gravitational force of their excessive mass: Dan Mansfield played guitar, bass, drums, organ, keyboard, piano, and mandolin; Angus G. Agars played drums and percussion; Matthew Schneider played drums and accordion. Affiliate members at different times included Jacob S. Harris, Dale Peachey, Jane Elliot, and Danica Davis on whatever instruments were free at the time. The growing number of songwriters in the group lead to an exponential explosion in the number of songs they were writing. In addition, for the first time they began to write songs as a group rather than creating them individually and then bringing them to the band to fill in the gaps. Their 2008 release, Junk, grew to a double album to fit all 26 of the tracks they recorded for it. Still feeling like there weren't enough members, Tim Rogers of You Am I joined them as a guest.