Originally starting as a solo project for Church of Betty brainchild Chris Rael, the Hand (his nickname) eventually morphed into a sensational one-off project between Rael and the former nucleus of fellow New York band Hunk, multi-instrumentalists Kenny Siegal and Brian Geltner.
Following the release of the first ensemble Church of Betty album (and third overall) in 1995 and his arduous collaboration with British-born diva Najma, Rael met Siegal and Geltner, who were languishing at Geffen with their band Hunk. As a respite from the artistic stifling of a major label, they began working on more experimental music with Rael in Siegal's basement studio. The collaboration gradually began to evolve into more than simply side experimentation, so Siegal and Geltner broke up Hunk in 1996, and the trio became a legitimate band, the Hand. Both Rael and Siegal proved prodigious songwriters, and within two years the Hand had recorded nearly five albums' worth of unreleased, lo-fi rock & roll inspired by greats such as the Beatles, David Bowie, the Kinks, and the Beach Boys among others, as well as Rael's studies in Indian classical music, all turned into a post-modern mishmash of inspired pop with each of the three musicians frequently trading instruments.
The band finally recorded a proper album at the end of 1996, laying down one song per day for 19 days. The result, Mule Me, was released at the beginning of 1997 by Messenger Records. With the addition of keyboardist Jan Kotik (who had previously played various instruments with Church of Betty), the Hand spent the middle part of the year playing around New York and the surrounding region, as well as recording a follow-up album that was ultimately never released. At that point, the Hand morphed into Johnny Society, with Siegal on guitar, Geltner on drums, and Rael taking up bass duties. After their debut album It Don't Matter in 1997, Rael reconvened and gave his full attention to Church of Betty, with Gwen Snyder eventually replacing him on bass in Johnny Society (Rael and Siegal's frequent collaboration on each other's projects, however, continued).