Throwing Muses was formed in 1983 by guitarist/vocalist Kristin Hersh and her half-sister guitarist/vocalist Tanya Donelly with a few friends from high school. In 1986, the group's debut album was put out by the prestigious British label 4AD; Throwing Muses was the first American band to be released on that label. Throwing Muses' angular, anguished, mercurial sound had much to do with Hersh's mental illness (she suffered from a form of bipolarity that caused her to hallucinate), especially on early albums like House Tornado. Released in 1991, The Real Ramona marked a break from the heaviness of the previous albums, with lots of shimmery pop gems penned both by Hersh and Donelly, who contributed at least one song per album throughout her stay in the band.
Donelly left in 1992 to play with the Breeders and ultimately form Belly. That year Hersh re-formed the Muses with drummer David Narcizo and released the band's fourth album, Red Heaven. After that, Hersh released a solo album and toured extensively, leaving fans to wonder about the status of the Muses. In 1995, however, Hersh and the rest of the Muses (Narcizo and bassist Bernard Georges) released University, one of the band's most cohesive and accessible efforts. University was followed by Limbo in 1996.
Hersh continuing on as a solo artist. In a Doghouse, a collection of rare early Muses material, followed in 1998. In spring 2000, the Muses reunited for a special event called the Gut Pageant, which featured a set from Hersh, Narcizo, Bernard Georges, and Robert Rust, as well as a solo performance by Hersh, short films by Narcizo, and a picnic lunch hosted by the group. During three weekends in 2002, the trio got together to record another album; released the same day in 2003 as Hersh's The Grotto, Throwing Muses (self-titled, just like their debut) was the group's rawest, loudest album. Donelly provided background vocals on some of the songs. Hersh and Georges subsequently recorded and toured as two-thirds of 50 Foot Wave, and Hersh continued her solo work. In 2011, the Muses assembled Anthology, a double-disc compilation of favorites and B-sides, and toured in support of it. Two years later, Hersh reunited with Narcizo and Georges for Purgatory/Paradise, a sprawling 32-track album accompanied by a book designed by Narcizo.