American Hi-Fi had a running start on their career since drummer Stacy Jones had already logged in time with two pillars of the 1990s alternative Zeitgeist, Letters to Cleo and Veruca Salt. When Salt singer Nina Gordon asked Jones to help her record her solo album, he jumped at the chance. But helping her give birth to Tonight and the Rest of My Life, only whetted Jones's appetite to form his own band. He looked around for some like-minded musicians, and began making plans on exactly how to turn his love for the Pixies, the Lemonheads, Buffalo Tom and Julian Hatfield into something he could be proud of -- and hopefully also land on the radio.
Oddly, Jones, a crack skin-beater, decided he wanted to play guitar and sing in his band, despite the fact he had only just taught himself how to play the instrument in the back of the bus on tour for Veruca Salt's second album. On a break from the road, Jones convinced his best friends -- bassist Drew Parsons, drummer Brian Nolan, and guitarist Jamie Arentzen -- to meet him at Letters to Cleo's old rehearsal space to jam on some Cheap Trick covers. The results were so good that they played until they came up with a set of pop gems full of cheeky attitude and big guitar hooks. Jones gave a demo to Bob Rock, who was producing Gordon's solo album. Rock was so charmed he agreed to record the band's self-titled debut at his Maui studios. Call it beginner's luck, but "Flavor of the Weak" gave the new band their first radio hit in 2001. Live In Tokyo followed the next year; then American Hi-Fi engaged Nick Cave's favorite producer, Nick Launay, for their third offering, The Art of Losing, which showed a harder, more aggressive side that merged the pop lyricism of the Jam with the fire of the Clash. There wasn't a clear hit on this sophomore effort, and the band's label, Island Records, decided to drop them in what Jones claims was a decision that the future of music was with emo bands.
A move to Los Angeles led to another stylistic change, as the band set up camp at a studio in Korea Town that used to belong to Hole's Eric Erlandson and hired producer-of-the moment, Butch Walker, to man the boards. The result, Hearts on Parade, was more anthemic and seamless than anything they'd done before: its songs of longing, heartache and redemption finally captured some of that Pixie magic that inflamed Jones at the onset, and also drew on the frenetic speed of Blur and the tetchy anger of Joe Jackson. With the LP released in Japan, the band embarked on a tour with producer Walker in the hopes that a U.S. label would be captivated by their new sound. One was. Maverick signed them up, releasing Parade in April 2005.