In case you slept through 2000, Rainer Maria's previous full-length, A Better Version of Me, hit the #1 spot on the CMJ charts at the top of the year.
Longtime musical collaborators Kyle Fischer (guitar) and William Kuehn (drums) began writing a new batch of songs in the late summer of 1995, thinking they lacked only a bassist. When they found Caithlin De Marrais (vocals, bass), they knew they had found a uniquely captivating voice to front the band as well.
Fischer and Kuehn had met at all-ages shows in Madison, Wisconsin, where Kuehn was cajoled into replacing Fischer on the drums in a local punk band. Fischer switched to guitar, and the two departed together a year later in search of broader sonic horizons.
Meanwhile, Fischer had met De Marrais in a University of Wisconsin poetry workshop where the two had organized extra evening sessions of the class and soon found they were the only ones attending. Here they wrote the poems that would later become songs on the band's first album.
Over a meal at a favorite local Lao-Thai restaurant, the three settled on a name - Rainer Maria - two thirds' the name of deceased symbolist poet Rainer Maria Rilke. At the time it may have been simply the most sonorous moniker they could think up, but the two genders of "Rainer" and "Maria" began to inscribe themselves into the music: by fits melodious and dangerous, dramatic and romantic. It became perfectly appropriate for the songs that would become Past Worn Searching, their first album, fronted by dueling male and female vocals.
The band's second LP, Look Now Look Again, was released in April 1999 to cheers by fans and critics alike. Look Now. revealed a band willful and in control, with De Marrais' incredibly expressive, compelling vocal work soaring over Fischer's open guitar, and Kuehn sounding like Keith Moon's offspring. Eighteen months in the making, it was the product of a mature band capable of nuanced musical expression in a decidedly independent rock-scape.
Look Now Look Again garnered immediate critical acclaim. The record climbed to 19 on CMJ's top 200 and spent 16 weeks on the charts. Stellar reviews and write-ups appeared in The New York Times, Alternative Press, Magnet, CMJ, and The Village Voice to name a few. Rainer Maria appeared in Spin three times in the latter half of 1999 and Look Now. was named one of the magazine's 20 best records of the year. The band would go on that year to record and release Atlantic, a three song CD EP recorded at Pachyderm Studios (In Utero) in August. Just days later, they relocated to the East Coast, and the EP seemed a celebration of that move.
The Ears Ring EP appeared in early November 2002, previewing material from the forthcoming album alongside two non-album tracks.