Before becoming a full-fledged punk band, Against Me! was an acoustic solo project spearheaded by Laura Jane Grace, who began playing shows as a 17-year-old in Gainesville, Florida. Starting in 1997, Grace performed as a solo act wherever anyone would have her, drawing much influence from early acoustic protest music. By 2001, she'd beefed up her sound with the help of a full band -- including guitarist James Bowman, drummer Warren Oakes, and bassist Andrew Seward -- but there would always be some anarchism and Billy Bragg in the group's raucous braggadocio. After a few initial 12" and 7" releases, Against Me! issued the fan favorite Reinventing Axl Rose in 2002. The underground hit blended elements of punk, folk, and country into socially conscious and impassioned anthems. Continuing their reputation of always being on the road, the musicians logged countless tour dates around the country in support of their early material.
A slightly more polished album, As the Eternal Cowboy, was released in 2003 on the indie label Fat Wreck, followed by a compilation of that album's demos titled The Original Cowboy. After the release of a DVD (We're Never Going Home) and another 7", the band returned with its most mature effort to date, 2005's Searching for a Former Clarity. A subsequent headlining tour in support of the introspective, politically aggressive album saw Against Me! proudly hitting every U.S. state, and they signed with Sire Records in December 2005. Later they issued a rough version of Searching for a Former Clarity, titled Total Clarity. They were back on the road by spring 2006, this time opening for the Alkaline Trio, and spent the summer months playing the main stage at the Warped Tour. Though Against Me! were officially signed to Sire's roster, they released their last indie album in the form of Americans Abroad!!! Against Me!!! Live in London!!!, a concert album recorded while on tour in London with Murder by Death.
In July 2007, the band's major-label debut -- New Wave, a decidedly more rock-oriented record produced by Butch Vig -- hit shelves. New Wave was the first album by Against Me! with no acoustic tracks; it was also their first on a major label's tab. Reviews were generally favorable, and the band toured heavily in support of its release. By the summer of 2009, drummer Warren Oakes had officially left the group to pursue an alternate career as a restaurateur, eventually opening up a Tex-Mex eatery in Gainesville. Hot Water Music's George Rebelo joined in his place,