They entered a 'battle of the bands' competition in their hometown of Doncaster, as they were unable to afford the bass gear that would allow them to start working the live circuit. The band easily won the competition (and the bass gear) and also caught the eye of a young producer called Matt Elliss at Axis Studios who offered to record a demo at the studio free of charge. Matt Elliss then passed the song onto a new label called EXP (a subsidiary of ViaCom) which was being run by Feargal Sharkey, formerly of The Undertones. The label demoed the band and released a limited edition (500) 7" single 'Gentleman's Soiree'/ 'Silver Boots' before agreeing to record and release a full-length album. After a brief tour of the UK with Cable the band went into the studio to start recording tracks for their debut long player. A further single, 'Gracelands' (1996) and more tours (with A amongst others) followed but financial difficulties forced EXP to fold before the full album was released.
The band were soon picked up by Mantra Records (part of the Beggars Banquet group) and further tours followed before the album "Half Nelson", recorded for EXP two years earlier, was eventually released by Mantra in 1998. The album chronicled the band's obsessions with Americana, the Rat Pack, working class humour, the seedier side of personal and sexual relationships and classic 70s movies with an ever-present combination of metal, punk, blues and rockabilly at its core.
They began to accumulate a small but loyal fanbase, helped by features in Kerrang! and NME, a series of incendiary live shows and a growing (if not necessarily accurate) reputation for on- and off-stage violence. Tours of the UK and Europe followed (with Carter USM and Therapy? amongst others) and the band eventually had the opportunity to tour their spiritual home, the USA, in support of Penthouse (who were renamed 'Fifty Tons of Black Terror' for the occasion after a legal run-in with the adult magazine who shared their name).
By now most of the band had moved from Doncaster to the neighbouring city of Sheffield but they returned to Doncaster's Axis Studios to record their second album after potential plans to record in Steve Albini's studio in Chicago were dropped, causing some tension within the band. A UK tour with up and coming indie hotshots The Hives preceded the release of "Every Six Seconds" late in 2000. The album showcased a more diverse sonic vocabulary and the songs themselves dealt largely with relationships in a more mature manner than their debut. A number of favourable reviews followed but the critical reaction was not matched by sales and Mantra declined to renew the band's contract shortly after the album's release.
With no contract and a young family to support, the newly-married Hug made the decision to quit the band in late 2000. Damo and Pete eventually decided to continue and recruited the services of Alex Thomas for a handful of gigs and some demos in the summer of 2001. This lineup was short-lived however, and with no new contract offers the band had permanently split by the end of the year.