Martsch signed Built to Spill to Warner Bros. Records in 1995. Unlike many artists signed to major labels, the deal the band brokered with Warner Bros. allowed it to retain a large degree of creative control over future albums. Built to Spill produced its first major label release in 1997 with Perfect from Now On. By this time, the band consisted of Martsch, Nelson, Netson, and Scott Plouf. Perfect from Now On met with critical success and caused Built to Spill to become one of the United States' most recognizable indie rock bands. Before releasing another album, Martsch made Nelson and Plouf permanent members of the band. In 1999, the band released Keep It Like a Secret to continued critical success, and for the first time, significant commercial success. Live was released in 2000, and the band's fifth studio album, Ancient Melodies of the Future, was released in 2001.
In 2002, Martsch released Now You Know, a solo album with both blues and folk elements. He performed numerous solo concerts in support of the album. Built to Spill was on hiatus for most of this period.
Warner Bros. Records optioned the band for another album. From 2003 to 2005, Built to Spill toured extensively, performing over 150 dates. The shows included new songs as early as 2004. Their sixth studio album, You in Reverse, was recorded in Portland in 2004, but was not released until April 11, 2006. The band's official lineup for the album was Martsch, Nelson, Plouf, and Jim Roth, who was formerly only a touring guitarist. Brett Netson provided guitar work on several songs and later rejoined the band as a full-time member.
After the release of You in Reverse, Built to Spill continued touring almost non-stop. In March 2006, Martsch suffered a detached retina which required surgery. This forced the band to miss an appearance at the South by Southwest music festival and postpone several dates of the tour. More bad news came when former drummer Andy Capps was found dead on May 18, 2006.
The band resumed touring on June 3, 2006, a show that included four new songs. This show and many on the tour included the dedication of the song "Car" to Capps, who had played on the track when it was recorded.
Warner Bros. Records stated that Built to Spill had been recording for their follow-up to You in Reverse on and off during the 2006 tour, but nothing appeared until the July 10, 2007 release of a 12" single, "They Got Away"/"Re-Arrange." "They Got Away" was a heavily reggae-influenced original song, while "Re-Arrange" is a cover of a song by the reggae band The Gladiators.
The current U.S. tour is scheduled through October 2007, after which the band is scheduled to tour Australia. Martsch stated in a September 2007 interview that he didn't want to tour in the United States again until the band records; however, the band recently announced a one-month U.S. national tour for spring of 2008.
In a recent interview with Playback:stl, Doug Martsch has stated that "we're going to start recording at the end of the tour ... we go in the studio on the 23rd." Martsch continues in reference to the future album, "I think that it's going to be at least a year ... Just to be safe, I'm thinking it will take a year to record and a few months to actually get it out." In the same interview Martsch says that a side project of his has been new Halo Benders material, but "we started that about a year ago, we have not even got anything off the ground." Later in the interview, Martsch gives his perspective on the future of Built to Spill past the current material; "I do think that Built to Spill could be something better than ever just because our lineup is better than ever ... I think there is potential for the five of us to collaborate on something that is just way better than anything that I have ever come up with by myself or that we have done in the past." Martsch also interjects that "This coming record we're not doing that--it's mostly going to be songs that I have been working on." Some new songs include, "Canada", "Nowhere Lullaby", "Tomorrow", "Good Ol' Boredom", and "Done".
Many of Built to Spill's influences can be found in their choice of cover songs. The band has performed live covers by Elliott Smith, David Bowie, Camper Van Beethoven, Captain Beefheart, Caustic Resin, Cheap Trick, The Clash, Brian Eno, Vince Guaraldi, The Gladiators, Macy Gray, Elton John, George Harrison, Skip James, Daniel Johnston, John Lennon, Love as Laughter, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Marine Research, Steve Miller, Modest Mouse, Ozzy Osbourne, The Smiths, The Strokes, Talking Heads, The Velvet Underground, and Neil Young. Martsch also played several other covers on his solo tour.