Once in danger of being relegated to "one-hit wonder" status, Nada Surf soldiered onward after the success of 1996's "Popular," following up a brief residence on the Billboard charts with a slew of solid power pop albums. Founders Matthew Caws (vocals, guitar) and Daniel Lorca (bass) were longtime school friends, having studied together at the Lycée Français de New York in Upper Manhattan. After Lorca spent some time abroad in the late '80s, the two reunited after graduation to form Because Because Because in 1991. By 1993, they had jumped ship and shifted their focus to a new project, Nada Surf, whose first two indie releases won the band a contract in Spain. They recorded an LP for the European label, only to have their original drummer quit. Ira Elliot (formerly of the Fuzztones) was brought aboard just as the group's European deal fell through, and Nada Surf's luck returned when their demo found its way to Ric Ocasek, who offered to produce additional sessions if Nada Surf wished to re-record the material.
The trio soon signed to Elektra in 1995 and cut their debut LP, High/Low, with Ocasek behind the boards. "Popular" became a surprise radio hit the following summer, and Nada Surf found themselves lumped into the "nerd rock revival" camp alongside Superdrag, Cake, and Weezer. This newfound popularity allowed Nada Surf to release several tracks from their European demo as part of the Karmic EP, but it also proved to be a double-edged sword. When the band returned in 1998 with The Proximity Effect, Elektra balked, claiming the album didn't have a "Popular"-sized single. The album was released in Europe before Elektra permanently dropped the band and shelved the record; it would take Nada Surf a full two years to buy back the rights to their work.
The Proximity Effect finally entered U.S. record stores in 2000, when Caws issued it on his own MarDev label, and Nada Surf traveled the country to promote its release. After pooling together the funds of their merchandise sales, the bandmates then entered the studio to independently record a third album, Let Go. Barsuk signed the group and released the album in 2002; three years later, The Weight Is a Gift (produced by fellow labelmate Chris Walla of Death Cab for Cutie) furthered the band's critical acclaim. Nada Surf then returned in 2008 with Lucky, which featured musical contributions from Ben Gibbard, Ed Harcourt, and members of both Calexico and Harvey Danger. Following a world tour in support of the album, Nada Surf put their original compositions on the shelf and, instead, turned to their influences. If I Had a Hi-Fi was released in 2010, featuring covers of songs originally recorded by Kate Bush, Depeche Mode, Dwight Twilley, and others. In 2012, Nada Surf celebrated their 20th anniversary with The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy, the band's seventh studio album and first collection of original material since 2008's Lucky.