The Olivia Tremor Control arose from the remnants of the now-defunct Synthetic Flying Machine (who themselves were the remnants of the even more defunct Cranberry Lifecycle. This first band line-up was made up of childhood friends and residents of Ruston, Louisiana: Bill Doss, Will Cullen Hart and Jeff Mangum. As this trio, the band recorded their first EP, California Demise.
Jeff Mangum decided to concentrate on his own band, Neutral Milk Hotel. John Fernandes joined the group around this time to play bass, violin & clarinet and the band recorded The Giant Day EP, which was released on Drug Racer records in 1996.
Eric Harris (drummer, thereminist & occasional guitarist) had joined the band pre-Giant Day for the very first tour that they did with Chocolate USA (for which Bill Doss and Eric also played) in approximately 1995. He didn't appear on the EP because he was living in Texas at the time. However, he soon relocated to Athens and appeared on the band's first album Music From The Unrealized Film Script: Dusk At Cubist Castle, which was released in 1996 on Flydaddy. (interesting note: the original title of this record was going to be Orange Twin but was changed to Dusk At Cubist Castle to avoid being confused with another album released around that time.) Some contributors include Jeff Mangum ( Neutral Milk Hotel) and Julian Koster (The Music Tapes, Neutral Milk Hotel). The album was produced by Robert Schneider ( ..The Apples In Stereo) and some recordings were done at his studio in Denver.
The album was also subsequently re-released with a bonus CD of dreamscapes included with it. This "bonus disc" was also released separately as Explanation II: Instrumental Themes and Dream Sequences, so that you didn't have to re-buy the album.
Two tracks from the album were released as singles. The Opera House had 2 special tracks as B-sides; Black Swan Network (With Capillary Radar) and Black Swan Radar (With Enveloping Bicycle Folds). These tracks were supposed to be played simultaneously to produce a fourth (quadraphonic) track! Jumping Fences was backed with 3 new songs, Optical Atlas, The Language Of Stationary Travellers and Green Typewriters (Outer Themes And Explorations). The latter of these included contributions from Scott Spillane ( The Gerbils, Neutral Milk Hotel) and Bryan Helium (Late B.P. Helium).
After the recording of Dusk at Cubist Castle, Peter Erchick also joined the band as keyboardist (formerly from the band The Gwens.)
A 12" single of Hideaway (b/w Can You Come Down With Us? and Combinations) was released in October 1998 by Blue Rose Records in England. Can You Come Down With Us? was recorded at Greater London Radio in August and is prefixed by an 8 minute drone. The single was a precursor to the album Black Foliage: Animation Music Volume 1, which was released in April 1999. The album's lengthy list of contributors included members of Neutral Milk Hotel, Music Tapes, The Gerbils, Calvin, Don't Jump!, Elf Power, Late B.P. Helium and Of Montreal, as well as Will's younger brother Christopher jumping into a swimming pool...
The concept behind the album was thus: first, a section of the bass guitar riff from Black Foliage (Itself) was taken. Subsequently, "variations" of this part spawned the "animation" tracks. These were then combined with parts of the other songs (which themselves contained parts of other songs) to create the "combination" tracks, creating interludes between the main songs... as it says in the liner notes to the album, "edits within edits within edits..."
After extensive and exhausting touring in 1999, the band broke up with each of its members pursuing solo efforts and other projects. W. Cullen Hart began work on a new project called The Circulatory System, Pete Erchick worked on his project Pipes You See, Pipes You Don't, Bill recorded under the name Sunshine Fix, John co-founded a record label called Cloud Recordings with Will Hart and Eric joined Elf Power.
A compilation called Singles And Beyond was released by Kindercore/Emperor Norton in August 2000. It brought together various tracks donated to compilation albums, as well as the tracks from the California Demise and Giant Day EPs.