Formed by novelist Mikel Jollett during a tumultuous period in his life, the Airborne Toxic Event (named after a section in American author Don DeLillo's novel White Noise) combine literate indie rock with real literary cred. Formed in 2006, the group initially took shape as a Los Angeles-based duo, with Jollett and drummer Daren Taylor serving as the only members. A roster expansion was eventually needed; as a result, classically trained violinist Anna Bulbrook was brought in to play viola and keyboards, jazz bassist Noah Harmon joined up, and the empty guitar slot was filled by Steven Chen. The band's first show as the Airborne Toxic Event took place in fall of 2006, and was followed by a regional rise to stardom, attracting offers from indie labels and accolades from magazines like Rolling Stone.
Riding the wave of industry buzz, the Event released their first EP and accompanying single (both titled Does This Mean You're Moving On?) in 2007, which only helped to heighten the band's standing in the indie scene. They signed with Majordomo Records in 2008 and released their self-titled first album, The Airborne Toxic Event, later that year. "Sometime Around Midnight" became a Top Ten modern rock hit, prompting Island Records to sign the band in early 2009. Two years later, the Airborne Toxic Event ( now signed to the same label as one of their major influences, U2 ) issued their sophomore release, All at Once.