Although best known for their late-'90s modern rock single "Little Black Backpack," Stroke 9 formed one decade prior in the San Francisco Bay Area. While finishing high school in 1989, singer/guitarist Luke Esterkyn and bassist Greg Gueldner opted to form a band for extra credit. The project was shelved when the musicians left town to attend separate colleges, but Stroke 9 resumed its pace several years later, with John McDermott and Stephen Heath rounding out the lineup. The band self-released a debut LP, Boy Meets Girl, in 1993, followed two years later by Bumper to Bumper. After drummer Eric Stock climbed aboard to stabilize the band's lineup, Stroke 9 signed to Universal's Cherry imprint and preceded the release of their 1999 major-label debut, Nasty Little Thoughts, with an appearance in the Ron Howard comedy EdTV.
In a market dominated by platinum-selling teen pop acts, Stroke 9 turned some heads by sending Nasty Little Thoughts to gold status in early 2000. "Little Black Backpack" was the album's highlight, blending a melancholic post-grunge verse with a buoyant pop chorus. The group's relative success allowed them to release two additional records for Universal, 2001's eponymous Stroke 9 and 2002's Rip It Off, before issuing 2004's All In on an independent label. Cafe Cuts: A Collection of Acoustic Favorites arrived that same year, and an all-new collection of songs, Last of the International Playboys, extended the band's shelf life into 2007. ~ Jason Ankeny & Andrew Leahey