Starting as classmates at the University of San Diego, the Rugburns formed in the mid-1980s. In the late '80s and early '90s, singer/guitarust Steve Poltz and guitarist Robert Driscoll played as an acoustic duo in various coffeehouses and bars, including the Blarney Stone Pub, Innerchange Coffee House, and Java Joe's. Poltz wrote most of the songs, with Driscoll contributing several as well.
In 1992, the Rugburns signed with the Bizarre/Planet Records label. It took almost two years before a debut album was available. The album, Morning Wood, carried tracks like "I Want to Learn About Love," "Kilkenny Man," and the humorous "My Carphone's on the Pill." After the successful debut, the Rugburns toured a lot to promote the album. The band's live seditious performances gained them word-of-mouth fame.