Indiana-based Murder by Death first caught the attention of Thursday's Geoff Rickly while playing a gig together one night in their hometown of Bloomington, Indiana. Rickly promptly brought the band, then called Little Joe Gould, to the attention of his friend Alex Saavedra (Eyeball Records owner), and the group was signed immediately. The band was comprised of vocalist/guitarist Adam Turla, drummer Alex Schrodt, bassist Matt Armstrong, cellist Sarah Balliet, and pianist Vincent Edwards. They issued a 2001 self-titled EP as Little Joe Gould before the band eventually decided to change its name to Murder by Death, taken from the 1976 Robert Moore mystery of the same name. The bandmembers felt the new name better represented their ominous sound, which combined elements of artists like Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Johnny Cash, and the Decemberists.