Fred Nicolaus and Daniel Rossen met in 2000, when they were assigned as each other's roommates during their freshman year at New York University. During their spring semester, they began experimenting with samples, recording software and guitars, making music with the atmospheric sweep of symphonic and electronic pop and the intimacy of folk. Initially, Rossen and Nicolaus intended their music to be heard just by their friends, but California indie label Isota Records released the duo's debut EP, Mo' Tussin, in 2002 and The Noam Chomsky Spring Break EP the following year. Those EPs, plus some extra studio records, were compiled to make The Whitney on the Moon UK LP, which Isota also issued in 2003. However, upon discovering a San Francisco band also with the name the Whitey on the Moon, Rossen and Nicolaus changed their project's name to Department of eagles, and the album's name was changed to The Cold Nose and issued in the UK by Melodic in 2005 and reissued in the US with four bonus tracks by American Dust in 2007. Meanwhile, in 2004, Rossen joined Grizzly Bear in time to contribute tracks to their breakthrough album, 2006's Yellow House; that year, Department of Eagles' odds-and-ends EP A Johnny Glaze Christmas: Classical Snatches and Samples a Go-Go was released. During that time, Rossen and Nicolaus continued to work on tracks, gathering enough material for an album by late 2007. Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor and Christopher bear, as well as bassist Nat Baldwin, joined Rossen and Nicolaus for the sessions, which were completed in spring 2008. The resulting album, In Ear Park, was inspired by Rossen's late father and released by 4AD that fall. The odds-and-ends collection Archive 2003-2006, which included tracks from their aborted sophomore album and pieces that were later used by Grizzly Bear, arrived in 2010.