Formed in 2001 as a full-fledged band, the Damnwells gradually came to represent the songwriting efforts of songwriter Alex Dezen, whose melodic mix of alt-country and alternative pop/rock remained consistent in spite of multiple lineup shifts. The group took root in Brooklyn, where Dezen (a former photo assistant) was joined by ex-Whiskeytown drummer Steven Terry, bassist Ted Hudson, and guitarist Dave Chernis. A series of EPs helped cement the band's sound, and the Damnwells soon found themselves touring in support of Cheap Trick. A brief run with the Portland-based label In Music We Trust followed, allowing the band to reissue one of its early EPs (with the addition of one new track) under the revised title PMR + 1. The Damnwells then decamped to their Manhattan Mini Storage space, which doubled as a rehearsal space and makeshift studio, to fashion a full-length album. Pairing Dezen's slow, codeine-laced ballads with uptempo rock numbers, they completed Bastards of the Beat before inking a contract with Epic Records.