Shellac formed in Chicago, Illinois, in 1992 as an informal collaboration between guitarist Steve Albini and drummer Todd Trainer. Former Naked Raygun bassist Camilo Gonzalez sat in on early rehearsals and played on one song on Shellac's first single before permanent bassist Bob Weston, formerly of Boston's Volcano Suns, joined.
Shellac has a distinctive, minimalist sound based on unusual and urgent time signatures, repetitive heavy rhythms, an angular guitar sound, and Albini's surreal, bitingly sarcastic lyrics. Songs typically do not have traditional verse/chorus/verse structure and the arrangements are sparse, to the point where some describe them as "amelodic". Shellac's signature sound is often associated with their enthusiasm for vintage Travis Bean guitars, a rare brand of aluminium-based instruments, and the Interfax "Harmonic Percolator" distortion pedal. Albini is also known to use copper plectrums and unique guitar straps that fit around the waist rather than over the shoulder. The band prefers the intimacy of smaller clubs and live appearances are sporadic.
Both Weston and Albini are recording engineers. They prefer a sparse, analog recording sound with little or no overdubbing, and are meticulous about microphone placement and choice of equipment.