Following the demise of Alligator Gun and Loomis, Milwaukee's Pele was formed in the summer of 1997 by guitarist Chris Rosenau, bassist Scott Schoenbeck and drummer Jon Mueller. Two weeks before recording their debut album Teaching the History of Teaching Geography, the trio brought aboard bassist Scott Beschta to play keyboards. The keyboards proved to be the dominant musical element of the album as well as its companion remix disc People Living with Animals. Animals Kill People. which included remixes from Bundy K. Brown and Mark Greenberg. Shortly thereafter, both Scotts left Pele. Schoenbeck agreeed to assume Beschta's onetime bass duties in The Promise Ring, Beschta moved to NYC to join old friends New Rising Sons.
Down to a duo and without a bassist, Rosenau and Mueller soon recruited bassist Matt Tennessen whom they'd worked with in the pre-Pele group Tussin. As a trio, the band discovered their trademark sound, re-entering the studio to record 1999's Elephant. While to this point critics had dubbed the band post-rock, they now heard the striking jazz elements found in the songs' underbelly.
Spring 2000 saw the band signing with Polyvinyl Records in time to release their fourth album The Nudes. The album received a strong push from college radio and based on their raucous, incendiary live sets, the band was quickly beginning to make a name for themselves. In addition, Rosenau and Mueller could be found throughout various Milwaukee nightclubs performing in improvisational groups. In 1999 the two founded Crouton, a label dedicated to improvisational and experimental recordings. This experimentation would carry over into their fifth full-length, 2002's Enemies.
Enemies saw the arrival of new Pele member Jon Minor on laptop. A long-time Pele associate, Minor's addition proved to be the perfect compliment to the band's sound. Starkly different than previous Pele efforts, Enemies fully embraced the band's improvisational jazz moments and filtered them through syncopated handclaps, voices, and various blips and bleeps.
Furthering their reputation for turning in blistering live performances, 2002 also marked Pele's first tour of Japan. On a nightly basis, Japanese television crews followed the band from venue to venue, simultaneously broadcasting their performances to television sets across the country. The band won over a new horde of fans as unprecedented amounts of Japanese mail orders began flooding the Polyvinyl office. Three songs from this tour were later released with Polyvinyl's 2003 reissue of Elephant.
After 7 years, 13 releases, and various national and international tours, Pele announced that their winter 2004 tour would be their last. Their members continued to make music. Guitarist Chris Rosenau, percussionist Jon Mueller, and laptopist Jon Minor went on to record under the Collections of Colonies of Bees moniker. Bassist Matt Tennessen continued his work with Paris, Texas until the band broke up in 2005.