John Perry and Chris Morse went to high school together at Marina High in Huntington Beach. They were friends there and both participated in theater and vocal music. Notably, they were both in a show choir called the Mariners, which gave them a solid background in vocal harmony. It also afforded them both opportunities to tour Europe. Half the money was earned by concerts given by the Mariners throughout the year and the other half through quarterly pizza sales.
For one Mariner concert Chris and John collaborated on their first songwriting effort, The Saturday Morning Mariner/Madrigal Pizza Sale Blues, which was quite well received. They later collaborated on another song called Just Another Night (a regrettable piece of fluff that Lionel Ritchie would probably be proud to record) for a Mariner Christmas show.
About this time, Chris and John started jamming together and playing in their first garage band together, The Bad Mariners. The Bad Mariners played bad covers of songs like Stairway to Heaven and Freebird, but they also were a vehicle for some of Chris and John's early ventures into writing rock songs. Songs like The Neutron Boogie, Socialization, and the classic I Hate the Beach were composed during this period.
In 1986, John and Chris were at a barbecue held by a mutual friend, Cynthia Corley. While they were sitting around at the party, Chris picked up a guitar and John a synth and they started jamming around on a new song. They joked that they should form a band. For a name, they chose the name of their fictional political party, the Liberal Materialists. The LMs party motto is "Save the world! (but not with our money)" They later completed the song started at that party as Suburban Death, and started writing other songs to jam on, and the Liberal Materialists were on their way.
Suburban Death was the first song ever recorded by the LMs in a studio; the year was 1987. Also recorded in that first session were The Fable and the Fallacy, Stand By You, and Alaska. All four were later re-recorded in the Songs We Know session. All four are still in the LMs repertoire, although Alaska is now performed in 6 instead of 4. In the first studio session, Chris played all the guitar and bass parts, and John played the keyboard parts and did drum fills on the drum machine.
Later in 1987, Cynthia introduced Chris and John to her boyfriend, Ross Elbling, who happened to play bass. When he joined the band, he brought a coherence to the music which Chris and John (despite their boundless energy and creativity) lacked. Adding a drum machine (programmed by John and Chris) gave them a rhythmic anchor to match the melodic anchor provided by Ross' bass playing, and the gestalt of the LMs really started to sound like a band. As Chris, John and Ross learned to trust each others musical instincts, their songwriting became more fluid (and in Chris' case, considerably more prolific). This meant the LMs went from being a band with 8 or 10 songs to a band which was abandoning some songs that were written to focus on newer songs which were better.
The LMs have been in the studio 3 times since Ross joined the band: at Whirled Studios in Buena Park in 1989, at the Electronic Music Lab at UCLA in 1991, and at Sound Mixer Recording (presently). At this point in time, before they finish recording one set of songs in the studio, a whole new batch of songs are written and waiting to get recorded. When Chris wins the lottery and buys that home 48-track digital studio, watch out.